Developing a Seedstock Marketing PlanWritten by Scott Keith
By Scott Keith, Wyoming Business Council Livestock Genetics Program
The livestock genetics industry is rapidly changing and evolving, and with new technologies constantly being developed, seedstock producers have a huge challenge in keeping aware of the future. Breeding programs and production practices are constantly modified to fit the perceived trends of the industry and to stay current with customers’ needs, and decisions on genetic selection may take several cattle generations or years before the production hits the marketplace.
Today’s cattle market, inventory reports and the many producers who sell seedstock make marketing seedstock a challenge. The days of the old breed consignment sales are gone, and even the sales at stock shows aren’t what they once were. Home production sales and private treaty sales are the main forms of sales today, and these require much more marketing on the part of the producer than ever before.
Customers and buyers are inundated daily by sale ads and promotions from all types of media sources. Print media, periodicals, weekly livestock papers, special editions and show programs all do a fine job of advertizing, but are quite expensive for the smaller producer’s budget. Radio spots are effective if the right audience listens. Internet email blasts are effective with the new technology crowd.
Today, ads and promotion alone won’t bring all the buyers you need to your sale. It takes personal contact with both existing customers and prospective buyers to have the volume of interest to make sales competitive. Just as it takes a well-thought-out production plan to produce what you perceive the customer of the future will want, it also takes development of a well-thought-out marketing plan to increase your ability to sell effectively in a very competitive marketplace.
A marketing plan consists of much more than just planning your sale method or date, selecting advertizing media plans and mailing out catalogs. A comprehensive marketing plan involves spending time analyzing your current sale process and potential customer base. It identifies different activities throughout the year to market your seedstock and yourself. It provides tools and methods to gain insight into your customers’ needs.
As I work with individual producers and associations to facilitate the development of marketing plans, I try to utilize a number of different elements to match with producer or group needs. There are many different books and references on the “how-to” of developing a marketing plan. In my experience, those best fit the writer, because that is what worked for them. Each producer is an independent individual with a different personality and thought process, and therefore there is a need for plan flexibility.
As I begin the process of assisting the development of a marketing plan, the first element I consider is “Why are you in the seedstock business?” This helps define your “mission” or “vision,” and the passions you have for the business. It also helps envision the future, and where you want the business to go. The “goals” you set for your operation one, five and even 10 years in the future can identify what you need in your marketing plan today.
Your level of production knowledge, from basic pedigrees to the most sophisticated technology available, should be a part of your marketing plan. If you are only concerned about pedigrees and EPDs, that’s your future customer base. If you know the latest DNA profiles or RFI test data, that’s your future customer level.
Identifying who and why you are selling to right now can establish a baseline for the identity of your future marketplace. You can identify if this is the right marketplace for your long-term goals and objectives, or if you need to reach outside for new customers.
After identification of the marketplace where you’ll sell, it is appropriate to evaluate your sales method. Are you currently selling private treaty when a more competitive bidding opportunity might best fit your marketplace, or vice versa? Perhaps an Internet sale may widen your territory, or participation in a bull test or stock show sale with a few head may create a new exposure for you. It is good to evaluate your current method each year, that way you can make changes if necessary, but keep in mind: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The next elements reach outside your operation to the relationships you have with the customers and potential buyers in your marketplace. Personal relationships sell far more than advertizing and promotion. People buy from people – people they know and trust. Identifying your personal relationship with each customer or prospective customer, then determining ways to deepen those relationships is a key to business retention and success. Each producer has a unique and different personality, just as do you. Knowing your personality traits, those of your customers and the interaction between them can make the process of selling much easier.
Yes, selling: reaching out to people in a one-on-one situation to influence their decision to buy your production. Not high-pressure sales, but identifying the customer’s wants and needs, then finding ways to fill them with your genetics.
After gaining a customer, it is important to keep that customer. Services provided will help ensure customer retention. It is not wise to offer services just to create sales. If you can’t fulfill those promises, then the customer feels shortchanged and will not be back. Place in your marketing plan only services you can fulfill and afford, then stick with them.
Finally, after evaluation of all these elements you can effectively develop an advertizing and promotion budget for the coming year. It should fit within your mission, goals, marketplace, customer base and production knowledge. Consistency is key. Working with professional agencies or representatives of breed associations or livestock papers may seem expensive, but many times their expertise is most valuable.