[January 19, 2024]
The creativity and innovative ideation of AKC Marketing was on full display during the Region 3 National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) Awards, held in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 18, 2024.
AKC was the recipient of six first-place awards and two second-place awards for its work. All eight awards will advance to the National NAMA Awards in April.
Direct Mail – Directed at Farmers, Growers and Ranchers: Three-Dimensional - First Place, Pivot Bio
When launched last season, Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40 On-Seed was a first-of-its-kind product. Gone was the need to have in-furrow planting capabilities to use the revolutionary microbial nitrogen product, Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40. Despite this new way of delivering crop nutrition, the challenge was to convey the true value of the product to the farmer. Sure, they could now get microbial nitrogen directly on their corn seed, but what does that really mean?
We needed a way to really capture the attention of corn farmers, especially during the heat of the summer when many were starting to reevaluate their current nitrogen practices. By creating a three-dimensional pop-up direct mail piece that looked like a standard Pro Box of seed, we wanted to hit this challenge head on. Each panel of the “Pro Box” was designed to show off the nitrogen equivalent of one Pro Box of Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40 On-Seed: 1,200 gallons of anhydrous; 1,700 gallons of UAN 28%; or 5.4 tons of urea.
Inside the envelope of the pop-up, we also included data on the largest single-season in-plant nitrogen study Pivot Bio has ever conducted. More than 1.3 million data points were collected from greater than 2,400 fields, showing side-by-side on-farm comparisons between Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40 and grower standard practices. On average, Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40 had a nitrogen win rate of 93% while also resulting in a 14% increase in in-plant nitrogen levels, a 12% increase in plant biomass levels and a 7% increase in leaf chlorophyll levels.
The three-dimensional mail pieces were mailed to more than 3,000 farmers. This audience was selected from our CRM as they were identified as farmers who had interacted with the brand, and were likely to convert to a sale for the 2024 season. These individuals had expressed interest in the products, but had reservations about pulling the trigger. Ultimately, the QR codes on the mail pieces were scanned by more than 120 farmers, helping them learn more about Pivot Bio products and pushing them further down the sales funnel.
Customer Brochures and Catalogs - First Place, Pivot Bio
More than 35,000 editions of the 2024 Pivot Bio Grower Handbook were printed. These books were mailed out to sales reps across the country as part of their 2024 sales kits. The handbooks were also utilized as handouts at local events and tradeshows, such as Dakotafest, Husker Harvest, Ohio Farm Science Review, Big Iron and many more. The books serve as one the foundational promotional pieces for the entire year. In addition to the wealth of data, the 16-page handbook highlights a number of programs available to growers, financing information, pricing incentives and more.
Entering the 2024 sales season, expectations were sky-high. Pivot Bio products had been on the market for a few years and the novelty of On-Seed nitrogen was wearing off. There was no new, flashy product to help boost sales as there had been in past years. However, with the experience in the marketplace also came data.
The goal was for growers to utilize this book as a valuable resource when making their nitrogen management decisions for 2024. Ideally, the information contained in the book would provide enough compelling evidence that growers would either continue using Pivot Bio products on their operation or introduce them for the first time.
By leaning into the data, and the predictable nature of Pivot Bio products, while creating the 2024 Pivot Bio Grower Handbook, we were able to replace the flash of new, innovate products with something farmers equally care about: Data. During the 2022 growing season, Pivot Bio conducted the largest single-season in-plant nitrogen study in history. More than 1.3 million data points were collected from greater than 2,400 fields, showing side-by-side on-farm comparisons between Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40 and grower standard practices. On average, Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40 had a nitrogen win rate of 93% while also resulting in a 14% increase in in-plant nitrogen levels, a 12% increase in plant biomass levels and a 7% increase in leaf chlorophyll levels.
By bringing these amazing numbers to the forefront of the conversation, we were able to cast Pivot Bio in a new light for growers and have them strongly consider using Pivot Bio microbial nitrogen products as the foundation to their 2024 nitrogen management plan.
Customer Events - First Place, Lely North America
In early May 2022, Lely North America opened their brand-new, state-of-the-art Lely Park Campus in Pella, Iowa. Distinguished guests from Iowa, the United States and the Netherlands attended a grand opening event. Once concluded, planning began on how to leverage the new facility to deepen relationships with high-profile customers and forge new ones with prospective customers. Enter the 1948 VIP Experience.
The concept of The Experience was to bring dairy farmers, owners and managers to Pella, Iowa, and tour the facility. Guests would also get exclusive hands-on training and participate in a panel discussion, learning about Lely products and concepts. Attendees would also get to experience Pella in the Winter – a magical time to visit the Dutch-centric town.
The initial 1948 VIP Experience materials were elegant, custom invitations to top-level dairy farmer prospects. Guests would spend three days and two nights connecting with innovators, trainers and farmers and learn about cost ownership, optimal milking techniques and more during their hands-on, VIP experience.
The overall objective of the 1948 VIP Experience was to bring dairy farmers with large herds to Lely headquarters and educate, train and entertain them with an end goal of converting them to Lely customers.
Through our research we identified individuals at the bottom of the sales funnel that were either dairy owners, dairy managers or decision makers, or a combination of both. Invitees had what we referred to as “Dairy XLs”, or dairies with over 500-head of cows. Our audience also had a strong interest in multiple Lely products, especially the Lely Astronaut A5 robotic milking system and the Lely Vector automated feed mixer.
To research invitees, we analyzed the Lely Sales Funnel. While many were in the top and middle of funnel, a select few were at the bottom of the funnel. How could we push these individuals to purchase Lely Dairy Robots? While some in this part of the sales funnel had purchased Lely products before, the main focus was on first-time buyers and how to ferry them to the finish line of our buyer’s journey.
Virtual Events - First Place, Lely North America
Survey after survey, poll after poll – each result showed the people farmers trust most are other farmers. But how do we effectively capture and market the authenticity that comes from word-of-mouth endorsements? To bottle this farmer magic, AKC Marketing and Lely hosted an exclusive event by dairy farmers for dairy farmers. So, just how do you bring that authenticity to farmers while still being a brand? By hosting a live panel discussion, of course. The Lely Calm Virtual Roundtable event featured dairy farmers who utilize the Lely Calm automatic calf feeder.
During the pandemic, AKC Marketing and Lely started producing virtual events as a way to continue delivering important information to customers and prospects – while keeping a safe distance. We found that roundtable discussions with dairy farmers and product experts were very well received. We took those virtual discussions and started adding more production, live feeds and special guests. In 2022, we held our first Calm Roundtable. The Lely Calm automatic calf feeder helps dairy calves get acclimated to the process of self-feeding and getting food on its own schedule, rather than at pre-determined mealtimes.
We used a number of communications channels to reach out as directly as possible to prospective and current customers to build interest in the event. By utilizing a local and personal touch, the event would feel intimate and increase the likelihood of dairy farmers attending, engaging and ultimately purchasing Lely products. Achieving a personal feel and buy-in from Lely Centers (distribution agencies/dealers) was paramount. We customized communications from each Lely Center to localize invitations to customers in their geographic region.
To execute our strategy, we used a multi-faceted campaign of direct mail, email, social media and communications from Lely Centers.
All promotional materials highlighted the Lely Calm automatic calf feeder, as well as the speakers and customers participating in the roundtable, and the benefits available to the attendees.
We also made the Virtual Roundtable easy to participate in. With everything being virtual, those invited to or wanting to attend only had to fill out a form and log in at the right time.
Our main goal was 12 new contacts to add to the Lely sales funnel. We received 16 new contacts from registration alone, reaching 133% of our goal instantly. We received an additional seven contacts post-roundtable, for 23 total new contacts. Also, 75% of the 108 total registrants were external, indicating great interest in, and successful marketing of the event to potential customers outside the Lely ecosystem.
We were also able to measure and record several metrics to confirm we achieved our expected outcome. The event had 176 registrants, with 117 logging in and attending the roundtable throughout the week. Those not joining live were invited to watch the roundtable in its entirety the week after the event. Throughout the live portion of the roundtable, which had an average view time of 59 minutes, 24 questions were asked by the audience. Attendees also downloaded 25 pieces of content, bringing them into the sales funnel as new contacts.
Two sales deals, one of which was valued at more than $1,000,000, were directly attributed to the roundtable.
Broadcast News or Taped Program - First Place, Pivot Bio
We’ve all seen what happens when unsuspecting New Yorkers get into a taxi that could double as a well-lit nightclub. But what happens when some rural farmers are surprised with that same experience out in the wild? In the Pivot Bio Original, Money Grab in the Cab, former Cash Cab host and comedian Ben Bailey pits farmers in a race against the clock as they try to answer a variety of trivia questions to earn money for their local FFA chapter.
Pivot Bio Originals is a collection of shows, including Money Grab in the Cab, airing on RFDTV. Each show was advertised in different ways — digital ads, social media and CTV. Additionally, each show had its own landing page where episodes can be streamed, or viewers could watch on YouTube. The shows cover agricultural content that farmers care about, and each show features a unique conversion opportunity for known farmers to enter the CRM.
Money Grab in the Cab, along with other Pivot Bio Originals, were designed to capture the attention of farmers, who would then sign up to learn more, be notified when new episodes drop and enter the variety of giveaways and promotions that the shows offered. In the days since, the results have been nothing short of spectacular. Promotions of the shows ranged from social media tactics, emails, direct mail, paid media, print ads and much more. Web traffic to the "Money Grab in the Cab" landing page has been outstanding, with a significant increase compared to other pages on the Pivot Bio website. Since October 2022, this page has garnered an impressive 13,894 website views. More importantly, these page visits directly translated into tangible results, as over 200 new farmer leads were added to the CRM, demonstrating the remarkable success of this approach.
By utilizing real farmers as participants on the show, who subsequently won money for their local FFA chapters, Pivot Bio effectively generated interest in Season 2 of Money Grab in the Cab. The open call for casting and FFA chapters to participate in the show further reinforced the alignment of this strategy with the challenge.
Pivot Bio recognized that engaging with known farmers, providing them with both entertainment and educational content, and incentivizing participation through FFA chapter contributions were key elements in overcoming the challenge of introducing a relatively new company to a niche audience. The strategic blend of entertainment and promotion through various channels ensured that Money Grab in the Cab successfully captured the attention of farmers, delivering on both engagement and CRM growth objectives.
Digital Content– Web-based Journals or Blogs Directed at Farmers, Ranchers or Growers and All Others Serving Agribusiness - First Place, Pivot Bio
The launch of Pivot Bio Originals in 2022 was a huge win for all involved. Dubbed “Agritainment,” the series of nine shows targeted at farmer and rancher audiences beat all expectations and generated large amounts of contacts to be entered into our CRM. When the shows were airing, there was a regular flow of content, contacts were created and a rhythm was established. Life was good.
The challenge came when the shows had ended for the season. How do we avoid losing the momentum we spent months building? Especially in an age of short attention spans and moving on to the next shiny thing, keeping potential customers living in your ecosystem is critical. We needed to find a way to utilize the content we already had in a new, fun way that would help us bridge that gap between seasons.
Coming out of the winter, we had exhausted all our traditional options and needed something different. With March Madness taking hold, we decided to capitalize on that cultural zeitgeist and hold our own tournament. By building a landing page with a bracket-style voting element, we allowed Pivot Bio Originals fans to vote for their favorite program, pitting them against each other in a one-versus-one matchup until a champion was crowned.
By promoting the Pivot Bio Originals Tournament in our weekly newsletter, as well as on organic and paid social media, we were able to target people who were already invested in the programs and gave them something new to do while also keeping our content top of mind.
The excitement generated around selecting a winner helped take us through the month of March and got us that much closer to launching season 2 content and refueling our reserves.
Our goal was to get 1,000 votes and didn’t plan on adding new contacts through the life of the campaign, which only lasted a little more than a month, as we were targeting mostly known contacts. The results were stunning. We had more than 4,000 people visit the landing page and a whopping 2,218 votes were cast.
Perhaps most surprising was the amount of new contacts that we generated. By promoting the tournament on social media, we were able to attract farmers and ranchers that had not previously engaged with the show, but, perhaps caught up in the heat of March Madness, found a path to our content. Overall, we added 653 new contacts to our CRM.
This campaign drove home the concept of meeting the consumer where they are to all of us. No new content was created, but by coming up with some sport-themed language and capitalizing on the popularity of a well-established event, we were able to not only keep our current contacts engaged, but add new ones we had previously missed. We view the campaign as a tremendous success and it has given us the flexibility and freedom to explore other potential opportunities.
Exhibits (Trade and Farm Show Exhibits Booths) - Second Place, Pivot Bio
The Farm Progress Show is the largest farmer trade show in the U.S. Roughly 200,000 farmers and ag-related professionals funnel through the gates every year, making it a prime opportunity to promote your brand, products and services. The challenge comes from distinguishing your brand from the other 500+ companies in attendance.
To get over this hurdle, a multipronged approach is used. For the first time ever, Pivot Bio had a completely enclosed and air-conditioned tent. Additionally, multiple partnerships were used to capitalize on other audiences and drive traffic to the booth. For this show, Pivot Bio worked with the John Wayne Cancer Foundation to promote skin cancer awareness. At the show, sunscreen was given out to those who visited the booth, as well as cooling towels to beat the heat. To promote this, employees wore specially designed shirts, had handouts with UTMs for more information, and displayed banners at the show.
Because this annual trade show took place in rural Illinois this year, we were able to utilize our CRM to target farmers in Illinois and the surrounding states. The postcard invitation was sent to farmers within driving distance of the show and all digital ads were geo-targeted to that same area.
We also used promotions from Farm Progress, who hosts the event, including running ads in their publication and callouts in their newsletter. The challenge was in having eye-catching content and captivating features within the booth that would steal traffic away from other potential exhibitors.
In addition to the traffic that was driven to the booth, we feel our efforts were very successful. By putting farmers, and potential customers, in the booth where they could interact with experts and salespeople, we were able to indirectly help meet sales launch goals. In the first two months of the 2024 sales season, we were able to surpass last year's total sales by more than 10%.
Internet Website Directed at Farmers, Ranchers and Growers and All Others Serving Agribusiness - Second Place, Pivot Bio
When Pivot Bio launched Originals in 2022, the flagship program was the Ultimate Farm Truck. It followed the construction, and ultimately the giveaway, of a one-of-a-kind truck to a lucky farmer. The show and campaign built around it were incredibly successful and we wanted to find a way to duplicate those efforts for 2023. In its place came the Ultimate Ranch Truck – John Wayne Edition. The challenge was finding a new and unique way of engaging with a similar audience from the previous year without also burning them out.
Unlike the Ultimate Farm Truck, we thought we could not only get more engagement on the Ultimate Ranch Truck, but also use that engagement as an avenue to add contacts to our CRM. By building a site dedicated to voting for features they’d like to see on the Ranch Truck, we could simultaneously capture that data and engage with prospects in a meaningful way.
The site was built to show complete renderings of the different features that could be voted on, ranging from the make of the truck, to the color and even what type of bumper it should have. The site not only served as an engaging way to keep people coming back to the site and keep the truck top of mind, it served as its own advertisement for our much larger goal – getting people to sign up to win the finished truck.
The campaign was very successful. While the voting page was active, we were able to drive more than 6,300 people to the website from various email, social and digital ads. Those visits amounted to nearly 2,000 votes, as well as more than 500 new contacts to our CRM. Ultimately, the campaign did much more than keep people engaged while they waited to register to win the truck. It let people feel like they had a real say in the creation of the truck, which they could then watch come to life on the TV show. It also was very well received, as the numbers indicate.