Standardizing Organic Marketing Extensions in the Corn Belt

“4-Step Marketing Processes: The four steps to success in any market are predicated on an accurate, flexible and effective baseline strategy. These four important steps include Product development, marketing, direct sales and extension work. The first three steps are at the planning stage and are directly linked to strategy. These are based on market and competitive analysis as well as on the company’s business objectives. The four steps are extension work, marketing, and product development.

In this brief article, I share some of the most important insights from a participatory baseline survey presented by Xerox that were discussed at a webinar attended by several extension workers. At the time, I suggested that the company look at marketing and farming operations through the shep approach. What I did was highlight four steps from the shep approach that need to be considered in the development of marketing strategies.

The four steps from the shep approach are market survey, competitive assessment, competitive evaluation, and strategy formulation. The market survey is the process of asking customers what they want and need. This is done through a focus group interview and qualitative research with fieldworkers. Next, the competitive analysis looks at the industry in terms of competition and strength. Lastly, the competitive evaluation examines the strengths and weaknesses of the current market.

The approach then was to develop a marketing plan by looking at each of the four steps. The first step was a market survey for extension workers that looked at the current marketing strategies that are being used by Xerox. Then, according to the presentations, the next step was to conduct an assessment of those same strategies by sending staff to fieldwork for the project. Finally, the strategies were evaluated in terms of their strength, flexibility and the impact on farmer profitability. Based on the information gathered, several modifications were made across all aspects of Xerox’s farming operations.

At this point, a meeting between the principal and stakeholder was arranged. According to the presentations, the goal of this meeting was to explore a number of other options that would improve the way that the company approached its traditional projects. According to the presenters, the goal of the meeting was to discuss a “comparison study” that compared the “outcome” of using “customized services versus standard projects” for two key stakeholders. This meeting was called by the “outside experts” that the “stakeholder forum” referred to.

The next step that they took was to conduct a “customized service versus conventional projects” study for another key stakeholder. This time, they presented data from the market survey results as well as another set of qualitative data from another fieldwork. The goal was to determine whether or not farmers’ associations would benefit more from standardization vs. customization. It was also hoped that this third analysis would give them a “groundswell” for their proposal for standardization vs. customization.

With this third report from the stakeholder forum, the “outside experts” presented their findings from a series of field studies involving various groups of extension workers in the Corn Belt. According to their findings, the most benefit came from farmers who were least likely to have access to the information and tools necessary to make use of the advanced technologies that Xerox has developed. They also suggested that this group of customers was one of the largest “silent” users of the new technology.

The “outside experts” concluded that the benefits from standardization far outweigh the benefits from customization. The report recommends that extension workers consider standardization if they want “to continue to get the job done, irrespective of the market conditions.” It goes on to recommend that farmers be given the chance to decide whether to use standard tools. They should also be given the opportunity to choose whether or not to perform field repairs using non-standardized tools. Finally, extension workers need to be given information about cost savings from using “custom tools,” so they “have some reason to modify their previous practices.”

%d bloggers like this: