A selection of thoughts, observations and writings, taken from our day-to-day work and activities.
Agtech start-ups must resolve their marketing challenges as well as their market offering.
Indeed, the nineteenth-century agricultural revolution was probably the last occasion when so many came flocking to agriculture to share their expertise and apply their ingenuity. Then, engineers and entrepreneurs – people who’d honed their skills in other industries – competed to provide solutions that improved efficiency and productivity, transforming the industry as they went.
I’ve always been determined to make my career out of agriculture and I’m proud to have done so. I’ve long argued that agriculture is the most exciting, and the most relevant industry on the planet. And now others see it in the same way! It’s a thrill to see the resurgence of our industry, as it becomes the darling of investors and innovators the world over. Welcome, agritech pioneers – we salute you.
Look at how many of these enthusiasts come to agriculture from different backgrounds – finance or technology, for example. This is a rich vein of new talent. These people bring a different perspective to our world. They’re not hamstrung by the ‘legacy’ approach that often holds back innovation, the idea that you can’t do something ‘like that’, because it’s always been done ‘like this’. They are to farming what Apple is to tech – they’re not afraid to ditch the floppy disk, the CD-ROM drive or the 3.5mm headphone jack.
But as a marketer and PR strategist in this sector, I’m acutely aware of one crucial area in which these pioneers’ non-agricultural backgrounds can be disadvantageous. Even the greatest products or services need an effective marketing strategy if they’re to be successful – and the agricultural industry contains plenty of pitfalls to trip the unsuspecting, or overeager agricultural marketer. These are the agtech marketing challenges:
While farmers operate in a B2B marketplace, they’re also consumers. Agtech marketing strategies should be similarly aligned, to appeal to the target customer as both a consumer and a business owner. Investors will also be reassured by agtechs who not only have a minimum viable product, but who can demonstrate confidence in dealing with the agricultural marketplace.
Even within the same agtech sub-sector – sensors, for example – few products have universal appeal. It’s essential to understand the specifics of the target audience, whether it’s farm size, type of cropping, or familiarity with and willingness to adopt tech.
Agro Mavens recently heard a talk from Nick Brozovic, Director of Policy at the Daugherty Water for Food Institute. In addressing the tremendous opportunities agtech presents for improving water use efficiency, he drew upon his experience of the US agtech scene and highlighted an issue that we too have recognised: the value proposition.
Agtech companies, like many start-ups, face obstacles. But one of the biggest obstacles faced by agtech start-ups is how well they can define a clear value proposition.
Cut to the chase: we’re taking pain points. What pain point does an agtech product address? What are its benefits? Why are they benefits? Don’t get caught out by simply talking about features, or the technology involved. If the technology’s good enough (think the original iPhone) then it becomes invisible to the user. They’re only concerned with how well it does its job.
Finding the right channel – the route to market – is the other great challenge, according to Brozovic. How does an agtech start-up reach the market?
English, Spanish or Korean? No, I’m taking lingo, terminology, jargon and context. An agtech’s ability to engage confidently and convincingly with its target audience is half the battle. For instance:
So use the right terminology, check that those acronyms don’t refer to something else, and make sure any claims are couched in the right terms.
And ensure there’s someone on the marketing team who has some agricultural nous and experience, so that all public-facing material is credible, compelling and relevant for the target audience. Over the years that I’ve worked in agricultural communications, I’ve employed a fair few people. Without appropriate coaching, those without agricultural backgrounds tend to produce material that feels as if it’s written at “arm’s length”: it doesn’t resonate as well with the target audience.
Start-ups and other companies entering the agtech, or wider agricultural marketplace, can and will succeed if their marketing strategies are clearly defined. If we can help you with your agtech marketing challenges, we’d enjoy working with you. Contact us here.