Marketing takes mental stress to new level
At the end of the farming year, it’s not uncommon to be physically exhausted. This year, more farmers are also finding themselves mentally exhausted from the roller-coaster ride of the commodity markets.
"Exhaustion is a legitimate excuse for not making good marketing decisions," says Scott Stewart, president and CEO of Stewart-Peterson, a commodity marketing consulting firm based in West Bend, Wis. "Marketing requires a lot of focus and discipline. This is one reason we always recommend that, to take your marketing to a higher level, you need to either become an expert or hire one."
Stewart references a book called Switch, written by Chip and Dan Heath. The authors analyze "how to change things when change is hard." Their tenet, proven by psychologists, is that "self-control is an exhaustible resource." This means that when you’re highly focused on a task, you’re using up your supply of self-control. As you do that, you become mentally exhausted, thereby increasing the difficulty of changing your behavior.
Radishes or Cookies? An interesting example of mental exhaustion given by the authors involves two groups of students in a room. One group was served radishes to eat. The other group received chocolate chip cookies. Afterward, both groups were asked to solve a puzzle. The radish eaters, who had relied on self-control to keep from eating the cookies, spent less time trying to solve the puzzle. They gave up early because they were more mentally tired than the cookie eaters.
"Think about the times during the day when you’re highly focused," Stewart says. "Planning inputs for the next growing season, attending a meeting with your lender and figuring out the cost-benefit analysis of a new piece of equipment—these are just a few examples."
It Requires Focus. Becoming a consistent, strategic and disciplined marketer takes time and forethought, Stewart says. It requires the willingness to regularly prepare for whatever the market might do. Or look at it this way: Marketing done well can be mentally exhausting.
"When you’re an expert at something, like growing crops, you’re going to retain the ability to think or to push forward in the face of a challenge long after a person struggling with the same task gives up," Stewart adds.
If you truly want to do more with your marketing, something might need to change. There are many ways to take a tiny first step that can put you on the path to improvement, Stewart says.
For instance, do a self-assessment of your marketing strengths and weaknesses. Or attend a workshop, where you can pick up useful marketing strategies.
However you go about it, honestly assess how much time, energy and discipline you have. If you can make the necessary commitments, you can do marketing well.