Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Perdue Passes Through Confirmation Process

When the U.S. Senate confirmed a new Secretary of Agriculture today it affirmed the nomination of a former governor, a veterinarian, an agribusiness entrepreneur…and a pilot. As a young man, Sonny Perdue flew a crop duster and, after college but prior to earning his DVM, served as an Air Force pilot.

George Ervin Perdue III still flies, and he qualified as a helicopter pilot while serving as governor of Georgia from 2002 to 2011. He’s been called Sonny since his childhood on a diversified Georgia crop and dairy farm and will be sworn in as ag secretary using the nickname.

[caption id="attachment_2492" align="alignright" width="200"]Sonny_Perdue Sonny Perdue giving a press conference in Montevideo, Uraguay. Photo Credit: US Embassy in Uraguay[/caption]

If Sonny Perdue approaches his new duties in the same way he fulfilled his responsibilities as Georgia governor, expect him to emphasize steps that make the USDA run like a well-maintained combine. Before he left the governor’s office, Perdue told reporters he’d want to be remembered not for some monumental accomplishment but for “making government work.”

Perdue’s record as governor is strong on trade. He established Georgia’s international trade office in Beijing. During his administration, traffic at the port of Savannah increased from 24th busiest in international shipments to 6th. Sonny Perdue led trade delegations to Cuba (a major consumer of Georgia’s poultry) and to South America.

After leaving office, Perdue and cousin David Perdue (a former Dollar General Stores CEO) founded Perdue Partners, an Atlanta company that facilitates exports through “trading, partnerships, consulting services and strategic acquisitions.” (David Perdue was elected to the Senate in 2014 and serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee.) Sonny Perdue’s record on trade could resonate with legislators who initially hoped for a Midwestern nominee.

The last three ag secretaries were from Iowa, North Dakota and Nebraska. As a result, farm policy has focused on corn and soybeans. Southerners would prefer subsidy programs more favorable to rice and cotton. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse said he wants to help Perdue understand “the unique interests of Midwest agriculture.”

Nevertheless, Republican leaders from the Midwest express optimism about working with Perdue. Backers point to his time on the board of the National Grain and Feed Association and as managing partner of AGrowStar, which operates elevators in Georgia and South Carolina. According to North Dakota’s Senator Hoeven, who met Perdue when they were both governors of their respective states, says “he knows how to work with everybody.”

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Is Your Digital Marketing Hitting the Mark? This checklist can help.

Effective digital marketing is a moving target. The speed of change presents an ongoing challenge to every business serious about maximizing their digital presence and impact. Google, for example, continues to change how they present search results—both paid and organic.

The transition to mobile use in the digital arena is rapidly accelerating. Mobile use now accounts for almost two out of every three digital media minutes, according to a 2016 comScore study. This opens up a whole set of considerations that didn’t exist when desktop computers dominated the digital landscape.

So…how can you increase your digital marketing effectiveness in the coming year? We’re offering this basic checklist as both a place to start the planning process and a way to assess your progress.


Digital Marketing Checklist

Digital marketing checklistStart with your websiteDownload website optimization ebook

  • How did your site perform last year? The better question may be, do you know how to determine site performance?
  • Pretend your site isn’t your site. Try to imagine you’re a first-time visitor and assess how easily you can find your way around. Better yet, recruit a friend or family member—someone who truly is a first-time visitor—and get their feedback.
  • View your site on a tablet or phone. Is it mobile-friendly? If not, what’s your plan to make that transition?
  • What are your competitors doing? Did you like their content? What can you learn from what they are doing—and what do you want to avoid? Again, get input from a third-party visitor.

Consider your content

  • Are you blogging? If so, are your blogs scheduled or created as an afterthought? Do the messages support your overall marketing goals, and do they provide true value to your target audience?
  • Is your content professionally written, or does it fall to the team member who draws the short straw? Do all content pieces (online and offline and external sites) include intelligent, meaningful Calls to Action?
  • Is there a comprehensive content strategy? If not, take the first step and set up an editorial calendar and writing schedule.
  • Are you repurposing your best content to use in multiple channels—web, print, e-news and white papers, for example?

Are you social?

  • Do you have a plan for social media marketing? Is your social media presence the responsibility of a dedicated individual on your staff?
  • Is the content on your social platforms consistent with your overall marketing emphasis and branding, or is it a lonely island?
  • Do you know how to analyze your metrics to determine engagement trends?

Can they find you?

  • Do you have a working knowledge of SEO concepts, or is it a bit of a mystery?
  • If the answer is yes, are you analyzing search phrases that bring traffic to your site? Are you developing web content to connect with these interests?
  • Are you maximizing key SEO items in each blog post?

You’ve got mail

  • Is your email capture strategy growing your list?
  • How was your email marketing performance for opens and clicks?
  • Were you communicating regularly? Are you using your best repurposed content to increase your impact?

These are basic questions that will help point you in the right direction, and really just the tip of the iceberg. They may also reveal some areas in your digital plan that you have overlooked or underrepresented. If you need additional guidance, have questions or believe a fresh perspective would be helpful, contact us. This is what we do every day.

Contact us today

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

3 Ways Employees Can Help Protect Your Brand—Compliments of United Airlines

Sometimes, the best way to learn what to do is by observing what not to do. Case in point:

United Airlines overbooked a flight. Offered passengers $800 travel vouchers to get off the plane and take another flight. Not enough people took the bait, so a passenger was forcibly removed from the plane. The video exploded on social media. United Continental Holdings (UAL) market value dropped $250 million in the next day’s trading.

This incident goes to show how one false step can cause major headaches for a brand. And while your company may not have the brand name recognition of United Airlines, there’s something to be learned from their situation.

3 ways employees can help protect your brand story

  1. Share your brand story with employees
    Make sure employees understand that your brand story is more than just the products and services you sell. It encompasses everything customers believe and feel about your business. Take advantage of company gatherings to share your brand story with employees. Make sure they understand your organization’s overall purpose, and what this means to the people you serve.
  2. Task employees with sharing your brand story
    Employees are your brand ambassadors. They can promote (or devalue) your brand by how they interact with people and what they say on social media. So, it’s important employees understand their vital role in communicating your brand story. Give them examples (such as the United Airline story) of how their actions can impact your brand … for better or worse.
  3. Empower employees to use common sense
    Your company has policies and procedures, and employees are expected to abide by those rules. Yet, it’s important to empower supervisors and frontline employees to use common sense.

Getting employees on board after a merger

Companies often spend considerable time educating their target audiences after a merger—but perhaps not so much time educating employees. Even though employees have new business cards or wear new uniforms, they don’t necessarily understand or embrace the merged company’s brand story.

United Airlines has struggled with its image ever since it merged with Continental Airlines in 2010. Perhaps the most recent incident is just one example of employees not knowing what United’s brand story is … or how to communicate it.

VistaComm has 20+ years experience helping agriculture businesses and farm cooperatives develop and share their brand stores. Contact us for ideas to help your business.


Want help sharing the brand story for your ag business?

That’s VistaComm.

START THE CONVERSATION–TALK WITH US TODAY.

Read More Here: 3 Ways Employees Can Help Protect Your Brand—Compliments of United Airlines


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Thursday, April 6, 2017

One Simple Digital Marketing Trick You May Have Missed

Download website optimization ebookOk, I’m embarrassed to admit it. But as a journalist rather than a programmer, I used to look at a website, note the link labeled “sitemap” on the page, and think, “What’s the point? Isn’t that what the navigation is for? Why does anyone need a map? What is an XML sitemap?”

News flash. It’s not a map for people, but for bots.

Oh.

XML Sitemaps, and their importance in the world of digital marketing, can still be a mystery to many who enjoy only a casual relationship with the technical side of website development and SEO enhancement. At VistaComm, they are a mandatory addition to every website we create. Here is a quick explanation of what XML Sitemaps are, what they bring to the table and why you should care.

First: What is an XML sitemap?

What is a sitemap? Here’s a basic explanation straight from Google. “A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site.”

[caption id="attachment_2532" align="aligncenter" width="608"]what is an XML sitemap Here is an example of an XML sitemap created by YoastSEO[/caption]

 

A sitemap can also provide information about specific pages, such as when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed and the importance of the page relative to others in the site.

Now: Why do you need one?

As in, why is this important. Ultimately, a sitemap helps with search engine optimization because it makes it easier for Google to find out about the content on your site so they can serve it up in the search results.

Here are some of the many other benefits of using an XML sitemap.

  • Content alerts: Search engine rankings are now driven by content. Consistently placing fresh, relevant content on your site improves your visibility. A sitemap notifies Google whenever your site content is modified.
  • Sitemap = roadmap: The whole point of website creation is to be found online, and having an XML sitemap will bring traffic to your site more quickly. This is particularly important for new websites.
  • Emphasize the important: Sitemaps let you assign a priority to your web pages. This means that the pages carrying your most important content will be crawled and indexed faster than those with a lower value.
  • Faster flow: Most content is better fresh, especially news. With a sitemap, spiders will find your fresh content faster...and so will your visitors.
  • Continuing education: You can learn a lot about your visitors by monitoring your sitemap reports. You can track traffic sources, perform keyword searches and pinpoint errors to improve site performance. This information can help you improve your content and attract more traffic.

Creating a sitemap is a routine part of every website we design at VistaComm, but it is only one small part of a comprehensive digital marketing plan that can increase your online impact. For more information about our digital marketing program, contact us today.

Contact us today

Original Post Here: One Simple Digital Marketing Trick You May Have Missed


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Friday, March 31, 2017

How You Can Steer Customers to Think Value … Not Just Price

First, a little background: According to the USDA’s February 2017 Farm Income Forecast, net farm income will decline by 8.7% this year. That’s the fourth consecutive year of the downward slide. And last year’s record crops did little to soften the blow for farmers.

So what are farmers doing to “keep the lights on” during this downturn? For starters, they’re looking for ways to spend less and produce more—not an easy formula to master. And they’re likely pushing for lower prices on input costs.

As an ag marketer, that puts you in an awkward position. Do you cut your margins (which are already razor thin) so you can give price-sensitive customers the breaks they want? Or do you hold steady on prices, and search for ways to add more value for customers?

According to Will Secor, A Purdue University ag economist, you might see some short-term gains by dropping prices. But it’s a different story in the long run.

Effect of cutting prices to gain sales during a tough ag economy:

  • Erodes value perceptions of your brand.
  • Reveals just how much margin is built into your prices.
  • Makes it difficult to raise prices in the future.

As an alternative, Secor suggests getting a better understanding of what your customers and prospects find most valuable in the products and services they use. Then adjust your offerings to communicate value during this economic downturn.

The difference between price and value

A cheap price focuses on what your customer pays, not what they get. Whereas value focuses on getting more for the money they spend.

In terms of marketing in agriculture, value means more than the seed, chemicals or feed you’re selling. It means everything that goes with it—expertise, delivery, application, grain marketing and more. And it goes even further than that.

  • There’s value in working with an ag business your farm customers trust.
  • There’s value in doing business with an ag cooperative where farmer members share in profits.
  • There’s value in supporting a local business, which in turn supports local employees and the communities in which they all live.

How to zero in on what your customers value most

According to an Insights from Purdue University article, you should find out what your customers value most about your products or services by asking questions like these:

  1. How do farmers compare product performance versus price? How do volume or quantity discounts figure in?
  2. What is important to farm customers in terms of delivery time, financing, technical support and warranties?
  3. What does service mean to them?
    • Do they see it as traditional services, such as fertilizer applications?
    • Do they want data support and analysis?
  4. Are they loyal to a brand? Which brand? How loyal?
  5. How important are the relationships with their salesperson?

To get an even better understanding of the purchase decision process for agricultural inputs, faculty from Purdue’s Center for Commercial Agriculture have developed a buyer decision specification tool.

Consider using this tool with a cross section of customers. Tabulate the results in order of importance. Then communicate to your customers how your ag business or farm cooperative delivers on these points of value. Get your salespeople on board. Make sure they communicate value face-to-face with customers.

As you face the challenges of yet another annual decline in farm income, it makes sense to rethink how you position your products and services. From a marketing standpoint, this impacts what you say … and how you say it.

VistaComm has helped farm cooperatives and ag businesses for the last 20 years retain … and grow … sales numbers—even during down cycles like the current one. Find out what we offer to support your efforts.

Contact us today

 

See More Here: How You Can Steer Customers to Think Value … Not Just Price


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Monday, March 20, 2017

We Love Ag, Yes We Do

If you like to eat, prefer to wear clothes and drive a vehicle, you’re a fan of American agriculture—whether you know it or not. Well, this is the week to join the rest of the nation in making your fond feelings known. March 21 is National Ag Day, falling right in the middle of National Ag Week, March 19-25.

First celebrated in 1973, National Ag Day is about recognizing, and celebrating, the contribution of agriculture to our everyday lives. Every year, ag producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and communities across America join together to highlight the importance of agriculture to our nation and the world.

The National Ag Day program encourages every American to:

  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

VistaComm is proud to be a part of the agricultural community and to have the privilege of working with so many companies directly involved in the production of food, fiber and renewable energy.

Throughout the week, we'll be sharing a few fun numbers on our Facebook page that help illustrate the diversity, and importance, of the American ag industry. Like our page to follow along!

Learn More Here: We Love Ag, Yes We Do


We Love Ag, Yes We Do posted first on http://vistacomm.blogspot.com/

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Nine Ideas to Promote Your Business and Increase C-Store Traffic

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but convince your pay-at-the-pump customers to enter your store and income will increase. Are you inviting people in?

According to a recent study, customers who paid for gas and drove away told researchers they didn’t need anything inside. You know better, of course, because everybody needs something, and in a small town your store is often the only resource.

So here are six notions for bringing customers indoors and three ways you might encourage a connection in the community’s you serve.

  • What’s not to like? Take a hint from Little Orphan Annie in A Christmas Story and give your Facebook supporters a special reward for loyalty. How about first notice of upcoming sales? A Facebook loyalty club doesn’t stop you from promoting your sale to all customers, but it reinforces a relationship with those who show you a little love.
  • The 360-degree fill. Offer something tasty with a fill-up, like a cookie or a doughnut. Naturally, the customer must come inside to claim that sweet reward and, in general, doughnuts go down better with something to drink. According to a 2015 CSP-FARE State of Foodservice study, retailers believe breakfast items offer the most potential sales growth.
  • It’s easy to get pumped. Chain outlets advertise at the pump. Do the same thing, but in a hometown way. Sharing a localized message could be very impactful with local customers. Just be sure to update your posters often and never leave your signs out in the rain. (What’s your message? See suggestions 4 and 5.)
  • Tell ‘em what’s new. Your marketing plan undoubtedly includes introducing new items in your product mix from time to time. But do you alert customers? Tout a new coffee flavor or anything. “Have you tried our new ____?” (Just because it’s an old tactic doesn’t mean it’s wrong!)
  • And while you’re at it…any improvement deserves a shout-out. “Introducing our new coffee-making system!” “Compliment us on our slushy maker today and your 16-ounce cup is free!” “Now offering fresh fruit! Enjoy a half-price banana with your donut today!”
  • Cultivate core co-op members. During planting season or harvest, put your lunch menu in high gear by taking phone orders for sandwiches. Post your menu and daily specials online, or send them via email and/or text to make it easier for the busy farmers. Also consider adding something extra for farmers, their families and employees. “Free apples for busy farmers today!”
  • Put a face on your support of local events. A sign in the window? Meh, anybody can do that. Help man a booth (always in your logo shirts). Don’t just donate water bottles for a 5K; be there yourself to greet finishers.
  • Serve up commitment. Enlarge on your nominal financial support of youth projects. When there’s a push underway for new uniforms or equipment, encourage customers to match your gift. Tell them you’ll share a percentage of pizza or sandwich sales.
  • What would employees do? Match employees’ personal interests and involvement to your support of local events. If John plans to attend the local car show on his own, pay him the hour or two he’ll spend directing entrants to parking spots. (And again, I say, John ought to wear something that identifies him as your proud employee). The same goes for the 4-H fair or any exciting thing happening in your town.

There are obviously many other ideas you can use to drive traffic into your c-store. Whether you are using point-of-sale promotions at the pump, digital marketing, public relations or direct mail, all can be effective with the right messaging and promotion. Not all promotions are guaranteed to work 100%, but until you’ve tried everything you (and I) can think of, you don’t know. VistaComm has helped cooperatives and local c-store retailers market to their communities for over 20 years. Put our experienced staff to work for you to help drive traffic into your business.

Contact us today

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