As I travel around the country speaking to producers and ag professionals, I'm constantly being asked by individuals how they can improve their overall marketing skills. I've thought about this question for years and my conclusion remains the same: Simply think of the successes of great sports teams or businesses.
In most all cases, consistency in planning and execution is a common thread. In other words, championship football teams don't just block and tackle well sometimes, they do so most all the time. A business like FedEx or UPS doesn't just deliver on time here and there, they actually hit their time targets consistently. The difference between a true "professional golfer" and and "good golfer" is the severity of their "bad shots" and the consistency of their "good shots."
Think about it like this - there are some horrible golfers who have hit a "hole in one". Generally speaking, when a professional golfer miss hits a shot, its barely out of the fairway. When the rest of us miss hit a shot, it's often found outside the boundaries of the entire course. Meaning: the bad shots are much worse and the good shots and come a lot more frequently for those of us who are not considered "professionals."
So the real question becomes: How can those who are trying to be ag professionals achieve higher levels of consistency? It's not about waving a magic wand or finding some magic formula. As I've learned, success in business and in life most often is about the process. Are you doing what other top professionals are doing, is your process as good as theirs? Are you getting out of your comfort zone and attending networking events? Are you constantly and consistently trying to improve your marketing skills? Remember, the best in the world (the true professionals) are constantly practicing and sharpening their skills. You certainly don't think you will be a top professional golfer by going out and playing in a few four-man scrambles each year? So why would you think you would be a good "marketer" when you simply go to a few conferences here and there?
The only real solution or advice I can give is that you need to turn your current marketing "practices" or current habits into more structured marketing "rules." I've learned that structured rules, followed by a strong commitment to execution, are what generally tolead to better consistency. Remember, we can not control the direction of the market or the outside world. All that's ultimately under our control is how we react or respond to what's "perceived" to be occurring in the markets. Therefore, we have to have rules in place that best fit our emotions, personalities and cash flow needs so we can better execute on a more consistent basis.
Most often, I've found the best rules and marketing programs are very simple, yet specific. Meaning they are easy to understand and navigate. They work in most all types of environments and tend to make the complex appear much more simple. There is no one strategy or technique that I would deem better than the other. I have friends and partners who are extremely successful, each with wide varying degrees of strategy. Some are pre-marketers, selling their entire crop before it's ever planted, while some are post-marketers, never selling a bushel until after it's harvested. Some are only sellers of cash bushels and some like to use the board.
Similar to a professional baseball hitter, each has their own preference in stance, hand positioning, length of stride, waggle of the bat, etc. but each individual understands his particular tendencies and where the bat needs to be when the ball crosses the plate. How they get to contact is what I call an art... not until the bat strikes the ball does it becomes a science. There's no question that repetition becomes the mother of all habits. Habits then become the backbone of discipline. I've found turning successful habits and discipline into defined rules is the best way to become more consistent.
It's then when the "consistency" of being successful makes you tops in your field. One of my good friends, Jason Grimsley, two time World Series Champion pitcher with the NY Yankees, once told me the key to success in the Big Leagues was how you performed on your bad days. He said in 10 appearances... 2 times you would be unstoppable, the stars would all line-up and you would the best you could be; 6 of those 10 outings you would have to work hard and battle to be at your best; and during 2 out of those 10 outings you would be horrible, not feel good, not have your best stuff, etc... It's how you performed during those bad times that separated the men from the boys. I personally remember Michael Jordan beating the Utah Jazz in game 5 of the Championship series while being extremely sick and barely able to walk off the court.
The questions is: Have you been doing everything necessary to become the best in your field? When the winds are against you and times are tough, which we all know at some point will occur, do you have the tools to execute and be professionally consistent as when the winds were at your back? Remember, anyone can play a winning hand; and any fool can hit a hole in one. More importantly do you have the tools, discipline, rules and process in place to constantly execute at the highest level? Best advice, stop looking for the magic wand (it doesn't exist) and start putting the rules in place that will allow you to become the best in your field... It's takes extreme dedication and commitment. It's certainly not going to be easy...but then again, what in life is?
4 tips for becoming a better marketer:
Identify your personal traits and emotional tendencies. Compare these traits with what you believe the top professionals in your field are doing each day.
Turn your current practices and habits into hard-line written rules that fit your marketing model.
Execute your rules without emotional attachment so you can become more consistent.
Improved consistency is what allows you to reduce your downside risk and become a true professional.