I recently read an article on young farmer loyalty by Dave Widmar of Purdue University. He wrote that 5.7% of farm operators were born between 1980 and 2000. The survey shows younger farmers are less loyal about input and machinery purchases. The younger generation also uses more media information to make decisions.
The question: Is this millennial generation as loyal as the aging farmer population?
Widmar's findings make complete sense to me. As younger farmers, many of us seek out more information to make a purchasing decision. This is, after all, the information age. Grain and livestock quotes, grain bids, yield data, and equipment for sale are at my fingertips on my smartphone. I even have an app that walks me through switching the combine from corn to soybeans.
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This information is great, but the personal connection is virtually gone. It might just be that our generation is less loyal because our suppliers have lost their focus on us.
Why should we do business with a supplier who only contacts us via various forms of media?
I recently had an experience with a new potential supplier that I want to share. We use futures and options exclusively to hedge our feedlot cattle. I called and chatted with a potential new broker a few months ago and explained how we approach cattle hedging. I told him we were shopping for new brokers. He wanted my email address, naturally. I have not spoken with him since, but now receive 2-3 forwarded emails each day with canned cattle market commentary. What do I do with this information? It goes directly to my junk mail. I can find cattle on feed information anywhere, and I do not need flooded with junk mail.
So what do I need? I need answers, solutions, and strategies that will help us manage our business.
Millennial farmers: the most loyal of all?
I argue that my generation could become the most loyal of all generations. We are flooded with information, but are suffering from a drought of personal connection. The problem is that suppliers send information about the same exact things. For example, all seed is about the same. We don't want someone to drop by a pamphlet and send emails about how great his/her seed yields have performed. We want answers to our yield problems on specific fields. We want to work with input and equipment suppliers that provide us solutions and not just send a market update text message.
That being said, we work with some great suppliers that do provide us with solutions. Loyalty is a two-way street. Our supplier loyalty results in better customer service for us.
As I write, I have started to question my own business practices. Maybe I should heed my own advice and do a better job of connecting with our landowners and hay customers. I am, after all, a millennial, and I rely heavily on email and text message to communicate.
It is time that I also pick up my phone, call a customer, and find out what he/she really needs from me.