Market News & Headlines >> Brock Consultant Katie Hancock's Blog: New Marketers Must Make Peace with Imperfection

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Insights from Brock Associates Consultant Katie Hancock

I recently wrote about the rapid consolidation in agriculture. Retiring farmers are moving on and responsibilities are changing as a result. Among these individuals taking on new roles include new marketers.  

I gave a marketing overview to a group of farmers and lenders a few weeks ago. Not only was it a great turnout, but half of the group in their 20s. There is no doubt the down cycle has created opportunities for those starting to farm or trying to expand--this includes opportunities for young lenders too. This young age group of farmers has dominated agronomy meetings for 10 years, and it’s encouraging to see young farmers expanding their focus to business and marketing. 

Within my talk, I mentioned the challenge of being second-guessed. It’s always important to be aware that you will not only be questioned for your decisions, but you will also not make perfect moves every time. Making conservative and wise decisions with the information you have today may or may not be correct tomorrow. You have to be aware and accepting of a role that is open to constant criticism. 

Everyone is perfect in hindsight. Marketers have to be decisive ahead of time. You must be thick-skinned. If you have made peace with imperfection, you will be able to make tough choices others in the businesses don’t want to make. 

It’s also important to point out criticism doesn’t always mean someone thinks you’re dumb. For example, when I first started farming, I had a hard time adjusting to the coffee-talk jokes and discussion. Many individuals like to tease for sport. It’s social and not always true criticism. 

Those with shared risk from your decisions aren’t as forgiving as those who are teasing at the coffee shop. They will point out when you’re wrong--especially when the stakes are high. It’s not saying he or she could have done better or that you did a bad job at the time. It’s simply something you must accept with the role of making tough choices. Without acceptance, emotions will interfere with your risk-management. 

In my opinion, the worst decision is not making one. Not trying is the hardest choice to defend. I feel like selling everything at once is too aggressive, but it’s still easier to defend than selling nothing until delivery. All parties in the business need to decide on a strategy, including tools and aggressiveness. 

Here are some sample questions to ask the group: Do we want to use futures and options with local contracting? Or do we only use local cash marketing tools like hedge-to-arrive, forward and basis-only contracts? Do we want to have a certain percentage priced by planting, mid-season, harvest, and after harvest? Is there a target price where we want to be overly aggressive? Do we want to price in increments of 10%, 20% or even 50%? There are plenty of different scenarios! Be sure everyone in the group understands the tools you’re using--including the lender if a leveraged operation. Most importantly, one person needs to be responsible for the implementation and be willing to reveal and discuss performance. If everyone agrees to an initial plan, the performance discussion is much easier because everyone had input at the beginning. To be clear, the group discusses a plan, not necessarily each sale within the plan. 

Everyone making decisions has to take a loss from time to time--in business, marketing, and production. The goal is to avoid sinking the ship by not risking too much on one decision.


Email Katie at [email protected]