Tough Lessons from the Bleachers…..Marketing 101!

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Cheers and here’s to hoping that everyone had a blessed and joyful holiday season; and, that 2018 is off to a great start! As we precariously roll into the New Year, most likely we have started a list of mental meanderings as we contemplate these first few months. Perhaps the highly motivated have even scratched down a list of resolutions…most likely on the back side of a pink feed receipt.  With the New Year, we also usher in calving season along with short sleeps, cold fingers, frozen toes, and copious amounts of coffee. But ahhhhh there it is….the light at the end of the tunnel!  It’s that big check that we hope to cash at the end of Bull Sale Season!  From the outside looking in, it’s truly a magical time of year when fathers gather up their sons and daughters skipping school to attend “THE” sale.  For the producer, the day comes with pensive relief knowing that the preparations are complete.  The final relief comes when a he walks into the sale ring and sees the bleachers brimming with people.

The bleachers drive this month’s conversation!  Now, just to get us warmed up, I would like to tell you a story.  We’ve all seen it at the country fair.  In fact, it usually happens to the same kid every year!  I’m going to call him Jimmy.  Every year, Jimmy arrives at fair in an absolute whirl wind.  It doesn’t appear that he’s quite ready to be at the fair, but he qualifies this by noting that he has a job, basketball practice in the mornings and it is summer break after all.  Jimmy never quite knows where he is supposed to be, so mostly he follows the pack asking panicked questions.  He barely makes the show, but what the heck….he’s here to make money!  Sale day eventually rolls around and Jimmy walks his steer into the ring.  The auctioneer begins….someone eventually offers an opening the bid.  The auctioneer begs for bids, and for a few seconds, the bottom-bid-buyers help Jimmy with another $5.  Jimmy leaves the ring disheartened and talking disparagingly about the politics and such.  But you see, Jimmy didn’t come to the sale with any bids in his pocket.  He didn’t send out buyer letters, he didn’t market his steer…he didn’t do his homework!  He fed the lie that he didn’t have “time.” He came to the sale with hope and left all the rest to chance!  But here’s the catch!  He failed on purpose because he didn’t create any reason why he would experience success that exceeded that of his competition.  He didn’t purposefully place anyone in the bleachers; and, he didn’t give anyone in the bleachers a compelling reason to bid on his steer other than a low rate opportunity.  Jimmy’s success was a direct reflection of Jimmy’s choice to rely on hope rather than purposeful marketing.  Jimmy’s success was a direct reflection of the fact that he didn’t take the time to market his steer because “chance” seemed to be a reasonable shake of the dice….and other priorities won out!

So, long story short, this month’s blog is all about filling the bleachers on sale day….purposefully thinking about a marketing plan that will effectively target and interest the right crowd!  It’s about building success before sale day arrives!

The first objective is to determine what sector of the bull sale market you would like to target. For some it may be other seed-stock producers, but for the vast majority, it’s commercial breeders. At this juncture, you must be in tune with the objective of your breeding program and what characteristics will entice buyers.  Perhaps you are known for having a slew of sire groups which cater to those in need of a low maintenance calving ease winter. Or maybe your breeding is tailored to sire calves to cross the scales with weaning weights that drive hard at the bottom line!   Whatever your particular strengths…know them…drive your marketing toward them and capitalize on them. Buyers will become faithful when you clearly identify your product and you deliver what you promised for several years running. And now the magic starts!  Folks will begin filling in the empty spots in the bleachers because they’ve heard and the hype has taken hold!  Continue to build on it. But remember to think outside the box when it comes to promotion….

There are many different ways to promote your business in today’s age of technology!  Some avenues may cost you financially, while others may merely require blood, sweat, and tears.  Your message is critical and reputation is everything in this business!   In this era, you can’t afford to ignore social media marketing such as Facebook!  Facebook is a cheap way to provide tremendous amounts of exposure to your operation.  If you have resources and knowledge, be diligent and pay attention to the strategies of breeders whom you deem to be successful.  If you do not have the knowledge, seek out marketing firms or individual known for the quality work. Take the time to connect with other breeders by “liking” their pages and asking them to “like” yours.  As that happens, you gain access and exposure to their contacts as well as yours and the exponential result is simply astonishing!  Spend time interacting with folks on Facebook to gain exposure.  Social media is a great way to add polish and exposure to your operation.  Trust me!  This is time and money well spent!

Representing your cattle in photos and video is essential in our market.  We are blessed with a plethora of incredible talent when it comes to photographers and at the end of the day, good pictures sell bulls!   With that reality, however, comes a double edge sword!  We have all seen the shiny, jet black, head cocked off, hind-leg set just right, photos, one after another from well-known photographers.  When you move onto the video of the same animal you are left scratching your head wondering if they may have gotten something mixed up. When it comes to hiring someone to picture your cattle and design your advertisements, understand that a clone stamp or layer change here or there may seem necessary to some, however, it may come as a surprise, but to a lot of folks, a picture that genuinely represents the animal is valued far above a three-hour photoshop job after 300 action shots in the picture pen.

At the end of the day, this is a business of networking and personal relationships.  Staying in contact with your customer base is critical.  While electronic media is powerful, face to face contact, marketing phone calls, ranch visits to see and discuss the calf crop sired by your bulls and personal contact will pay dividends beyond your imagination.  Your customers want to feel that you care about their operation and they want you to be interested in their success.  If they are going to invest in your program, they expect you to be make an investment in theirs!

Equally important is learning how to reach out and always be striving to increase the size of the customer base. That means that whether you are a “people” person or not….you HAVE to be a “people” person.  If you are unwilling or unable to do this, put someone in your business structure or family in this role that is better suited than you!  You need to make a solid, consistent presence in your local community.  In this business, word travels fast…both good and bad!  Reliability and integrity are list toppers when it comes to growing a long term sustainable business.   Remember that you are in this business to market cattle.  Also remember, that while the bull sale business is immensely competitive, you will always be perceived better if you check your emotions at the gate and just get on with doing good business…always with integrity and character!

In closing, I assert that mostly, results are logical.  Generally we get the results that are completely appropriate and consistent to the foundation (or lack of foundation) that we have laid.  I guess you could say that mostly results happens predictably and on purpose.  Perhaps we purposefully lay a foundation for a desired result being ever mindful in every decision.  Or…we bumble through without purpose and act surprised when the results match the lacking vision and nonexistent effort.  This is true in all aspects of life, but it most certainly holds true to how your marketing plan will drive you bull sales.  Create what you want on purpose!   Remember why you do what you do; and, remember why you love the life you lead!  Reach out the people who tick for the same reasons you do! So if the light at the end of the tunnel is that big check at the end of Bull Sale Season….put some grease on the wheels Chappy!

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