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Print, Still Hand-Crafted

When Farmland Industries was looking for communication tools to support its animal-health distribution market, it turned to Mike Smith to craft its Practical Health series, which included beef- and dairy-cattle health-care magazines, a collateral newsletter to help dealers capitalize on the program, and a pilot horse and companion-animal care spin-off magazine. The inherent power of print supported dealers by making them the center of expertise in complex animal-health buying decisions.

Everywhere I go, I hear marketers say (gleefully) and publishers say (gloomily), "Print is dead." Don't believe it.


Here's Why

Deep Digital Content

Hampered by deadline-crushing staff shortages and competing priorities, the National Grocers Association contracted production of its tired show magazine to Food-Chain Communications, which turned to Mike Smith for fresh ideas. A stunning graphic redesign, combined with crisp, meaningful writing and a series of live and after-show e-mail news reports revived the sagging readership.

The digital revolution went off the rails when it created a false either/or philosophy. You really can have it all.


Go Deep Digital

Quality Remains Timeless

After Mike Smith assumed project management on Walco Animal Health's Dairy Health Update magazine, he added a digital presence, a tightened lead-followup system for all Walco field divisions and collaterol marketing campaigns...even while he cut the overall cost per issue by 14 percent. That's quality even the smallest marketing department can't afford not to take advantage of.

Smaller communication budgets and smaller audiences. I love them. Here's why you should, too.



"What do you do," the American Business Media asked, "in the face of pseudo-science dressed up as the real McCoy, inventive media promotions that win lots of crisp headlines but add little substance to the debate, and a sense of media sophistication completely foreign to your nose-to-the-grindstone audience?"

You turn to a seasoned content producer who knows the audience, knows the issue and can communicate it cleanly, meaningfully and powerfully. Here's what that looked like when Mike Smith guided Alpharma's 10-year For the Record project to accolades from the business press association as A Case Study in Effective Content: For the Record.


Effective content marketing is about telling, not selling. It takes the spirit of an editor to be able to step back and look at the world through your customer's eyes first, yours second. And it's the only way to make content customers care enough in order to turn your brand into a center of expertise and insight about issues important to your customers. See just how far a good story can take you by listening as Mike Smith deconstructs the media coverage of antibiotics in agriculture with Ohio Farm Bureau Radio's Joe Cornely.


When you nurture an authentic relationship with your content audience--when you approach them as consumers of information first; sales prospects, second--then you move toward the goal of making your brand the center of expertise and insight about issues important to them. See how this unfolds by listening as Mike Smith discusses the issue of biotech food-ingredient labeling on behalf of his content sponsor with ag radio host and commentator Trent Loos.


You want search-engine optimization? Shortcuts and tricks don't get you to page one. The tools of quality content do. Here's how, using only the tools of his craft, Mike Smith rocketed his rational defense of one controversial farming practice to the front page of the search engines on gestation crates. What's that kind of quality-driven content worth to an industry? Priceless.

Latest from the Farm Beat

The Ten Reasons they Hate you So


Why can't we all just get along? Mike Smith sifts through the new-age philosophy behind today's resentment toward Big Farming.

Read it Again: A Google Page 1 Success Story

Why do farmers use gestation crates? Here's the answer to your Google search

Even with relatively narrow distribution, this feature on the reasons behind farmers' decision to use controversial farrowing crates rose to the top 5 for a Google search on the subject. When you want your message to be relevant to the discussion, meaningful content takes you there.

Read it...

  • What would a 45 percent click-through rate do to your e-mail controls? That's what Mike Smith's latest installment in Farmer Goes to Market's "Why Do Farmers Do That?" series pulled.

  • Mike Smith writes about antibiotic use for PORK Network's Veterinary Feed Directive e-newsletterMore than a decade and a half of industry-leading expertise in the issue of antibiotics in agriculture made Mike Smith the natural choice to write engaging and meaningful content for PORK Network's Veterinary Feed Directive e-newsletter.

  • Farmer Goes to Market now in year 4 of publication Combine a scientist's understanding of food-animal issues like hypocalcemia in dairy cows with an artists ear that delights farmers with nostalgia for past treatments stretching back to whiskey, turpentine and blood-letting, and you end up with a technical 4-page native advertisement that can teach as well as engage, just as Landus Cooperative did through its latest Dairy Herd Management insert, authored by Mike Smith.

American Business Media case study

"Tired of seeing animal rights activists and back-to-the-earth advocates control the spotlight unchallenged," the American Business Media's case study on Mike Smith's For the Record: Straight Talk about Antibiotic Use in Agriculture explains, "the Animal Health division of Alpharma Inc. did a 360 when it changed tactics completely. ...Alpharma had plenty of options for advertising its agricultural product lines, but felt it was losing ground in the debate over animal health and food safety. ...the success of the [For the Record] program lies in large part with the fact that while Alpharma underwrites the project and gets some marketing exposure expecially via the e-letter, it is an issues-oriented media venture, not a hard--or even soft--sell."

Distrubuted by Vance publishing through its livestock-producer trade verticals, the quarterly four-page For the Record pushed back against the growing "concensus science" that use of Alpharma's products and other antibiotic products in livestock production posed a meaningful risk to the health of food consumers. Although nothing could be further from the truth, misinformation from activists was being widely circulated with little or no effective response from a sometimes timid agricultural community.

"I think For the Record represented a fundamental shift at the time that was way ahead of the rest of agriculture, and Alpharma deserves credit for showing the courage it did," says Washington, D.C., ag-regulatory expert and lobbyist Steve Kopperud. "While so many traditional ag companies and ag communicators were running away from the controversy, Alpharma actively chose to turn and run toward it."

"They certainly took a risk, because there could have been a backlash both at the customer level for drawing too much attention the controversy, and at the consumer level," the ABM case study quotes Smith. "But I also think For the Record is a good example of how a custom project can more intimately connect you with your market. It's not a sales piece at all, but it has earned Alpharma a load of customer goodwill for having the backbone to stand up to the critics. And among readers it's improved the level of knowlege of the issue about 95 percent."

To read the entire ABM case study on For the Record, click here (Acobe Acrobat format).

Click here to read samples of For the Record.

ABM custom publications


Find out more about how your content marketing can make you a champion for your customer's cause.


Step 1: Choose your audience

Picked your Audience?

Ag marketers use print magazines at a rate nearly two-thirds higher than the average marketer, with just under seven in 10 saying they still make use of magazines in some way. Why? Fewer and fewer farmers every year taking a larger and larger market share means today's ag customer requires a long-duration sales cycle emphasizing after-sale nurturing and focus on long-term customer value. Targeting the existing customer base makes print content a natural customer-retention tool.
Step 2: Set objectives

Defined your Objectives?

This is not your father's marketing communication. It's not even your older sister's. Custom content, print or digital, in today's market has to answer to a tall order when it comes to performance standards: Strategically concepted, flawlessly targeted, carefully executed and fully held to results controls.
Step 3: Hire Mike Smith

Hire the Best

Once you have the audience and objectives and you need the inspired mechanic to put his hands on the job and execute from the beginning concept to the final ROI evaluation and all points in between, call. With decades of content experience, I am your content marketing advocate not afraid to get dirt under his fingernails.
Need that content project turned around now?
Click here to send me an RFP

Custom Publications by Mike Smith

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Shawnee, KS 66226

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Still have that marketing or technical content project sitting on your desk? Waiting for a cost-effective, no-drama way to get it done? Send me the details, deadline and budget. I'll bid it and get it moving. Now.

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