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What CMOs Can Learn From The State AgTech Industry

By Steve Olenski

While you may find it a struggle to market a certain product or service as a CMO, imagine having the task of creating a marketing campaign that is driven at attracting economic development projects, such as agricultural tech (agtech), for a given state. The ability to sell a state’s agtech capabilities to another organization is a challenging task but it’s one where CMOs can get some insights on the best practices approach for marketing those differentiating factors that can be highlighted to attract the greatest interest.

Agtech is not necessarily one of those areas that is easy to market, but five states have proven that all it takes is a little ingenuity and a lot of understanding about what the organizations they want to attract are looking for in a partner. It is an industry that encompasses many segments, including plant, soil, and crop science as well as food safety, biofuels, precision and prescription agriculture, and more.

There are a significant number of segments to the agtech industry because of the diverse need for solutions that can address larger issues for food, water, crop and livestock diversity, sustainability, and a connected infrastructure.

Lessons From Five States

States that specialize in agtech and who are marketing to organizations to come to their state for economic development projects understand that they need a marketing strategy that drives the formation of these partnerships. Here are some of the lessons that five different states can offer CMOs struggling with the challenge of differentiation or the task of marketing a complex product or service:

1. Deliver The Longest List Of Fulfilled Needs

Missouri Partnership, which works with the state of Missouri, has successfully formed lasting agtech partnerships because of its strategy to deliver a long list of capabilities: talent, technology, scientific leadership, resources, and assets. Its market position has to illustrate Missouri’s thought and innovation leadership when it comes to the latest in advanced farming practices. The organization has learned that highlighting what these partners are seeking most — a strong agtech infrastructure, access to capital, crop and livestock diversity, abundant water supply, and rich soil — are the key attributes to highlight.

A little name-dropping also hasn’t hurt its efforts; it illustrates the powerful partnerships the state already has and incorporates some influencer marketing tactics to the mix. These admired names like the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Monsanto, DuPont, BASF, Bayer, Bunge Limited, KWS and Symbiotics are opportunities to build credibility as part of a marketing strategy just like influencers do with products and services.

2. Leverage Those Within The Industry To Lead The Marketing Effort

States like North Carolina have let their talent do the marketing talking for them. With the rapid growth in agtech positions and work opportunities, the state has positioned the talent as its marketing focal point, letting them illustrate the potential for successful partnerships. With this focus on talent, it has been easy to construct marketing messages based on the state’s core capabilities of a history of agricultural knowledge and experience dating back to the state’s formation.

This idea of nostalgia and historical connection often is an engaging way to connect with those audience members you are targeting, and there is nothing better than putting faces to that knowledge and experience to drive the point home.

3. Target Certain Issues And Specialize In Those

The state of California realized that it could not be everything to every organization out there despite having an area known as an agtech hub. It’s not important to win over every potential customer out there no matter how incredible that would be. Instead, pick your targets and stick with those. For California, they realized they had an advantage when it came to water issues, sustainability, food safety and precision agriculture.

They could deliver more in these areas than other states so it was better to take available resources and go after those partnerships than try to hit every agtech opportunity out there. This would provide for a better return on marketing investment and result in more effective partnerships that could last much longer than those with organizations in areas that did not involve those specialized areas.

Another lesson to be learned from them is to offer something of extraordinary value. The state of California is offering the THRIVE Accelerator to attract specific types of AgTech startups where the partnerships can yield mutual benefits. When you focus your marketing efforts on win-wins by highlighting a unique value proposition, you will be able to leverage the benefits of that approach.

4. Branding Partnerships Attract A Larger Pool Of Opportunity

Iowa understood early on that they had a competitive advantage in the agtech area that could be exploited as recognizable brand partnerships with companies that shared their values and desire to attract more organizations. This has included equipment maker Deere & Co. and seed company DuPont Pioneer that have helped the state to attract more agtech opportunities on name alone and introduce opportunity that the state would not have been able to get otherwise.

Massachusetts has also followed this same path to agtech partnership success with Monsanto, Syngenta and Mitsui co-branding approaches and investing in local startups.

For CMOs, it means those co-branding campaigns and strategies are still an ideal pathway in today’s online marketing world. Audiences still want to see powerhouse brands join forces because they know something amazing will result.

Overall CMO Lessons

It’s easy to get stuck on what seems like an impossible product or service to market because it lacks that “wow” factor. In reality, though, those products or services that do not seem that sexy and easy to market are the ones that often have the most opportunities for growth and additional revenue. Instead, a CMO has to get excited by the challenge and look for other ways to get something out of that opportunity like these states have done with agtech partnerships.

The result has been numerous economic development projects across five states, including Missouri, California, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Iowa that are helping to propel agtech innovation with numerous investments in startups that were fueled by some good marketing lessons. Always share every last drop of value you can add with your product or service like Missouri did with its long list of capabilities and rely on talent and the past to captivate the current and future audiences like North Carolina.

You can also pick a few targets and really turn those into something spectacular as California has done but also name drop other organizations that are co-branding and partnering with you like Iowa and Massachusetts have done to build credibility in their marketing messages.

It’s All About the Experience

As customer expectations continue to rise, businesses need to appoint a senior executive like the Chief Marketing Officer to deliver exceptional, end-to-end customer experiences. It’s a tall order, but if done right, enhanced customer experiences translate into loyalty, repeat business, and revenue.

Download Should the Chief Marketing Officer Oversee the Whole Customer Experience? to learn how businesses can set CMOs up for success.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.

Image: Pexels

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