With fall harvest mostly complete and the holiday season in full swing, it’s prime time to reflect and appreciate. But amidst the flurry of year-end projects — at work and at home — it’s not always easy to find the time or the spirit. So, here’s a quick encouragement to help put ag equipment marketers everywhere in the right frame of mind: You play a vital and growing role in changing our greatest industry! That was almost too easy, right?! OK, for those who weren’t immediately reinvigorated, let me help break it down.
It’s 2 years now since I joined the ag equipment marketing profession after 20 years in and around construction equipment distribution. As with many of you, our dealer marketing team serves both industries and I’m still learning what separates horsepower and dirt from horsepower and soil. Boiling it all down, farmers have an incomparable connection to the land, our environment and the fate of civilization as they feed nearly all of us and often pass this responsibility down from generation to generation. And unlike construction, where productivity has remained flat for decades, growers have answered the demand for higher output with innovation upon innovation (e.g., delivering over 170% increase in U.S. farm output over the last 70 years). Farmers just find a way. They tinker, they break, they weld. They do it again. Farming moves beyond essential to noble. Commodity prices be damned, we arguably serve the greatest industry!
With that settled, let’s move back to farm productivity. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that global population growth, urbanization and rising incomes will require another 70% increase in food production by 2050. Well, 30 years sure seems like the distant future. I mean, 30 years ago I was just a gleam in my father’s ... err ... I was about to graduate from high school? OK, maybe that’s not so far away. How do we ever expect to sustain or even accelerate the pace of productivity gains in farming to feed over 9 billion people? Well, that’s where you come in.
And specifically, you, equipment marketer. Many of you recognized immediately that the ag equipment dealership has been serving up higher horsepower tractors and increasingly capable combine classes, among myriad innovations, for decades. When it comes to farm productivity, OEMs and their dealer networks of every color have played a considerable role, continuously raising the bar on machine performance to meet growing customer expectations and to stay competitive. But we’re reaching diminishing returns on horsepower and row width. In 1954, Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, wrote, “... the business enterprise has two — and only two — basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rests are costs.” Welcome back from more than a few lackluster decades, ag equipment marketers. Our time has come!
Ag equipment marketing is pivotal now and growing in importance because we need to break through, but we don’t yet know how. We’re nearing the practical limits of horsepower and only beginning to discover the great promise of data, analytics and precision. Farm labor shortages continue their rise as autonomy begins to emerge. A century of diesel dominance is threatened by electric vehicles. OEMs are building ecosystems around their equipment while the hoodies in Silicon Valley threaten to disrupt with their killer agtech apps. And much more. We don’t lack the innovations or even the cultural catalyst required to break through, especially as independent Baby Boomers hand the reigns to completely digitally and socially connected Millennials. We just need the playbook for connecting the pieces together to meet customer needs and to win the hearts and minds of those same customers — and across our dealerships, OEMs and close partners. It's a pivotal time for us to rediscover Peter Drucker’s marketing. Fortunately, we’re in this together.
I’m excited to think about the opportunity we have in front of us as ag equipment marketers — serving the greatest industry at a time when our skills and experiences will help change the game for our companies and especially our customers. I hope that through all the buzzing of the holidays this year you’ll have an even greater appreciation for what you do every day and the importance of our work ahead.
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