Our local cattlemen's group was getting ready to sponsor an educational marketing meeting, and I asked a good friend and very progressive producer if he was planning to attend. He laughed, and responded, "Why would I do that?"
I knew what he meant. Strapped for time, it's difficult to justify unless something new or innovative will be discussed. And he wasn't expecting a message any different than the one he's heard for 20 years -- precondition your calves, document performance measurements, improve genetics, take responsibility for your marketing program, etc. But he's already implemented those suggestions and is focusing now on improved implementation.
He knows the value of selling uniform load lots, of taking advantage of niche-marketing opportunities. He's already experimented with supplying natural cattle, and is providing age- and source-verified cattle.
In his mind, these are all "Marketing 101" items either advocated for more than 15 years or extremely well publicized over the last several.
He also understands that during the recent lows (number-wise) in the cattle cycle, demand has been so strong that premiums for superior management and genetics have been marginal. The premiums may not grow but the discounts surely will as we move into the expansion phase of the cattle cycle. When supplies are tight and demand strong, there's very little punishment for failing to meet customer demands.
He sees no point in investing his scarcest resource -- time -- listening to messages he's already internalized. He's a graduate of Marketing 101 and has even taken a lot of 200- and 300-level classes. He's ready for a graduate-level paradigm that will expose him to new ideas and take his marketing program to the next level.
He understands he will have to give up some independence, and likely become part of some sort of alliance and/or branded-product network that ties the system together from conception to consumption. He understands he's now in the courtship stage, and while he will never be committed to these new partnerships like he is to a marriage, the similarities are striking -- choosing the right someone is critical.
But he also believes that in our politically correct world, he won't hear any of that at a public meeting. Sadly I suspect he's right.
-- Troy Marshall