CMO profile: Bringing data-driven marketing to farming
- 15 July, 2021 07:56
Livestock farm management platform, AgriWebb, has gone from startup seven years ago to having 15 million head of livestock under management across more than 30 million hectares in Australia alone. That’s not including the farmers using its platform in the UK, South Africa and the US where it has just opened an office in Denver, Colorado. That's good growth for software in a market not known for its appreciation of technology.
“There are people who are very old school, like my old man, who would say ‘Nah, I just use my old notebook’,“ he tells CMO. “And there are some who are really tech-savvy who totally get it,” says David Fraser who joined AgriWebb as head of marketing five months ago.
Going out to meet farmers has been one way AgriWebb’s marketing has targeted new customers. Pre-Covid, more than five sales people were constantly on the road, and pubs and country events such as field days were part of the marketing and sales artillery.
“Face-to-face interactions are fantastic; it’s a lot easier to show how easy it is to use something when you’re sitting at the pub than on a zoom session,” Fraser says.
The sales team also goes to as many events as possible across the country, and AgriWebb creates its own events, including a virtual field day held in 2020. This roving marketing sits alongside a bedded-down digital strategy that emphasises content and embraces PR, social media, paid search, EDMs, CRM notifications and many ‘how-to' guides.
With a small marketing team of five, Fraser says he's careful of what and when to turn these tools on and off.
Education is key
The name of the game for AgriWebb is one-to-one engagement and education.
“We do a lot of one-to-ones with farmers and interviews. It’s all about knowledge; if we can educate that person who isn’t tech-savvy, then it is a pretty simple, seamless tool," Fraser says. "Half the battle is that some people from a farming community might think ‘oh no, an app - that’s going to be so hard'.
"It can be intense when initially viewing the app. But when we can communicate and educate them on what the features and benefits are, why we’re here as a business, that’s when we get our wins. It’s when we’re able to get on the customer's level that we can illustrate the benefits. Getting on that level is the hardest part, but once we get on that level and we’re talking their language, it makes for a seamless journey."
The mission of the Australian-bred company is to transform the lives of farmers who subscribe to its cloud-based platform, enabling them to leverage their data to make their operations more efficient, productive, sustainable and ultimately boost food production.
“We have a desire to change the world and make the livestock sector more efficient,” says Fraser.
One feature of the mobile-based product monitors and provides data on a group of animals; another is for individual animal management which collects much more detailed data via an electronic tag. The platform also enables farmers to map and monitor their property, helping them with everything from avoiding over-grazing to management of smaller tasks such as letting a farm-hand know that a fence needs fixing and exactly where.
AgriWebb helps farmers manage inventory, accounting work and compliance requirements, which can be onerous. The data leaves a digital paper trail to make it easier to target value-adding certifications such as carbon-neutral beef, and to participate in different carbon schemes. AgriWebb is also developing tools that monitor methane emissions – based on data collected by individual animal tags and for mobs at farm gates, weight stations, and water troughs.
“It all gives farmers a far more detailed picture of the health of their herd and pastures so they can allocate resources more effectively and sustainably,” says Fraser.
“One of the great things about our product is that the more animals you have in this product, the better the outcome – because the more you will know about your whole farm. We can group their animals and, for example, tell them these animals are under 450 kilos or ‘these are your under-performers'."
Follow the data
Fraser’s career has traversed a few sectors – marketing manager with Domain, digital marketing manager at Citibank and manager, audience and growth at Fox Sports Australia. Regardless of sector, he's always been led by data.
“Fox is also a data-rich organisation. Yes, it [AgriWebb] is a different product but I use the same mentality in marketing - follow the data, not my gut," he says. "In these times when we are so data-rich, I think it’s a travesty to do otherwise. The linkages from a digital marketing perspective ring true no matter what the product. “
Live online chat with AgriWebb’s farmer success team, many of whom have farmed livestock, gives subscribers a right-hand helper on call to answer questions and an ongoing line of communication to check they have covered a farm’s work issues.
“We are replacing those old notebooks – which can easily get lost or ruined - with a digital solution. Farmers can now input all their records into their mobile device, even if they’re offline," Fraser said. "It’s also giving them insights in real time, so they get insights instantly even when they’re on the move.
“Typically, they used to do their work around the farm during the day, get back home and have a look at notes of what they got up to, what they’ve got to do the next day. But they weren’t analysing what’s happening in real time. We’re helping the farmer make better decisions.“
The firm has a lot of data on customers and, combined with all available surveys and mapping by government departments, the team knows where all the livestock farmers are. AgriWebb uses its knowledge of farming areas and their most likely jobs at any given time to tailor customer engagement to meet needs in a timely way.
“We try to create a delightful brand experience so they fall in love with us,” says Fraser.
While Australia’s east-coast livestock farmers are busy with some jobs, farmers on the west coast are doing something different. Fraser counts on a wealth of data to guide customer engagement so AgriWebb’s farm success team or salespeople are talking in step with farmers across the country.
“The seasonality makes farm work regimented: Some farmers could be doing weaning at this stage or later but they do it at some stage. We know where they are, who they are and what they would be doing at the moment," Fraser says.
"So we try to talk to people in that [right] space and time because, otherwise, it doesn’t resonate and they won’t get why AgriWebb is important in their everyday life. It gets a good response; I wouldn’t say we’re doing it 100 per cent but I think we’re nearly there."
Data works well for customer retention, too.
“We know our customers but we also know what they’re doing when they use AgriWebb,” Fraser continues. “So when they’re on the app and we can see they have used farm-mapping – a hell of a lot lately – we would shoot them a message to say, ‘Did you know you could also do these other things around farm-mapping that would revolutionise what you’re doing right now?”
Fraser views the relationship with subscribers as a partnership, with AgriWebb as a thought leader and educator in the livestock sector aiming to upskill farmers and build their knowledge about the software so they can get the most out of it.
“We try to hold the hand of the farmer and we get led too – it works both ways. Without the farmer telling us what we can do better, how would we better ourselves?” Fraser asks.
When Covid has settled, Fraser expects the team on the road might be less than the half-dozen pre-pandemic. He admits there was a bit of a spray-and-pray approach in the early days.
“Now we’re out of that startup phase, we can be more strategic about the areas where there’s less take-up of Agriwebb but the right kind of farmers," he says.
And he’s looking to future positioning and connections - with ideas of hosting a virtual global field day which he says would help farmers from different countries and regions to hear what people are doing elsewhere.
“Our thinking is still in its initial stages but collectively, it could be a great think-tank,” Fraser adds.