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Episode 18: 5 Tips for Building a Brand for your Farm with Stacie McCracken

We can easily get caught up in the flashiness of branding, but as we learn in this episode, branding is so much more than creating TikTok videos, choosing colors for your logo, or sending out a well-designed postcard once a year. It’s an all-encompassing endeavor that takes more than just a dollar investment.

As the founder and owner of an agricultural communications and marketing agency, Stacie McCracken of McCracken Consulting shares tips for building a brand and how taking a strategic and tactical approach to marketing will set your farm operation up for success and apart from the competition.

Here are five steps to start building your brand on the right foot:

1. More than logos, colors and taglines

“When it comes to branding, many of us really think about brand identity - so the logos, colors, taglines, or maybe how things appear on a website or at a tradeshow,” says Stacie. “But it’s important to remember that branding goes so much farther than identity.”

Imagine drawing a Venn diagram with three different circles. The first circle represents your business’s vision, goals and strategy. The second circle represents your brand’s logos and messaging. And the third circle is your customer’s experience and how they engage with you. All three circles encompass your brand.

“Branding is ultimately how people think of you,” explains Stacie. “So when we think about branding our farm, we’re really deciding how we want people to remember us.”

2. The makings of a great brand

Your brand should represent you, your team, your farm, and what you stand for.

Stacie says what makes for a great brand is “something that you deeply believe in.”

For example, a corn farmer might have a brand that focuses on their farm’s attention to leaving the land better than they found it for future generations.

“It really comes down to how you want to set yourself apart,” says Stacie.

3. Separate from the competition

What do Chick-fil-A servers always say if you thank them for your food? “My pleasure.” What do 90s babies remember most about going to McDonald’s? The play places and the happy meal toys.

Aside from fast-food restaurants, farm businesses can set themselves apart too - and that’s through customer experience.

Take a grain producer who rents land to farm, for example. How could their grain business position itself above and beyond other grain farmers?

Finding land to rent today is hard, and prices continue to rise. So, Stacie explains that a grain farmer could continue to build good relationships with neighboring farms and residences, whether that’s through personal interactions or simply keeping side ditches mowed during growing seasons.

“We all want to do business with someone that we know, like and trust,” relates Stacie.

4. Build connections + a reputation

“I don’t think everyone needs to have a farm logo,” says Stacie. “It’s a great way to have identification, but by no means is it required.”

Remember, branding is much more than your brand identity. Creating connections with consumers and customers is by far the most important.

Today, people want to know where products come from, how they’re made and the values a business stands by.

“Declare who you are,” says Stacie. “A pig farmer new to the area might pass out brochures to their neighbors highlighting their stance on sustainability and soil health and why that should matter to local landowners.”

5. Before you start, remember why you started

“One important thing to think about is why,” states Stacie.

When you’re ready to take your brand to the next level, whether it’s starting a website or creating a social media page, for example, remember to ask yourself, why.

Posting on social media, developing a website, sending out a postcard to your customers - they all take time and sometimes, even a monetary investment.

A strategic and tactical approach to your brand starts with the “who, what, when, where and why.”

“If you're acting in alignment to that,” says Stacie. “Then all the other pieces will continue to fall into place.”

Here’s a glance at this episode:

  • [03:56] The Venn diagram of branding explained.
  • [05:27] Stacie explains what it means to brand your farm.
  • [07:03] How branding can separate your business from generic brands and commodities.
  • [08:02] Stacie dives into why branding is important and what makes for a great brand.
  • [11:46] Why not every farm has to have a brand identity.
  • [16:12] Why it’s critical to start with your why.
  • [17:11] Stacie explains how to determine what social media platforms your farm business should use.
  • [24:10] How to get started posting content consistently.
  • [25:58] Why some social media metrics are just vanity numbers.
  • [28:17] Some basics about starting a website.
  • [29:14] Time and monetary investments to consider.
  • [30:15] Stacie explains how email marketing can be a powerful tactic to reach customers and stakeholders.

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Bios

Guest Stacie McCracken

Stacie McCracken is the owner and founder of McCracken Consulting. She started her marketing agency in 2017 to support agricultural companies with their communications and marketing. From social media, to websites, to podcast hosting, McCracken Co. helps agricultural businesses across the U.S. grow success with their stakeholders.

Host Brenna Finnegan

Brenna has been an account officer serving Lorain County for three years. She’s worked in the agricultural industry for over 16 years with experience in livestock production, specialty crop production, seed production and processing/distribution. She grew up on a small family farm raising row crops and cattle. She currently has her own herd of beef cattle that she breeds and sells as show stock calves for 4-H and FFA members. At AgCredit, Brenna enjoys being able to work directly with the local farmers and especially helping young farmers achieve something that they didn’t think they could.

Host Libby Wixtead

Libby has been an account officer for seven years serving AgCredit members in Marion County. She grew up on a 200-acre grain farm and was very active in 4-H and FFA. Today, Libby and her husband operate a 2,400-head swine finishing barn. Her favorite thing about working at AgCredit is working with local farmers from the same area where she grew up and seeing their operations thrive. She loves working in agriculture and helping her customers be successful year after year.

Transcription

Voiceover (00:02):Welcome to AgCredit Said It, the podcast for farm newbies and seasoned professionals alike. In each episode, our hosts sit down with experts from across the agriculture industry to bring you insights, advice, and must-have information on all things rural living, from farming to finances and everything in between. So let's get to it.

Brenna Finnegan (00:27):Welcome back to AgCredit Said It. It's Brenna here with Libby and we are located today in our Kenton office and we have a very important and last thing that's thought about on the farm, I guess you could say.

Libby Wixtead (00:46):Yes. I agree with you on that. Yes, Brenna.

Brenna Finnegan (00:48):We are going to be talking about farm marketing or branding for your farm, and a lot of people think farm marketing and instantly think of crops I think.

Libby Wixtead (00:59):And that's not what we're talking about today.

Brenna Finnegan (01:02):No. We are not talking about the crops today. However, I bet if Matt and Phil were here, we would be talking about the crops today. What do you think?

Libby Wixtead (01:09):Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think on the ride over here, we saw a lot of crops coming up in the field, which is a good thing. It seems like it's been a little bit of a rough spring in some areas.

Libby Wixtead (01:34):Well, I'm very excited today Brenna, because we have a very special guest with us today. Today we have Stacie McCracken, who is the owner and founder of McCracken Co, an Agricultural Marketing and Communications Agency. Stacie is a graduate of the Ohio State University and started her agency in 2017. She is also a wife and a mother of three. So welcome to the podcast, Stacie.

Stacie McCracken (01:56):Thanks so much for having me. I'm really glad we're talking about farm branding and marketing because merchandising is not my expertise.

Brenna Finnegan (02:06):Yeah. We don't want people to get that confused with the farm marketing.

Stacie McCracken (02:11):That's a different skill set. Very important, but a little bit different than what we're speaking about today.

Libby Wixtead (02:16):Yes. And also, just along with the farm marketing and branding, Stacie is the producer of our podcast. So this is even more special, to have her on here to talk about this because I'm sure all of us here at AgCredit will take away some tips on this as well.

Stacie McCracken (02:34):It's fun to be on the other side. Learning how to edit.

Libby Wixtead (02:37):Learning how to edit, yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (02:41):So Stacie, why don't you go ahead and tell us a little bit about, she gave you a little bio, but go ahead and tell us a little bit more about yourself.

Stacie McCracken (02:49):So I started McCracken Co in 2017, because I wanted to provide an opportunity for people with agricultural backgrounds to help support agricultural companies with their communications and marketing. So everything from social media, to websites, to podcast editing, like we have the chance to do for you guys. We are really helping agricultural businesses grow success with their stakeholders. Sometimes their farmers or their dealer networks. We have a team throughout the US and really are enjoying the opportunity to help bring out that farm story and make sure we continue to share what we do and how we do it and why agriculture is so important.

Libby Wixtead (03:30):And the neat thing too about Stacie's business is she's here located locally in Ohio. And that to me means a lot, to have somebody here local working with us and that we went to college together, to be working with somebody from college that is all over the United States with her business is very exciting. So when we talk about farm branding, can you just explain exactly what that is?

Stacie McCracken (03:56):Yeah. So when it comes to branding, many of us really think about brand identity. So the logos, your colors, your taglines, maybe how things appear on a website or in a trade show. But it's important to remember that branding goes so much farther than identity. We like to, at McCracken Co, use a branding methodology that was created by a strategist out in Singapore. And it brings together a Venn diagram. So if we can imagine three different circles. The first circle is the branding in your business, like your visions, your goals and your strategy. Then the next circle is the general brand identity, so where we think about positioning, messaging, logos, all of those tangible pieces. And then the last part of your branding is actually the experience, so the customer interactions, how people feel and engage with you.

Stacie McCracken (04:51):And the reason why I think it's important for us to remember that branding is all those three different parts, is because branding is really ultimately how people think of you. So when we think about, say Chick-fil-A, maybe we think about their red logo or how they engage with a customer. What does a Chick-fil-A server say after they hand you your food or you thank them? Do you guys know? Oh man, maybe you guys don't have Chick-fil-A's in this part of Ohio.

Libby Wixtead (05:23):There is not one in Marion. We have a lot of other things.

Stacie McCracken (05:27):It's my favorite thing to get when I go to Columbus, but it's not in Shelby County, Ohio. But a Chick-fil-A server will always say, ''My pleasure.'' And that is a part of their brand identity. Or when you think about McDonald's, maybe you think about the golden arches, or some of us 90s babies, we think about the play centers that they had at the store and the happy meals with the toy. It's bringing together the goals and the strategy, it's bringing together the customer experience and it's bringing together the logos, the taglines and all of those pieces. So when we think about branding our farm, we're really making the decision of how do we want people to remember us? How do we want to them to engage with us? What do we want them to think about, when they think about us and our farm? That's farm branding.

Libby Wixtead (06:17):It makes complete sense. I don't know about you guys, but I know when I go to the store, I raise chickens, so this is really bad that I go to the store and I buy some certain cuts, but my husband and I, we do. And we, instead of buying like the Meijer brand, we buy this Farmer Focus brand and it just made me think about, ''Okay, I see that brand and I understand what they stand for.'' But that's not necessarily the reason why we're buying it, but it made me think about, ''Okay, I bet you, I can find them on Instagram. I can find them on Facebook or whatever.'' Because Meijer is not necessarily going to have a brand per se for that chicken. But this Farmer Focus actually does have this chicken and that brand. And just knowing what they stand for, that clearly shows through that.

Stacie McCracken (07:03):Yeah, branding is what separates us from a commodity or something that's general or generic. So when you think about the Kroger brand, or the Meijer brand, or the Walmart brand of chicken, the only thing separating that chicken breast, than the chicken breast with a different logo on it, is the overall branding, so that's the separating point. You're exactly right.

Brenna Finnegan (07:26):Yeah. Well it's funny, you identify, you're saying certain things, it reminds me of those quizzes they put out online and they’re like, how fast can you identify these cars, not logos, but the... I guess it would be the logo. But how quickly can you identify is that an Infiniti? Is that a GMC? Is that a Chevy or is that a Ford? And Chevy and Ford are... And the deer for John Deere and the case lettering. I think it-

Libby Wixtead (07:57):Even the jingles, the radio stations that say, ''Can you guess what that jingle is?'' Like Nationwide or whatever.

Brenna Finnegan (08:02):Yeah. It's all about making it stick. And you remember that stuff, I think. So what makes for great branding?

Stacie McCracken (08:11):So I think what makes for great branding is something that you deeply believe in. So for your branding to really stick and mean something to you, it's representing who you are, who maybe your team is, who your farm is and what you guys stand for. So for it to really stand apart, we keep talking about a logo, because that's a tangible part of branding. But what makes it so important is your pride is coming through, or who you are is coming through. So when we think about maybe a corn farmer, maybe your branding has to do with how you keep your machinery or how you keep your farm or your side ditches. Maybe your branding has something to do with the logo that you wear on your shirt or the logo that you have on your track. It really comes down to how you want to represent yourself. And that's the internal pride in the work that you show up with. So that's why I think branding is so important. It's a personal representation of who you want to be and who you are.

Libby Wixtead (09:14):Very classy.

Brenna Finnegan (09:15):I don't know.

Stacie McCracken (09:18):That's your brand, see. It's who you want to be.

Brenna Finnegan (09:20):My farm name only has the text. There's not a livestock image or anything like that. It's just a fancy text, of what it is.

Stacie McCracken (09:31):But it's a certain type of font.

Brenna Finnegan (09:33):Yes.

Stacie McCracken (09:33):So although there might not be a graphical piece to your logo, the fact that your name appears in a certain type font definitely makes it a logo.

Brenna Finnegan (09:43):It's my logo.

Libby Wixtead (09:43):Explains your personality, through and through Brenna.

Brenna Finnegan (09:47):Classy. Okay, I don't know. But-

Libby Wixtead (09:50):So talking about this, I can think that, and I know you talked about how it is your identity and I just feel like, I think of my dad, 70-year-old man listening to and saying, ''Okay, how do I project my identity on my farm where I'm a grain farmer?'' How do you take it? Just for farmers thinking, ''Okay. Yeah, I'm a grain farmer. How do I brand my farm? Why do I need to brand my farm? What is the reasoning why I need to brand my farm?''

Stacie McCracken (10:24):So first the reasoning behind why you would brand yourself, goes back to the conversations we were having about the chicken. You want to separate yourself from a generic or from a commodity. You want to set yourself up above and beyond everyone else. So when we think about grain, you want to have a relationship with your landowners. You want to have a relationship with your neighbors or your community. It goes back to the three parts that we talked about in the beginning of the episode. That's the experience piece. So your branding in regards to the experience your landowners may have. Could be, do you send them a card around the holidays? Do you reach out and help them clean up side ditches? Or how do you leave the field at the end of the season? That is the overall experience that person is going to have with you and your operation. And that does set you apart.

Stacie McCracken (11:22):Today, finding land to rent is hard. Prices continue to go up. Things continue to become more expensive. And really, we all want to do business with someone that we know, like and trust. And so if your experience, as it relates to your brand, is positive with the people in your community or those potential or current landowners, that's building your brand. So that's where it's important.

Stacie McCracken (11:46):Now I don't think everyone needs to have a farm logo. It's fun and it's a good way to have some self-identification, but by no means is it required. Your branding is much more than just that brand markup, that brand identity. I think it's more important to focus on the experience side of it. And even your goals and strategies. That's a little internal about who you want to be and where you're trying to go with your farm. The fun logo, colors, taglines, those pieces are definitely fun and supportive, but I wouldn’t say it's end all be all.

Libby Wixtead (12:23):So it almost sounds like you could almost equate brand into your reputation.

Stacie McCracken (12:27):Most definitely.

Libby Wixtead (12:28):And maybe farmers can identify more with the whole reputation piece, rather than branding yourself. But just heading and ongoing and trying to grow your operation with having that relationship with that landowner and having a letter or something that looks the same, that's professional. And just knowing that, okay, so, and so can help me take care, like you said, take care of this ditch or whatever. Or we know how they're going to take care of our land type of deal. That is very important, especially for our young farmers, to understand that piece of it as well.

Stacie McCracken (13:04):Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (13:05):Well, I think it's becoming more prevalent now with the younger farmers.

Libby Wixtead (13:08):Absolutely.

Brenna Finnegan (13:09):An older farmer probably isn't thinking, ''I need to go brand my farm.'' Because he is been doing it for how long. Is it really necessary? But a younger farmer now, I think there's more of a... What do I want to say? Like a connection with the consumer that needs to be made and these people constantly want to know where everything's coming from. So the identification of which chicken breast you're going to buy, you're labeled at the store and all that kind of stuff. And I thought of a farm that I used to work for, that they took hams, during the holidays, to all of the farm neighbors. So that way they made that relationship with them. So they weren't known as the stinky farm down the road or whatever.

Brenna Finnegan (13:59):They wanted to have that relationship so that it was, ''We're good for the community. We're good for you guys. Here you go. Thank you for putting up with our trucks going up and down the roads.'' Things like that. And I think that the farm that we, or the gentleman that we farm with, I think he takes a couple of pounds of ground burger to some neighbors and landlords. I'm not exactly sure if he does, but it's a thought of... That branding is a gesture.

Stacie McCracken (14:29):Yeah. Declaring who you are. McCracken Co, we cut our teeth on some of those types of communications. We don't do it today, outside of when I'm helping my family farm, but we made brochures, that a farmer new to an area was passing out to neighbors, landowners, potential landowners. And in that brochure, it declared what he stood for. He talked about how sustainability and soil health was important to him. He talked about the extra mile he goes to mow ditches and keep the roads clean and just take general care of the land. And it was all laid out in this nice little piece. So he could hand it, have a conversation with someone and then leave them with a piece that someone could reflect on or call him back later.

Brenna Finnegan (15:17):Education.

Libby Wixtead (15:17):Well, and I just think that is so important, especially with how competitive it can be to... With cash rental prices right now. If you have something like that, you may not have the highest cash rent and they may choose to go with you rather than the person who's going to pay the higher cash rent because they know what you stand for. They know exactly what they're going to get with that personal brand.

Stacie McCracken (15:39):So we can easily get lost in the flashiness of branding with the logo or social media or fancy colors, but it really ultimately comes down to your reputation who you are and what you stand for.

Libby Wixtead (15:54):That experience piece, I think is very, very, very key, compared to everything else. And I think that is forgotten. And we forget about that with, like you said, with the other brands we think of just the logos and the jingles and all of that. But that experience piece is very, very key.

Stacie McCracken (16:12):Now, if someone is interested in taking their brand to the next level and they do want to start a website or social media, or put together a logo, one important thing for them to think about is why they want to do it. There are people who have social media accounts for landowners to know who they are. So they are sharing content on social media that is maybe more agriculture focused. Talking about, ''Hey, we're getting ready to plant.'' Or, ''This is going on in the field.'' Other people have social media accounts that are more consumer-focused. And so they want to be out there saying, ''Hey, this is what we're doing in more simple terms.'' Something that's relatable to a consumer. And so that again all goes back to your branding. There's different tactics and strategies there. But if social media is a channel that you want to use, it is a wonderful way to elevate your brand and to really get your message out to other people.

Libby Wixtead (17:11):So what social media platform is the best platform for farmers?

Stacie McCracken (17:15):So it depends on what your goals are. And it depends on who you are.

Brenna Finnegan (17:19):Well a lot of things these days, they're all linked together. Instagram and Facebook, if you post something on one, it's going to the other too.

Stacie McCracken (17:27):Yeah. So Instagram is going to allow you to be very visual. There tends to be, just by a little bit, more of a female audience on Instagram. But it is a great way to share photos and videos about what you're doing. So it can be a really powerful platform there. Twitter is super active in agriculture, but there's little pockets. So there's the agriculture technology part of Twitter, there's sustainability part of agriculture Twitter, and there's just the general merchandising agronomy side of things. Definitely can still be a productive tool if you're looking to do consumer outreach within your farm, or just general landowner management. But I more see farmer-to-farmer interactions being on LinkedIn. Then Facebook is always just going to be a nice way to get your story out. I know some people think Facebook is dead. It's not, whether you like it or not. There's still billions of users every single day. And Facebook allows you to bring in photos and images and also link out to articles or other websites if you want to drive additional traffic somewhere.

Libby Wixtead (18:40):So with that being said, with all of the social media platforms that any of you farmers can be on, what is some tips that farmers can take away from branding and either start a social media page or start a website, or just start on that experience? What is one thing that they could just go and do today?

Brenna Finnegan (19:05):Well, I think of the... This is going to go back to English class, but the five Ws, who, what, where, when and why is what comes to mind.

Stacie McCracken (19:15):Exactly. Figure out why you want to be on these channels. What do you want to be communicating? And just like in farming, you could do everything, but we're becoming a society where we kind of niche down and maybe you're more focused on one species, or row crops versus specialty crops. With social media, you need to figure out what that why is. Who you're trying to communicate to. What messages you want to be sharing with them. And then start doing it. Luckily with everything digitally, you can change it. If you decide, ''Hey, I no longer want to talk to landowners. Maybe I want to take a more consumer approach.'' You can do that, but recognize you're going to attract the people that you're trying to talk to. And so first you really want to make that decision about what type of message you want to share and what type of results you want from those messages.

Stacie McCracken (20:09):And then overall, if someone is thinking about building a brand or starting their brand, back to what you just said Brenna about the who, what, where, when and why, really take a moment to understand who you want to be and why you want to be that type of farmer operation. Do you want to be known for sustainability? Do you want to be known for the best prices and the best cash rent? Make those visions, goals, mission statements... You can get caught up in fancier terms, sometimes I think it's just getting out a notebook and really saying, ''What are we going to stand for?'' That would be the first step I encourage everyone to take when they want to improve their brand identity. Understand who you are and make sure you're acting in alignment to that. And then the other pieces will continue to fall into place.

Libby Wixtead (21:05):Okay. So with figuring out what you want to do, the five Ws, would people... I guess, and I know this goes back to goals, but are videos, pictures, words, like how do you integrate all of that into your brand? What type, or how much? I know that kind of depends, but what is one thing too on that, that is going to draw more people in?

Stacie McCracken (21:34):People love to see and experience things. They like to see and experience things. I think in agriculture, I know I've always taken for granted walking in a pig barn. It's worn, it smells a little bit, it's something we've seen a million times over. But for someone who's not grown up on a hog barn, it's been so neat to watch friends light up when they walk into that farrowing barn for the first time and see the piglets and now understand, or now see a little bit more into what it takes to get that into the grocery store or onto their plate. And so I encourage people to take tons of pictures, tons of videos and let people truly see what you're talking about. That saying A picture's worth a thousand words, I think a video's worth a million words, because you can really see and experience things. I think the only thing that would help agriculture, and maybe it would hurt us I guess, would be Smell-O-Vision, so you can really smell that fresh cut hay or some of those other fun smells that now-

Brenna Finnegan (22:40):They make candles like that now. That's the good stuff. It's the bad stuff.

Stacie McCracken (22:41):The manure part of things, that's the part I'm okay that is across the road and not so close to our house anymore. But take those pictures and videos and just start sharing them, explaining what you do. Remember to talk in simple terms, we are so quick to throw out jargon. And even as a marketing specialist, I have to catch myself to make sure I am not saying something that is just not common knowledge for other people. So try to be simple, try to be clear. And everyone is out there enjoying life. We don't go on social media to be educated. We don't go on social media to be scolded. We go on there to have enjoyment. And so if you can share content that is enjoying, is interesting, is inviting, you're going to get great engagement.

Libby Wixtead (23:29):Yeah. I always forget to have my phone when, my daughter's almost two and she always wants to go see the pig pigs at our hog barn, and just her pure excitement when she gets to see... We have gilts in our barn right now, but when she gets to see the mama pigs, I just completely forget about that where, I think people would probably just light... I mean, all those cute kid videos, everybody loves. But it's just, you do take those moments for granted that people don't realize where that is everyday life for us.

Brenna Finnegan (23:59):I always think about pulling my phone out after the fact.

Libby Wixtead (24:02):Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (24:02):Oh, that would've been a great picture to take. Can we reenact it? Nope. Nope.

Stacie McCracken (24:07):Moment has passed.

Brenna Finnegan (24:08):The things that we deal with do not allow us for that.

Stacie McCracken (24:10):Yeah, but if you can set a goal of posting once a week or encouraging yourself to take one photo a day, and maybe you don't always post that photo, but at least you have it in your device to be able to share later. Those are great starting zones to get you in a rhythm of sharing content more consistently.

Brenna Finnegan (24:28):I forget what I've already posted. You know you can go back, but when you're, ''Oh, that's a good picture.'' I put it up there like four weeks ago. Whoops. That kind of thing.

Libby Wixtead (24:38):Same picture, different message.

Brenna Finnegan (24:40):Correct.

Stacie McCracken (24:41):Throw a kid or a baby animal or a puppy or a cat in there and everybody loves it.

Brenna Finnegan (24:46):

Yeah.

Libby Wixtead (24:47):Some cat videos.

Brenna Finnegan (24:48):I know.

Libby Wixtead (24:50):The new puppy videos. Yes.

Brenna Finnegan (24:52):Yes. Definitely. With these platforms, there's a lot of tracking that goes on with the data that can come in from them. Like you had mentioned the number of women or men looking at something or being on a specific platform and the engagement of everything. Okay. I have a farm page. I get all that kind of stuff. How do you know when it's... Obviously the more is better, I get that. But is it being effective enough or not?

Stacie McCracken (25:28):We always talk about social media metrics and the numbers, unfortunately, many times are just vanity numbers. You can sometimes get a post that has a hundred people look at it. Sometimes you'll get a post that a thousand people look at it. And it's hard to decide what is good or what is worth your time. That's why it's important for us to always go back to the why are we doing this? Are we doing it to have a conversation with the consumer? Then if you have someone comment on the post, we probably can consider that a worthwhile effort.

Stacie McCracken (26:02):If you're looking for engagements with other farmers, do we have to really set a metric on, ''Oh, I hope at least a hundred people see it.'' Or. ''I hope at least a thousand people see it.'' If you really focus on why you're doing it and telling your story or focus more on the purpose behind the content, those numbers will just come. But if you turn it on the other side of the coin and focus too tightly on needing to hit certain number metrics, I think you're going to get burnt out and focused on the point of it or the fun of it.

Brenna Finnegan (26:43):So don't think too much into any of that stuff.

Stacie McCracken (26:46):I wouldn't, because it is really hard. For some people a hundred people looking at a post is amazing. And for other companies, a hundred views isn't very much. It's all relative to what goals you're after and what your reach is. So I encourage people to don't even look at that, really focus on the why you're doing it and the engagement. I know it's not the fun answer.

Brenna Finnegan (27:07):Aw-shucks. I had 10,000 on one photo for calves to get sold-

Stacie McCracken (27:11):That's awesome.

Brenna Finnegan (27:11):And I couldn't believe it. But it's not important, shouldn't look at that.

Stacie McCracken (27:15):Yeah. And so the analytic game and how... It's called the algorithm. And so the algorithm is how social media decides who sees what, and when. It's constantly changing and it's a rat race. And we see people who take off running and they have tons of engagement and then they just get burned out. And so that's where, if you focus more on the why you're doing it, you'll be in it for a longer run.

Libby Wixtead (27:42):And I think you just have to experiment a little bit too and just see what's going to work, what's not going to work and what you're comfortable with too. And like you said, go back to your why, why are we doing this? And yeah it's going to be a little uncomfortable in the beginning for everybody. But if that's-

Brenna Finnegan (27:59):You mean just like hosting a podcast?

Libby Wixtead (28:02):Yes. Year one, season one. Yeah. But I just feel like it's one of those things where you just have to experiment a little bit and just see where things take you. And again, it's the experience that you're putting out there that we've talked about.

Stacie McCracken (28:17):A lot of people also consider building a farm website and there's tons of easy tools now to be able to build a website there's squarespace.com, Wix, W-I-X, WordPress is a little more intense. A website, again, you want to make the decision about why you have that tool. So some people have a website if they have some direct consumer opportunity. So they want people to come on their websites to be able to make that sale. And so they're building more of an E-commerce website. Some people want to have a website just to hold their brand footprint online. So literally they just have a URL, they have a couple pages that explain who they are, what they do and contact information. If you have, again, a reason behind your website, you define that why, that'll help you decide if you should build a website or not.

Stacie McCracken (29:14):With all of those tools, there does come a cost. There's going to be a hosting fee, a domain cost. So really to keep a website up and running, if you're doing everything yourself is still going to take a couple hundred bucks a year. Social media, having those spaces online, are free, but what type of time do you want to be investing to keep them up and running? So that's the other thing to think about when it comes to brand identity. What type of time investment do you want to make and what type of dollar investment do you want to make into it? So they're great pieces to have, but as we mentioned earlier, experience, and how people perceive you, can really be handled face to face.

Brenna Finnegan (30:00):We've talked about online social media type platforms, obviously a website type platform. Are there others, that most people wouldn't think about, out there?

Stacie McCracken (30:15):So in general marketing or digital marketing, we think a lot about email marketing. And I'm sure all of us around this table and listening to this episode can roll our eyes about the number of emails we get. But email marketing is still really powerful. And so some people like to capture email list with the people that they engage with and then reach out to them every once in a while to just give a general update.

Stacie McCracken (30:39):If you do email marketing, I highly encourage you to think about the frequency. No one likes to be spammed every single day. You want to make sure you're sharing relevant information that people want to hear. So maybe as a farm, you're capturing all the email addresses of the people you engage with, your vendors, your landowners, and you reach out to them once a quarter, twice a year, maybe once a year, and update them on what happened the last three, six or 12 months. That's another really powerful tool. Emails are going to go directly into someone's inbox. So it's a great way for them to engage.

Stacie McCracken (31:16):On the flip side of that is a Direct Mailer. I've had farmers who write out a letter, an update. I don't know if any of you guys used to do that with your Christmas cards, a whole family update. I have a friend, they still do it today. And they all live across the U.S. I love that letter when it comes in.

Brenna Finnegan (31:33):My family does this. We even have a Facebook page called the Davis Dirt.

Stacie McCracken (31:40):Oh, I love it.

Brenna Finnegan (31:40):It's private obviously.

Stacie McCracken (31:42):Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (31:42):And it started because one of my aunts would put out a family newsletter. So she would call each sibling. Now my mom's one of 14. So they would get info from each sibling as to what's going on with everybody. And they would publish the Davis Dirt and send it out. Every time you mention something, I think of, ''Oh my friend up in Wisconsin has a website and she's online every day. And she has a newsletter blast that she sends out email wise.'' And I have another friend that started a coaching type business and she's doing the same thing. And the amount of time, and you mentioned that how it's uncomfortable at the beginning, but the amount of effort that they've put in and how much they've put themselves personally out there is amazing. And I'm like, ''Oh, I could totally do that.'' And then I go to do it, I'm like, ''Yep, nope, no, I really cannot. I can't do it to myself.''

Stacie McCracken (32:36):Well, we all have different mediums that we like to engage in. Some people like to write more, some people like to be up on camera. Some people want to take a moment to think about it. And so whether it's a recorded video or live video, it takes different skills or different parts of your brain to process through that.

Libby Wixtead (32:54):It's the same piece.

Brenna Finnegan (32:54):I have a really hard time doing a live.

Stacie McCracken (32:55):Sometimes I like a live because you can't take it back and people accept the rawness. They understand that you might fumble through it because there's no redoing it. It's live. You just have to go through it.

Libby Wixtead (33:08):We're all human.

Stacie McCracken (33:09):Exactly. And honestly, back to sharing fun, real photos. If they are too polished or staged, it's harder to relate to that. We are all humans and we really want to have that true interactions with people. We want to see someone with their hair kind of a mess, we want to see-

Brenna Finnegan (33:28):Oh, I got plenty of those photos.

Stacie McCracken (33:31):We just want to see what you really are like and what your day really is. So if someone comes on and talks about how their monitor fired right up and they just took off planting, there's going to be some people that look at them and raise an eyebrow and say, ''Really? You just put the planter in the field and it took off? Because when we do that, there's a couple days where we curse out the monitor and we want to unplug it. And we say screw the GPS. And XYZ doesn’t it work?

Brenna Finnegan (34:00):Grab the hammer because all you want to do is hit it.

Stacie McCracken (34:02):But sometimes sharing that real-life experience is how people connect and understand and, again, build that relationship.

Brenna Finnegan (34:11):Now, somebody in the agworld that has really mastered it, is Millennial Farmer. You sit there talk about the monitor. Just the other day he posted a video of him sitting at the edge of the field and a sensor went out and he could not even plant. He's like, ''I can't even move this tractor forward because of one sensor has gone wrong.'' It's the realness I think that people want to connect with. And they're like, ''Oh, I've been there before.'' That kind of thing.

Libby Wixtead (34:42):It's just relatable.

Brenna Finnegan (34:43):Exactly.

Libby Wixtead (34:44):You can relate to it. And having the same problems and that.

Brenna Finnegan (34:46):And he's one that's taken that educational piece into it. This is what we do and why we do it. And I think the general public, outside of the agworld, there is a major disconnect. And I think that's taking that opportunity to bring it all together and say, ''This is what we are doing. And this is why we do it, how we do it and what benefit it is for everybody involved'' kind of thing.

Libby Wixtead (35:08):As a recap, there are three different things to our marketing here. Farm branding is doing the business, which is the vision and goals, the branding, the logo, and the colors and things like that. And then the experience piece. And I think for farmers, one of the bigger things is just the whole experience I think. For any of our farmers that are with AgCredit, I think the experience piece is a big piece that you guys are already doing. I think whether you like it or not, you have a brand and you can always change your brand. That's something to keep in mind.

Libby Wixtead (35:49):There's several options that you can do. I think the first step is just starting to figure out what you want to do and why you want to do it. I know we hear that in a lot of business podcasts or any education pieces from businesses, figure out what your why is and run with it. So we want to thank Stacie for being with us today. She is a podcast professional. So she, I think, made us sound a little bit better today Brenna, don't you think?

Brenna Finnegan (36:19):I sure hope so.

Stacie McCracken (36:22):Thanks for having me. It's a lot of fun. As you said, branding is a part of everyone, whether you recognize it or not. And I think the biggest point you said there, about you have the power to change your brand, is something we all need to remember. So if there's something that you wish was a little bit different, you can take those steps to change and improve in the future. That's really powerful.

Libby Wixtead (36:43):Yeah. And make impact however you want to make impact. Whether it's with, like Stacie said, your landowners or consumers, you have the chance to make real impact. If you guys enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review that helps other people find us. And we thank you guys for listening and we'll talk to you guys next time on AgCredit Said It.

Voiceover (37:06):Thank you for listening to AgCredit Said It. Want to talk ag in between episodes? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at AgCredit. For more tips and resources, visit agcredit.net and be sure to subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Catch you next time.