Promotional & Collateral
CALL ME: (913) 441-3970
CALL ME: (913) 441-3970

The era of the cold call is over. And if you buy that one, I have a free-range, hormone-free, dolphin-safe pig ranch I'd like to interest you in, as well.

The sexiness--and yes, effectiveness--of inbound content marketing has focused attention away from the more traditional elements of a well-rounded marketing program, those proven to get attention and build awareness. That's OK; communica-diversity can be as virtuous as bio-diversity.

The problem is that customers are drowning in choice. You know it. I know it. With everybody rushing to develop more content, as well as re-name everything else in the creative locker as content, never before have so many said so much to so few who listened so little. What's more, content marketing done right should be non-denominational. That means content marketers should be looking at all channels to engage and educate customers: print advertising, public relations, webinars, native advertising, event marketing, on and on. Granted, the traditional rooms in that marketing department may not be working the way they used to be, now that the consumer has found himself in the driver's seat with total control. If they no longer choose to pay attention, you're left with little recourse.

But that's not a call for abandoning outbound marketing channels; it's a call for building to the same standards as good inbound content. If you don't believe good paid advertising can still work, I have three words for you: Dodge, Paul and Harvey.

So in this no longer black and white but all grey world of marketing communication, I am here to help you do less ag content, no matter the channel, focused on higher quality and better results. There's a reason one recent survey found 80 percent of chief marketing officers believe custom content is critical to branding, yet the majority only give a C-average grade to their provider. Your content marketing needs a champion, an ombudsman for the customer with a fresh perspective informed by a conscious choice to pick a market and then love it. Minus that intimate knowledge of the reader, custom content risks failure by spending too much time talking only to its sponsor. What exactly does that look like?

Visual content becomes paramount. It's not just about the SnapChat-ization of everything, characterized by surveys like TechCrunch's, showing that the fraction of online adults using Pinterest, at 15 percent, was approaching the buy-in of Twitter, at 16 percent. Or, that Instagram now claims 300 million active users. The so-called "power of the picture" that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media are capitalizing upon isn't just about the instant gratification of the image. It's about the long-held truth: Media that informs together performs together. Otherwise, there's no getting around the stubborn refusal of long-form digital content to go away and die, as it's been urged to for a decade. Otherwise, there's no explaining the loving executions of journalistic snowfalling creeping back into digital content. There's still no replacing words, either as the underlying structure of a visual story or as the final presentation. But there's also no replacing the visual. A 2011 study by Skyword demonstrates total views of a written content piece can be expected to almost double when images or infographics accompany the writing. "Writers conceive ideas in words," wrote design theorist Jan White. "Designers imagine in images. But successful communication is an indissoluble blend of their skills." If your visual content is simply costuming, you're giving away half the shop.

It feeds the need. And I don't mean that list of two or three pat product promises you've filled in on the marketing brief. I'm talking about the greater need uncovered in this dialog-eat-dialog era of the relationship marketer and the subscription economy. All along the watchtower of that glacially slow selling cycle, which now spans partner selection to purpose alignment to boundary setting to value assignation to relationship maintenance, burn bright opportunities to let your story drive somebody away or, worse, let another take it from you.

All this new-age speak about the relationship process simply codifies what hard-knocks experience in agriculture and animal health marketing should have taught marketers long ago: Product failures are often information failures in disguise. The ag market is littered with the bones of perfectly good products that failed because of bad branding--but that's "bad branding" only in the sense that nothing was done effectively to reassure the customer that the brand promise he could expect to come true would be "I don't have to worry about this thing giving out when I'm up to my boot-tops in something else." If you don't think strong, meaningful, useful, product-neutral information is critical to supporting that promise, go back and study the experience of modified-live viral cattle vaccines in the U.S. market.

It still seems to catch some marketers by surprise to learn the implications of this obvious shift. A July 2013 study of 1,000-cow-plus dairies by Entira research puts a fine point on it: The brand benefits dairies seek today are more about advice and knowledge, and less about price and service. Engaged farm managers are looking for a product salesman who knows his own products and services, of course. But that's the cost of entry. They're also looking for someone who can advise them on broader issues pertaining to their operation. These dairies said they'll choose to work with the suppliers who can go beyond their own area of expertise and provide broad-reaching benefits, synthetic knowledge they have derived from working across the industry, condensed and intepreted into immediately meaningful and useful information. Now that's a definition for ag content marketing.

It recognizes the new sales cycle. The most jarring difference between ag marketing of old and ag marketing of today is no different from that faced by marketing outside agriculture: Where you used to have to educate your customer about your products and services, he now often comes to you already educated. As food-safety lawyer Bill Marler--who executes the strategy brilliantly and often to the detriment of traditional agriculture with his Food Safety News--once said: It's not very hard any more to discover who is the best in the world at something. Now that "positioning," as it has traditionally been understood, is conducted under the harsh and naked light of Internet-driven transparency, your customers come to you self-educated about your brand before you even get a word in edgewise. Those who thrive under that new selling cycle are those who shape the context around the cycle by strategizing, building and using a content library that welcomes that engaged customer. As Tesco CEO Terry Leahy wrote in a 2005 essay, "As the world shrinks but people's lives become more complicated, people will turn to brands and products they know and trust. Perceptions of trust will be shaped not just by price or service, but also by issues...." Although I might differ with Leahy's definition of the relevant issues--environment, social justice, animal welfare--I agree nonetheless with the sentiment: Customers want answers. But they want answers about more than just the features and benefits list on your product information bulletin. That's what content marketing is about.

Find out more about how to improve your story.


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Long before the rest of the content world was suddenly discovering native advertising and advertorials as shiny new marketing tools, Mike Smith had developed a long and successful track record proving reader-centric content works to position companies for stronger sales in the agricultural market.

Native advertising before native advertising was cool

You would think the content-marketing age has killed the brochure. But adding the power of visual thinking to the weight of strong writing only adds new life to promotional brochures, as Mike Smith has accomplished for years in this market.

What's old is new again

Never underestimate the power of simplifying the complexity that surrounds your brand. Ad copy that gets to the relevance remains one place where the science of content management still calls for a little art. It requires powerful, confident, directed storytelling that focuses on one point at a time and makes the implications to the customer crystal clear.

Where art still meets science

Not many marketing writers have honed their journalism skills and experience sharply enough to effectively tackle the in-depth white paper. From early analysis of the implications of organic marketing to ag marketers to biotechnology promises and pitfalls to a 24 page summary of research conducted by Food-Chain Communications on the state of agriculture in today's university, white papers designed, written and executed by Mike Smith show how his capabilities can make your message a serious one.

White papers are the new investigative feature story

Another example of the old-school tools that have taken on new life in the digital age, the old-fashioned news release still commands a presence. Mike Smith has decades of experience in making them read and effective.

The only good news release is a read news release


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

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Shawnee, KS 66226

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