Consultant and Beef Today columnist
Successful cattlemen "wear many hats." Throughout the year we change our "hats" according to our production season and cycle. Many of us change hats several times a day as we go from being a cowman to hay producer and more. The big question is, how often do you wear your marketing and salesman hat?
Truthfully, marketing and sales are probably two of the most neglected topics for cattlemen. Most seedstock producers spend more time on marketing and sales than commercial cattlemen, but in the end, sale day is our biggest payday and yet it’s where we spend minimal time and effort!
While both affect our bottom line, most cattlemen don’t realize there is a significant difference between marketing and sales. We must be good at both. Understanding this difference is key to your success.
Marketing is about strategy and telling the story of your cattle operation. Your marketing pieces should be informative and describe things such as your ranch history, genetics, vaccination program and management philosophy. Marketing efforts can be more long term in vision and reach across print media, websites and verbal descriptions.
Sales, on the other hand, matches your customers’ needs with your end product—feeder calves, bulls, bred heifers, etc. This process is where you offer your product and attempt to fill the needs of the buyer. Sales consists of a much more direct, targeted effort than marketing but also enlists more personal persuasion.
In the end, selling cattle should be a result of both marketing and sales efforts. But understand that marketing builds opportunities for sales to occur.
Measurable actions. Let’s get specific on marketing and sales for cattlemen. For a commercial cattleman who annually sells calves at weaning at the local sale barn, a flyer posted several weeks prior to selling would be an easy start. This marketing effort would describe the calf crop in terms of genetics, vaccinations, type, etc.
The sales part would include a phone call to the sale barn owner, feeder calf buyer or feedyard to learn of their needs and, in the same call, describe the calves for sale. Some of the most profitable cattlemen I work with send a postcard to past and potential feeder calf buyers to remind them when their calves will sell. Remember, it only takes one additional bid to make more money.
I enjoy marketing more than sales. My personality makes it easy for me to tell the story of a program. However, I’ve learned to be more effective at sales. When selling bulls, I ask about the customer’s marketing end point, cowherd genetic base, environment and feed resources. From this I can make better suggestions on bulls they purchase.
Often I hear "I’m not good at it" and "I don’t have time for marketing." My reply is simple: You can choose to not be good at it, or you can make small efforts that might bring substantial returns.
Marketing builds the foundation upon which you make sales happen. It doesn’t matter if you are selling widgets, hay, hamsters or cattle, the principles are the same. My challenge to you is to be a price setter, not a price taker, through better marketing and sales efforts.
Specializing in genetics and marketing, Cheramie takes a big-picture approach to herd management. A native of Louisiana, she has worked all across the country to help ranchers maximize opportunities. Contact Cheramie: