Friday, October 20, 2017

Grassroots Approach to Ag Marketing

Michigan Growers Promote Agriculture From the Ground Up

[caption id="attachment_3254" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Carole and Red Christofferson Carole and Red Christofferson enjoy sharing knowledge about agriculture with their customers.[/caption]

Carole and Red Christofferson love their farm, and agriculture in general. The former high school teachers bought their farm 50 years ago just outside of Ludington, Michigan, on the sandy, rolling hillsides about five miles from Lake Michigan. Today, Christofferson Farms produces some of the most beautiful fruit you’ll find in western Michigan, including peaches, sweet and tart cherries, plums, apples, raspberries, blackberries and more.

Ag Marketing Starts On the Farm.

[caption id="attachment_3255" align="alignleft" width="375"]Christofferson Farms Sign Christofferson Farms is a member of Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP)—a voluntary program that helps farms prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks.[/caption]

The Christoffersons are active participants in the Mason & Oceana County Agricultural Trail—a group of 17 ag-related businesses and sites in the two counties located on the shores of Lake Michigan. The group’s purpose is to spread the word about this unique agricultural area that includes 1,000+ farms covering over 206,000 acres. And given the fact that only 2% of Americans live on working farms, the Christoffersons believe it’s important to share knowledge about the current state of farming.

“We love telling people about our crops and our farm,” says Carole, who has been selling fresh fruit from Christofferson Farms at the farmers market in Midland, MI, for the last 30 summers.

With the help of Red’s science knowledge from 25 years teaching high school chemistry, Christofferson Farms takes a progressive approach to sourcing and growing the best varieties. “We ordered 200 trees to plant next spring,” says Red, who will turn 80 in January.

The Christoffersons have three employees—all of whom have been with them 20 years. Their young grandson is now part of the farm venture, growing and selling pumpkins and squash with guidance from his granddad. So when local residents or tourists stop by the farm to pick berries or fruit, they’re getting the products of a true family farm.

ag marketing statsYear-Round Commitment to Agriculture.

Though it’s a very busy growing season at Christofferson Farms from about April through September, Carole and Red enjoy relaxing winters in Yuma, AZ. But it’s not a total break from agriculture. Yuma is known as the “winter lettuce capital of the world,” supplying 90% of the nation's leafy vegetables between November and March. “We just really enjoy following ag,” says Carole, who serves on a committee promoting agriculture in the Yuma area.

Click here for more information about Christofferson Farms.


Whether it’s a small family orchard or a major regional cooperative, VistaComm’s ag journalists like Jane Wooldridge really know…and love…agriculture. Want to tap into this ag marketing expertise? Contact VistaComm today at 800-657-8070 to start the conversation.

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Article Source Here: Grassroots Approach to Ag Marketing


Grassroots Approach to Ag Marketing posted first on http://vistacomm.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 6, 2017

Why I Love Road Trips

[caption id="attachment_298" align="alignright" width="300"]Burke Perry Burke Perry, Senior Journalist[/caption]

So, let’s get this out of the way right up front. This is not an impartial, detached analysis of the value of road trips in the marketing business. I absolutely love them. Not a little bit. A lot. Especially in the spring, summer and fall. During an upper Midwest winter, maybe not so much.

In my opinion, our clients conduct their business in some of the prettiest locations in the United States. Yes, I’m partial to farm country and small towns.

If you have the opportunity to drive (yes, opportunity—I hate flying), you have the chance to detach from the daily routine, observe the countryside, watch for unexpected photo opportunities and, in my case, eat food that can significantly shorten your life expectancy (Yes, officer, that is a giant tub of cheese balls). I rely on GPS, but I still carry my Rand McNally Atlas—brand new 2017 edition.

But enough about the personal benefits. What do road trips deliver from a writer’s—and a company’s—perspective?

Montana wheat harvest at sunset

To me, there’s value in getting my face in front of our clients. It shows we care enough to stop in. It lets me see the country they cover, meet them and the people they work with, see what’s changing in their part of the world…and what’s just the same as the last time.

Sure, you can talk about growing conditions and new employees over the phone. But there’s something about face-to-face contact that tends to bring out the best in people. That’s how you uncover the little nuggets of personal information that take a story from average to exceptionally readable.

Where stories are born

I recently had the opportunity to make my annual visit to a client in Montana. Although I flew there (that’s another story, and another reason I hate to fly), I did get to tool around some of the most gorgeous country on earth for several days.

rocky mountain backdrop

On these trips, I’m constantly impressed with how friendly and courteous our clients are—and how knowledgeable. They know their stuff, and really appreciate it when you show a genuine interest and do a decent job of communicating their message. In time, you can become a little like a member of the staff.

Then there are the stories. Like the retiring location manager I visited on my Montana junket. Though he was a Montana native and had been working at the cooperative for 20 years, there was a lot more to his story. He’d been stationed in the Mediterranean while serving in the Navy, built sailboats in California, worked as a commercial crab fisherman in Alaska, and was planning to spend his retirement years mining gold in the Sierra Nevadas.

Would I have gotten all that over the phone? Maybe. But having the chance to sit down with him in the place he’d worked for two decades just might have added something to the narrative. I know it did for me.

Life is basically a collection of stories. We all have our own. Organizations have theirs, too. None of these stories take place in a vacuum, but in the context of an environment and a community. Visiting those places helps us to understand and communicate those stories more completely and accurately. And it’s stories—not words—that capture peoples’ attention.

So, here’s to the wondrous inefficiencies of the road trip, and the chance it offers to place ourselves into the context of the stories we’re writing.

Learn More Here: Why I Love Road Trips


Why I Love Road Trips posted first on http://vistacomm.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 28, 2017

8 Tips to Capture Awesome Harvest Photos

Fall offers an amazing time to take stunning photos in farm country. Vibrant leaves, golden grain and farm equipment, accented by a rich blue sky or the soft light of morning and evening, create spectacular opportunities for harvest photos.

Here are my top 8 tips on how to capture these magnificent colors and memorable images:

1. Shoot in the golden hours.

I’ve captured some of my favorite harvest photos in the early morning as the sun is rising behind a grain truck being filled with grain, and towards evening when the sunset washes the landscape with a soft, golden light.

2. Avoid shooting into the sun.

Shooting into the sun will result in shadows, lower saturation of colors and lens flare. On sunny days, try to keep the sun at your back. If you do have to shoot into the sun, use a lens hood or shield your lens with something to avoid lens flare.

3. Don’t shy away from overcast days.

An overcast day is great for some photography, mainly because the light is soft and even. But doesn’t a cloudy sky mean the intensity of the color is decreased? Not at all. Since autumn colors are saturated, they contrast nicely with gray. Just frame up the picture to feature more of the colors and less of the sky.

4. Change your perspective.

Sometimes the simplest way to improve your autumn photography is to shift your vantage point from eye-level. Climb up on a bin or truck to get a view from above, or squat down low to shoot upwards at your subject. Changing your vantage point provides a unique, unexpected perspective.

5. Consider close-ups.

Try shooting some close-up photos that help capture the details of harvest. I like to peel back the husk and shoot golden ears of corn, for example. This works especially well if you shoot upward, so the kernels contrast against the blue sky. Also, try this technique with brilliant colored leaves for added interest.

6. Play around with panoramas.

Sprawling landscapes of corn or soybean fields where harvest is underway with a combine, multiple combines and/or tractors, catch wagons and semi-trucks, can create compelling images. If the image is too wide to capture in one shot, take multiple shots and stitch them together in a photo software program like Adobe Lightroom, which can create panoramas.

7. Find the frost.

Depending on the year, cold snaps can leave interesting patterns on leaves that already offer interesting patterns. Shoot first thing in the morning to see what frost can do for your autumn images.

8. Experiment with silhouettes.

While silhouettes may seem tricky, they are quite simple. They also offer a wonderful way to convey drama and emotion, thanks to their simplicity. I love them because they don’t give the viewer a clear picture of everything, which leaves part of the image up to the imagination. Try shooting silhouettes towards sunset. Place your subject (the shape you want to be blacked out) in front of the light source (in this case, the sun). This will force your camera to set its exposure based on the brightest part of your picture (the background) and not the subject. Do this right, and your subject will be underexposed (dark, if not black)—exactly what you want.

Like any photography, the key to success with harvest photography is to experiment, keep learning, practice often and have fun. I’ll be shooting lots of photos for VistaComm clients this fall, plus I’d love to see the harvest photos you capture. Connect with me at dmaulsby@vistacomm.com.

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See More Here: 8 Tips to Capture Awesome Harvest Photos


8 Tips to Capture Awesome Harvest Photos posted first on http://vistacomm.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 14, 2017

VistaComm Welcomes Dustin and Joanne

VistaComm welcomes two new staff members:

Dustin OlsonDustin Olson joins us as accounting director. A licensed CPA, he’s a graduate of South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD. Coming to VistaComm with previous agency experience, Dustin has a true focus on efficiency and profitability—both for the project at hand and for clients, who will find him responsive to any and all concerns. Dustin’s most recent experience includes accounting positions at Austad’s Golf and Lawrence & Schiller, both in Sioux Falls, SD.

 


 

Joanne Pullman

After working full-time for VistaComm from 2012 to 2014 in website support and developing, followed by freelance contract work, Joanne Pullman returns to our creative services department as a full-time web developer. She has a passion for every aspect of the website creation process and has created more than 100 responsive websites. Joanne is a graduate of Dakota State University in Madison, SD. In addition to her freelance projects as a web consultant, over the past six years, Joanne also worked full-time for Factor 360 in Pierre, SD.

 

 

See More Here: VistaComm Welcomes Dustin and Joanne


VistaComm Welcomes Dustin and Joanne posted first on http://vistacomm.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Teaching the Teacher: An Outsider’s Surprising Take on Ag

Ever heard of an externship? I hadn’t either until Iowa Central Community College contacted me this spring about mentoring a local high school English teacher.

Turns out that Iowa Central’s summer externship program matches high school teachers of various academic disciplines with business professionals in the area for a 40-hour learning experience. This gives teachers a better understanding of the business world, so they can use this knowledge to better prepare students for the real world after high school.

I had the privilege of working with Rachel Hemer, an English teacher from East Sac High School in Lake View, Iowa. Rachel has more than 13 years of teaching experience and is an Iowa native, but she’s the first to admit she didn’t know much about agriculture or the wide variety of professional jobs related to ag, including marketing/communications.

[caption id="attachment_3178" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Iowa Soybean podcast during externship Why is it so important for farmers and ag businesses to tell their story? VistaComm journalist Darcy Maulsby (right) shared her top tips during a Spillin' the Beans podcast in June 2017 at her family's Century Farm with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA). Darcy's summer extern, Rachel Hemer (left) observed the podcast process while Heather Lilienthal, ISA's producer services director (center), interviewed Darcy. You can listen to Darcy's podcast (titled "Why It's Important to Tell Your Story") at http://www.iasoybeans.com/news/podcasts/.[/caption]

Spillin’ the Beans

Rachel joined me on various adventures this summer, from a “Spillin’ the Beans” podcast with the Iowa Soybean Association, where I shared some of my top storytelling tips from a book author’s perspective, to interviews and photo shoots with Mid-Iowa Cooperative for their next print newsletter. As we traveled around rural Iowa, Rachel asked me plenty of great questions during her externship about agriculture in general, careers in ag, and how to become a more effective communicator.

Just as Rachel was willing to get out of her comfort zone to gain new knowledge, I, too, abandoned my comfort zone of focusing on writing, photography and content marketing so I could to teach the teacher. I realized how many of the things I take for granted as common knowledge, from my in-depth knowledge of agriculture to my insights into effective content marketing, aren’t so common to those who don’t live and breathe this every day.

“It was the complete opposite of what I imagined”

I also was reminded just how much the non-farm public doesn’t understand about agriculture, but they are excited to learn. But don’t take my word for it. Here are some of Rachel’s experiences, in her own words:

During the summer, many teachers get used to not waking up to the sound of an alarm blaring before the sun rises. When my alarm woke me on the morning of July 19, it was so dark I thought for sure it must be raining. But then I remembered it was July….in Iowa….we hadn’t had rain for more than two weeks….and I had a great reason to pop out of bed that early! I was heading out for another adventure with Iowa author Darcy Maulsby!

[caption id="attachment_3179" align="aligncenter" width="900"]interview during summer externship As VistaComm journalist Darcy Maulsby (center) interviewed Mid-Iowa Co-op General Manager Mike Kinley (left), extern and high school English teacher Rachel Hemer (right) not only learned how a VistaComm newsletter is put together, but she discovered the wide variety of great careers available in agriculture.[/caption]

Darcy and I hit the road before 6:30 a.m. on our way to Mid-Iowa Cooperative in Conrad, Iowa. It was time for a quarterly newsletter publication, and Darcy needed to conduct interviews and take photographs. She had told me it was a “jeans and boots” type of day – I hoped my tennis shoes would suffice for what I thought would be a trek through the hot and dusty co-op. I imagined that we would be chatting with the employees as they shoveled out grain bins and fixed machinery.

Our day’s journey was the complete opposite of what I had imagined and full of surprises. Here are my top 5 learning moments:

  1. Mid-Iowa Cooperative is a significant employer in rural Iowa, with nine locations from Whitten to Haverhill to Garwin to Liscomb, 95 full-time employees, and two to three interns per year. In fact, two of their interns from this past spring are their newest hires, who Darcy had the pleasure of interviewing.
  2. People from all backgrounds work at Mid-Iowa. Knowledge of agriculture is a must, but the employees’ educational background need not focus on ag. In the marketing department alone, they employ a former manager of Advanced Auto Parts, a dealer at Meskwaki Casino, an architecture major, and only one agriculture major. Not every employee at Mid-Iowa has a college degree, but most have post-secondary education.
  3. The variety of careers within a cooperative is impressive. We met with Mid-Iowa’s chief operating officer, energy department manager, operations manager, general manager, commodity marketing manager, agronomy sales associate, and an applicator, as well as seeing 15+ other employees working various positions in offices and on-site.
  4. A cooperative’s job is to figure out the future before it gets here. According to General Manager Mike Kinley, a lot of change is happening within co-ops and Mid-Iowa is trying to figure out how to navigate that.
  5. Ag writing is fun! Darcy caught up with acquaintances at the same time as taking care of business for the newsletter. We ventured to the Grundy County Fair for pictures and enjoyed fair food and horse events. Every person we talked with was passionate about their work, making it easy for Darcy to showcase them in her newsletter features.

Our day at Mid-Iowa Cooperative was eye opening for this rural (but not a farm girl) Iowan. I had no idea how many employment opportunities a cooperative has. Everywhere I looked, a different department sign showed how many cogs work together to create success. I’m eager to share with my students, who plan to work in agriculture their whole lives, all the paths they can take when they leave my classroom.


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See Full Article Here: Teaching the Teacher: An Outsider’s Surprising Take on Ag


Teaching the Teacher: An Outsider’s Surprising Take on Ag posted first on http://vistacomm.blogspot.com/

Thursday, August 31, 2017

7 Ways to Keep Up With Digital Marketing

Just when you’ve figured out the game, they change the rules.

That’s the digital world, where the strategy that guaranteed success last year could result in utter disaster today. Never has the pace of change been more frantic, and for those of us in the business of digital marketing, keeping on top of the latest trends is imperative.

How do you stay current? Here are seven suggestions that can help you keep up with digital marketing:

1. Log Some Blog Time

Every industry has plenty of bloggers. The key, obviously, is to choose wisely. If you don’t know where to start, don’t hesitate to ask other members of your team, or those in your network, which bloggers they value.

Another option—sample a few from the list of 51 marketing blogs posted by Campaign Monitor. As you move through the other six suggestions in this post, you’ll see opportunities to identify other digital marketing leaders you’ll want to follow. Chances are good that most of them have a blog.

2. Take What’s Offered

Piggybacking on our first suggestion, many bloggers and industry experts offer an email newsletter. Take them up on that offer. Instead of taking time to check a variety of websites, you’ll receive a concise collection of news highlights from which to pick and choose. If it arrives in your inbox and looks interesting, click through. Otherwise, delete and move on.

3. One More Reason to Link

If you have a LinkedIn profile, you may benefit from joining a variety of industry groups. There are numerous groups varying from general marketing groups to specific groups for Facebook marketing. No matter what slice of digital marketing you want to learn about, chances are good you can find a LinkedIn group focused on that area.

Groups provide an opportunity to follow discussions about digital marketing topics—and to participate as well. LinkedIn is all about networking and is the perfect place to expand your digital marketing network and interact with others involved in social media.

If you’re looking for a starting point, look at HubSpot’s  list of recommended LinkedIn Groups for marketers.

4. Bird is the Word

When it comes to following trends, Twitter is your friend. Two Twitter strategies will prove helpful. First, you can create a stream on Twitter with popular social media hashtags, like #digitalmarketing. Don’t use terms that are too general unless you want your stream to overflow with largely irrelevant tweets. You can see which hashtags are trending on hashtags.org.

Second, use hashtags gathered in the creation of your Twitter stream to make a list of industry influencers. Use the hashtags that you gathered in the previous example and pick out some of the people you’ve found that consistently provide valuable insight. Run through your list daily to see what they have to say. Don’t forget—social media is a dialog, so feel free to chime in and ask questions.

5. Road Trip

Yes, social media is all about the virtual. Sometimes, however, it’s a nice change of pace to learn and network in person. So, attend a digital marketing conference. They provide a great opportunity to hear from industry experts, network with peers and leaders and—additional benefit—change your scenery and get charged up for your job.

Find a conference that sounds fantastic, but time and travel budgets make it a no-go? Be a virtual attendee via social media. Every conference or event will have a corresponding hashtag that you can follow during the conference on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Many of the best speaker quotes will be posted, so you’ll get a great overview of the content being shared.

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6. Listen While You…

Commuter? Runner? Walker? Eat lunch at your desk? All great opportunities to learn about the latest in social media via podcasts. Take the same approach here as above—as you identify industry leaders, see if they have a podcast. As you listen to them, they’ll mention other influencers, and your podcast options will expand. Obviously, podcasts are also a nice way to ingest information for those who prefer listening to reading.

7. Aggregate for Fun and Profit

Feedly - Keep up with digital marketing topics and trends in one place
FlipboardThis is another of those “make it easy on yourself” suggestions. Many industry publications offer a free RSS news feed. Choose an RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Flipboard and use it as a hub to collect and display digital marketing news every day. Find the source once, browse the headlines daily. The only ongoing task is to add new feeds as you come across good resources.

Keeping up is not an option. Tap into these information streams, and you’ll be able to stay ahead of the digital marketing learning curve.


If you’re looking for a partner that practices cutting edge digital marketing every day, consider VistaComm. Contact us at (866) 752-7707.

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Original Post Here: 7 Ways to Keep Up With Digital Marketing


7 Ways to Keep Up With Digital Marketing posted first on http://vistacomm.blogspot.com/

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Measurable Marketing: A Case Study of Sioux Automation Center

The Client

Established in 1961, Sioux Automation Center, Inc. (SAC), is based in Sioux Center, Iowa. They are a global leader in the agricultural and equipment industries, manufacturing a full line of livestock feed mixers, baggers and manure handling devices to serve the needs of livestock producers.

The Situation

When conversations began between SAC and VistaComm, SAC was spending a substantial amount of money on digital marketing and getting no usable reporting, feedback or conversion details. Nothing they were doing was measurable. In fact, they did not fully understand what they should expect from their digital marketing dollars.

The Process

VistaComm’s digital marketing experts demonstrated the value of services that could help SAC get more for their money, track granularly and contribute conversions to specific keywords used in their marketing content.

The process involved hands-on, responsive communication by a VistaComm expert who later personally initiated the digital marketing revisions. To assist SAC decision makers in better understanding a complicated topic, scenarios from SAC’s own existing website were used via screen share techniques to demonstrate. These scenarios were supported by a wealth of analytical information.

The Solution

The VistaComm solution for SAC involved several important steps, the most impactful being:

  • Properly configured analytics to better track website conversions to customers.
  • Reconstruction of Google AdWords™ with call and conversion tracking.
  • Systematic recording of live visitor behaviors, the end goal being the elimination of clicks needed to secure information.

The Results

[caption id="attachment_3128" align="aligncenter" width="650"]Measurable Marketing Results for Sioux Automation

258 of the leads generated were calls tracked off their digital ads and website.
[/caption]

VistaComm helped SAC understand and define their audience by making their marketing measurable. SAC can now effectively manage and track goals and objectives, making better use of advertising dollars. So, how do the numbers look? In the first 4 weeks following revisions, SAC tracked 397 responses in the form of phone calls, submitted forms or website visits of five minutes or more. Responses continued to increase through week 16, totaling 1,757 new leads. Of those, 258 were phone calls tracked on their ads and website from potential new customers taking the next step to find out about SAC’s products.

And VistaComm’s partnership with SAC doesn’t stop there. Monthly review sessions are held to discuss outcomes and manage SAC’s digital marketing strategy based on conversions and actual measurable marketing data.

 

Since SAC began working with the VistaComm digital marketing team, we have a much better understanding of what our website can do for us. Their revisions have already positively impacted our sales and the way we approach new business.

Jason Jaworski, Marketing Manager
Sioux Automation Center, Inc.,
Sioux Center, Iowa

 

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Read More Here: Measurable Marketing: A Case Study of Sioux Automation Center


Measurable Marketing: A Case Study of Sioux Automation Center posted first on http://vistacomm.blogspot.com/