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March 2007
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May 2007

Closed? Open? Do You Care?

Closed_woman Yesterday I was doing a search for a client who is interested in marketing and selling their products to the Pacific Rim.  My search was for agricultural equipment wholesalers who have experience in that part of the world.

I had the chance to view ten or twelve websites...some boasting they were "cutting edge" companies who "know how to accomplish great things for their clients".  Some indicated that they, "know the market and have been in business for over 50 years...".

However, the problem was that many of these websites were lacking even basic contact information and on at least four of the sites the newest "news" entry was dated...2004!!

Hello...are you open for business?  Are you closed?  Do you really care?

Man_what If people still do business with come you have not FIRED "Info", "Sales" or "Contact"?  Yep, those are the e-mail address that were listed in 90% of the searches I did yesterday.  Sorry, we don't want to do business with "Info", "Sales" or "Contact".  How about a NAME?  Even if you make it's far better than the above.

Of the sites I visited I filled out forms on two and sent an e-mail to a third...I think his/her name was "Info".  I have yet to get a response. more thing:  If the newest piece of news about your company is from 2004 (three years old) am I to assume that NOTHING is going on with your firm?  Truly something must have happened over the past 36 months!

Bottom Line #1:  IF you have a website UPDATE it on a regular basis.  I know, many of you are slaves to some "webmaster" whom you pay on an hourly basis and who MIGHT get around to your changes...on his or her time.  Tired of that?  We can help put you in charge 24/7 from any computer on the planet.   The difference in your image will be astounding.

Bottom Line #2:  Seriously, fire the vague contact people.  Even if you have to put down JessieJames at Your Company dot Com it is far better than trying to do business with "Info".

Bottom Line #3:  Just because YOU may not use or think about your website much does not mean there are not folks like me wanting to do business with you.  IF your first impression I come back?  And...if you don't answer the e-mail request....well that goes without saying.

Open_sign Hey, thanks for allowing me to rant a bit...but it is for YOUR own good.  Please, if you are serious about working...let us know you are OPEN.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always make contact with (a real person) by clicking here.

Agricultural Equipment Marketing

Farm_machinery_sign Last week at the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association (FEMA) spring meeting I took a rather informal survey regarding how manufacturers choose to market and advertise their products.  While the answers were predictable...are we missing opportunities?

It's really not that much of a secret.  Farm Machinery is still marketed in a very traditional method.  Usually a two or three stage process.  Manufacturer to Retail Dealer or Manufacturer to Wholesaler to Retail Dealer.  There are very few manufacturers marketing directly to consumers.  Tradition rules in agricultural equipment manufacturing and marketing of these products.

But what about ADVERTISING farm machinery?  These answers were also predictable.  Of the many manufacturers I spoke with the break down goes something like this:

  • 70% Print Advertising
  • 25% Trade Show Advertising/Marketing
  • 5%  Other

Cp_you_want_fuel_savings Some told me that print advertising makes up 90% of their budget. What is "other"?  Some direct mail, some Internet advertising, some...slush.

With 2.2 million farmers out there (and we know most of them by name) is there a better way?

Sure...but it is tough to change a culture.  And, it is easier to simply "do what we've done for years".  But times are changing and manufacturers who have a real handle on their customers are changing their advertising and marketing methods.  Look for print to decline and Internet and Direct Mail to increase.  It's called...the rifle approach vs. shotgun.

Edney One other amazing finding that now makes sense.  Many, many manufacturers expect their wholesale partners to pitch the product.  Sometimes there is assistance from the manufacturer through co-op advertising plans but many times the wholesalers are left to figure out their message and market themselves.  It's a little odd...but again, culture.

Jd_bw_ad Again, is there a better way?  Sure...there always is and shortline manufacturers can take a lesson from the "majors" and their methods of "retail advertising".  Step back and consider the "sleek" and "sexy" advertising and marketing plans these guys put out.  But, "sleek" and "sexy" doesn't work when selling iron...or would it?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing and Communications where you can always make contact with us by clicking here.

Corn or NO Corn?

Ear_of_corn While at the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association (FEMA) Spring Meeting last week I heard four different speakers talk about corn and the relationship to ethanol.  Each speaker seemed to suggest that, are you ready for this?  Ethanol from Corn IS NOT the long term solution. 

Sobering news?  That would be a big YES.  Those of us who make a living supporting agriculture and in particular corn came away from this meeting with two huge challenges.

  1. Will producers change in time to continue to capture market share as it relates to bio energy?
  2. Will equipment manufacturers be able to adjust to new crops and be able to manufacture equipment that will harvest, compile, transport and store vast quantities of "new" crops?

Miscanthus2_univ_of_illinois Here we have a "chicken and egg" issue.  The producers can not, or will not move from corn to another better energy producing crop such as Switch Grass or Miscanthus because they lack sufficient equipment to deal with these crops and the manufacturing companies are more than likely not going to build such machinery until there is a demand.

Oh...there is another thing standing in the way of moving from corn to other products.  And this reason may be much more serious than the equipment issue.   It's called "culture".

Will producers overcome their "corn comfort" and move to new products?  And, what happens to the dozens of corn ethanol production facilities? 

David_bransby In the words of Dr. David Bransby of Auburn University who has 30 years of experience in agricultural research and 20 years in R&D of energy crops and bioenergy, "Move from grain as quickly as possible." (Hear the story by clicking here.) If that is the case, we can expect some big changes in the future.  Are, you ready?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always make contact with us by clicking here.

Traveling Forever....

American_airlines_logo Last week I had the pleasure of sharing with you the great story about flying out of the Kansas City International Airport and the service from American Airlines and FirstLine a security company doing business with the TSA folks.  Sunday I spent 22 hours traveling from Florida to Iowa...

Today it isn't so bad...because I am gratefully home but yesterday was a real interesting day.

I'd been at the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association Spring Conference in Panama City.  I had decided to drive the distance from Fort Walton Beach to Panama City (70 miles) because the flight was about $300 cheaper and I needed a vehicle while at the conference anyway.

Arrival was great.  However leaving was a new story...and something we might learn from if you are interested in customer service.

I had a 6am flight out of Ft. Walton I was up and out the hotel door by 3:30am.  Arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare.  The ticket counter folks didn't get in until 5am and when they did...nice folks at American Airlines.

Airplane_broken Flight was supposed to take off at 6am...but it was delayed for a bit.  Something was not right, lots of noise coming from the rear of the Brazilian manufactured aircraft.  We're wheels up at 6:50, climb to about 14,000 feet headed west to Dallas.  All of a sudden the aircraft banks left, quickly.  We start a rapid decent and we're now headed east.  I nudge the person next to me and say..."Ahhhh, too quick a turn, too quick a drop and we're headed back to Ft. Walton a hurry."

Airplane_broken_pass Broken airplane.  Something about the cargo door in the rear.  I think it failed to latch correctly.  We landed, got off the plane and waited.  And, waited, and waited.  Not much from anybody other than a few announcements.  Then the bags came off the aircraft and we figured we were done.  But not much info from the desk.  The crew left...we figured it was a safe bet we were not going back on.

Airplane_broken_employee Sure it was Sunday morning...and sure the American Airlines employee was swamped.  But anxious passengers should have been given a heads up.  American far as I could tell have only one bay at Ft. Walton Beach...but there were 36 anxious passengers. 

Some of us were driven to Pensacola, FL at 11am and waited until 3:30pm for a flight to Dallas.  By the way, the friendly American Airlines employees we experienced in Kansas City need to train the folks at Pensacola....not a smile among the bunch.

Got home at about 1AM on Monday...22 hours after I left the hotel in Florida.

Bottom line: Customer important all the time.  I'm grateful the crew did the right thing and turned that aircraft around.  But, the understaffed ground crew needed some help.  It would have been nice to have seen some other folks jump in and move things along.  Teamwork works...even in the airline industry.  (Maybe the unions don't allow?)  And, when dealing with some stressed folks...information is helpful.

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always reach us by clicking here.

Fertilizer is Good...Corn is ?

Head_stand_woman Well, this should stand you on your collective heads.  Imagine going to a farm equipment seminar (FEMA) and being told that fertilizer is GOOD, Global Warming is a MYTH and that ethanol from not a very wise idea.  Oh MY!!

Friday was the first day of listening to several speakers that were simply fantastic in their delivery and some very interesting information YOU should pay attention to.

Dsc02435 First up was Dr. Jay Lehr who gave us his "Five Truths of Fertilizer":

  • Fertilizers are drawn from nature...they are NOT man made;
  • Farmers are NOT adding fertilizers to the soil.  They are replacing nutrients that are lost at each harvest;
  • We MUST use fertilizers and perhaps more if not 2 billion people would starve;
  • Use of fertilizer conserves land.  Without it we would be planting in parks, recreational land, etc.;
  • Farmers care about the environment as much as others.

Oh...and, there is no Global is "Junk Science" that has "cherry picked" various data to make their case. Click here for more.

In all, the speech was WELL received by the manufacturers of farm equipment and there was plenty of discussion.  You can learn more about Dr. Lehr if you simply click here.

BUT....what happened next was like a BOMB SHELL going off. 

Shinners Dr. Kevin Shinners of the University of Wisconsin took the microphone and said...there are much better crops than CORN when we are talking about ethanol production and we had better realize that biomass energy coming from things other than corn is the way of the future.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh....cold water anyone?

Dr. Shinners also told the group who makes agricultural products that they had best be thinking of ways to manufacturer equipment that handles and transports and harvests new crops in single or multiple pass methods. IF you are NOT close to farming or agriculture...this is much about nothing.  But..consider that the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association ASKED these people to speak.   Can anyone out there spell........C-H-A-N-G-E?

We'll visit more about this in the future.

Sand_castle Woman_on_beach the way...we did not go to the beach, we did not see the pier, we did not see anybody from Girls Gone Wild.  I think it rained all the time we were here....Honest.

Thanks for reading....

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always contact us by clicking here.

Pet Food Recall...and us.

Rocky The pet food recall has led to thousands of pet owners wondering what food they can and can not feed to their dogs and cats.  The images we've seen like this photo of "Rockey" that appeared on the American Veterinary Medical Association website continue to haunt us.

Sometimes people ask me, Michael, just what is it you do?"  Here is an example.

It's been over a month and officials still are finding recalled pet food products on retail shelves.  It has all been a nightmare.  When all of this broke we made contact with our pet food client Country Vet Pet Foods based in South Dakota.

Country_vet_logo We wanted to make sure we could be helpful to our client if and when they needed us.  They spent the necessary time checking and double checking their ingredients, where they come from, how they are checked and processed.  When, as we already knew, they determined there was no wheat gluten in their products they asked us to help them write the press release.  We were more than happy to do so.  If you would like to read the information, just click here.

What if this story had a different ending and we had to write something different.  Would we be able to help and do so.  I'd like to think we would.  But, we didn't have to...and all of us are grateful.  It's been a tough six weeks for pet owners.  We were proud that we were able to set some minds at ease.

Thanks for reading...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always make contact with us by clicking here.

Thinking About....

Iowa_map_2 It's interesting for those of us who live and work in Iowa and are so involved in agriculture get such a narrow vision of farming and the impact of things other than Corn, Soybeans, Cattle and Hogs.

Thursday morning and I'm sitting down to breakfast with Regular and Supplier Members of the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association (The original FEMA).  It's a very informal meeting where we have something to eat, introduce ourselves and say a couple of words about our business and agriculture. 

I know all of these folks and have for several years.  They come from Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Alabama, Nebraska Georgia...and then a guy from California stood up.

Cummings Andrew Cummings from Schafter, CA (Nikkel Iron Works and T.G. Schmeiser) mentioned corn...but also wine, grapes, dairy, hay, raisins...yep, raisins.  It was so interesting listening to his take on crops we seldom consider.  But, he also mentioned corn.

You see, the rush to ethanol production from corn has farmers in parts of his state moving from "other crops" such as hay into corn.  That then has impacted the dairy farmers because when hay ground gets turned under to plant corn...shortage of hay.  Shortage of hay = higher prices = higher milk and cheese prices....catching the drift here?

It made me sit and think about how what we do impacts so much more than what we see right in front of us. 

It's kind of like your product or service.  What you make or can that impact markets you've not yet considered?  What little twist can you put on your main product that will make it marketable to another end user?  How often do you close the door....and think? 


Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing and Communications where you can always make contact with us by clicking here.

More From FEMA - Farm Equipment Manufacturers Asso.

Corn_field It's pretty amazing to listen to the folks who sell materials to the manufacturers who make farm equipment. 

Over the next several days I'll give you some "INSIGHT" into the farm equipment manufacturing industry as viewed from the vantage point of being here in Panama City, FLA at the FEMA Spring Meeting.

This Wednesday morning I spent several hours with the people who sell the raw materials (gears, steel tubing, fittings, etc.) to the folks who make all this shortline farm equipment.  We talked about the difference that corn is having on everybody's business.  It's interesting to listen and visit with folks who are not living among the farming community.  They tend to have a whole different view of what and how fast our agricultural world is changing.

Farm_signs Most of the week, I'll be asking my friends from FEMA about their marketing and advertising thoughts.  Where they spend their money, are they following up on trade show leads, what do they consider to be "marketing" and what is "advertising".  I'm really doing most of this for our benefit.  It will be interesting to learn what these leaders think...and try to mix that with what we in the advertising world know about consumer marketing and advertising.

So...I hear there are INCHES of snow in Iowa.  Ouch.  70 and rain here yesterday afternoon.  OK...there were some periods of sun. Very short!  And then...let's see...ahhhh..  There was a big FLOOD.  Yep, that's it.  Lousy time...big floods! And...ahhhh WIND!  And Spring Break is over with...yeah, that's it!  (Hey, just trying to help out.)

Thanks for reading..

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always reach us by clicking here.

Kansas City International - Wonderful!

Kci_helpful This may not make my friends at the Des Moines International Airport happy...but I MUST tell you this story.  It is easy to criticize the airlines but not this time..It is all about customer service, remember that?

Two months ago I had a decision to make.  I was flying to Florida for the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association spring meeting.  The price of a ticket out of Des Moines was $520 round trip.  The price of a ticket out of Kansas City International was $235 round trip.  American_airlines_at_kci So, I drove to KCI this morning (Tuesday) to catch my flight. 

I need to let you know that I DO fly out of Des Moines often...just this time I thought I'd try something else.  Ahhhhh...what a difference.

Americanairlineslogo At check in from American Airlines they greeted me BY NAME!  Yes...I had used the self check in and a woman came up and said, "Welcome to Kansas City Mr. Libbie.  Let me get your bag for you and you feel free to go ahead and go to gate 78.  It's just fifty feet in that direction.  I'll take your bag to security."  Ahhhhh....

Tsa_logo At security I checked through in about 90 seconds.  Nope they did not skimp...but the way KCI is set up nearly every four or five gates have their own security folks.  As I walked through the "machine that goes BEEP" if you have metal on you the TSA guy on the other side looked me in the eye and said, "Thank you for visiting Kansas City, you're OK and I hope you have a wonderful flight."  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.....

I collected my laptop bag and behind me was another TSA agent.  There were two empty bins in front of me.  I picked them up to give to the agent and he said, "That's OK problem, let me get those out of your way."  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....

I stood there and said, politely, "I have to tell you ladies and gentlemen, I drove today from Des Moines and you folks made the trip worthwhile.  Thank you."  They nodded...appreciation and went about their work encouraging a little girl of about 6 to run to an agent in front of her mother saying, "Don't worry honey, Mommy will be right behind you...come on through...yippee!"

Kci_sunset what have you folks at KCI done to the "real" travel folks that make our traveling life so...ahhhhh...interesting? made this customer feel welcome, safe and appreciated. So, the bottom line to you who are reading this and thinking about your business, how are you showing your customers they are welcome and appreciated?  It can't hurt!

Thanks for reading...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always make contact with us by clicking here.

What A Cool Conversation

Phone_sign So, I open my e-mail Monday morning and there is a message from Liz Strauss who just happens to be the "Goddess of Internet Publishing".  She said, "Hey, can we phone?"  You caught me at hello...

I've followed her work for some time, and you can too if you click here.  What I found over the past year is that she spends lots of time on ideas.  Lots of different ideas.  Liz_strauss In addition, I've become a fan drawn to her work maybe because like my father...hers also was in the tavern business.

Here are the high points of the conversation and as always, I think we both learned.

  • We need to think of changing the word "BLOG" to something else.  Internet Publishing?  I don't know...the word just has too much "goofiness" attached to it.  Go ahead, try this:  "I've got over 100 articles on marketing and advertising published on the Internet." OR... "I have over 100 blogs on marketing and advertising on the Internet." Hmmmmm...
  • What is our focus?  Ourselves...or our customers?  I know that realization changed much of how we write our pieces.  Being other centered...or focused on the customer wins.  When, "How can I help you?" replaces "How can you help me?" do that and you'll find the difference.
  • Why do business leaders spend so much time looking right and left when they should be focused on what it in front of them.  In other words...rather than worrying about the competition focus on your product and you customers needs.
  • Blogging by simply spitting out somebody else's ideas is boring.  Invest some time in offering the reader some original thought.  Seeing a post with "Link Bait" drives folks nuts and is counter productive.  Not to mention wasting our time.

OK...OK...that's it.  As you read this I'm jetting off to Panama City Beach for a FEMA meeting.  We'll stay in touch...there have GOT to be some great advertising and marketing stories there.