Marketing Mindset? Begin at the End!

As fuel, grain and land prices soar many producers are watching their margins shrink or disappear entirely. To combat this, some are eyeing brand and niche markets as possible alternatives. While the prices there may look attractive its best to get the whole story before you jump in!

While your cattle may have been "among the best" in the commodity markets, or in past sales, do they "fit" in the brands or niches you are looking at? Too often we get caught up in producing what we think is best and then expecting the market to accept it.

In production driven selling we focus on our product, figuring out what we like to produce, what we think we can produce best and then selling it to someone. Most beef operations won't fit into this mould. We select the breed of cow we like to run, breed her to a bull that we think creates a really good calf and then take that calf to a sale and expect someone to buy it. Many are not very willing to change this pattern even when they sell in the bottom half year after year. This may indicate one of two things ... they may have their cattle in the wrong market for their type, or they may not be willing to take on a marketing mindset.

Table 1. Product Driven Mindset versus Marketing Mindset

Product Driven Market Driven
Emphasis on the Product Emphasis on the Customer
Love the Product Love the Customer
Sell what you can Make Make what you can Sell
Make a Sale Get a Customer
Producer defines Quality Customer defines Quality

To compete in many of the niche or brand markets will take a major shift in mindset. That shift is to a marketing mindset where the ultimate customer or consumer calls the shots. The emphasis here is on what the customer needs or wants and what they think is high quality. The focus switches to getting a customer (that will be a repeat buyer) rather than making one sale.

It doesn't matter whether the production criteria are what you would pick, or you don't like the size of animal they want. The point is, if the customer likes it, and is willing to pay for it, then that system creates the market and that is what you will deliver. The only question is whether you choose to produce that product and be part of the brand. Many of the niche/brands do not allow any antibiotics. This means you cannot ever put animals that have been treated into the program. You can not decide that it was just one shot a long time ago. That is not the point. In a marketing mindset you deliver what the consumer asks for every time, with your integrity and the product's integrity being unquestionable.

So when you look at options for your calves this fall shift your head into a marketing mindset and look to the end user. No matter if you are considering a different niche market or selling through your regular channels, you need to begin at the end with your buyer's wants and needs. Then perhaps you will have created a customer rather than just a sale!

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