A Marketing Lesson From Farmer Fred
Isn’t it great to meet new people, and find yourself unexpectedly inspired?
A few days ago, Tom invited me to join him for coffee with his friend Fred Flemming. Farmer Fred, as Tom calls him, is one of a nearly disappearing breed: the family farmer. Nearly, because they’ll never disappear if Fred has anything to do with it.
How’s Farmer Fred helping to save the family farm?
In the broadest sense: marketing.
Fred is a wheat farmer. He learned a long time ago that farmers can be cruelly tied to commodity prices completely beyond anyone’s control. So Fred and his partner Karl Kupers took matters into their own hands.
Fred said (and I paraphrase liberally):
If a farmer is simply a source of raw material, he has to depend on a lot of luck. But if he creates a more direct line to the end user, he’s got a whole lot more control.
In order to own more of what management types call “the value chain,” Fred and Karl created Shepherd’s Grain.
In a nutshell: 43 local farms, dedicated to sustainable farming practices, have banded together to produce and market a special brand of flour that stands out in the marketplace. Chefs and retailers can tell their customers precisely where the wheat came from. It’s guaranteed to be farmed with sustainable techniques. And Fred says it tastes great. I believe him—some of the best restaurants in our region use Shepherd’s Grains.
Varieties are distributed through wholesalers and are used at locations across Washington, Idaho and Oregon in restaurants, bakeries and pizzerias. Profits that might have gone to huge multinationals now go to local producers.
Everyone wins, except the multinationals.
Marketing once was mainly about promotion.
Promotion is still important. But today marketing is evolving more towards strategy—figuring out how you can serve customers better, and how to win in an increasingly complex marketplace. Can you identify customers who aren’t being well served? How can you use your imagination and energy to create extra value? How can you differentiate?
Convincing someone that your commodity is sexier than the other guy’s isn’t enough.
The global marketplace continues to change.
Like Farmer Fred and Shepherd’s Grain, we all need to change with it. How is your business, and your marketing strategy, changing? Please comment below.