Marketing is my passion. I'm 100% convinced that, as an industry, we spent the better part of the last 30 years focusing on lowering costs and improving efficiency, only to watch our market share and profitability plummet. Don't misunderstand me; it's vital to be a low-cost producer and continually fine-tune efficiencies. After all, they're the keys to survival in a commodity business.
But we have to create value, expand our share of the pie and move away from a commodity business in order to have sustainable profits and provide a future for our children in this industry.
This business is among the most brutally competitive. Almost without exception, if you're in the cattle business, you're in it because you love it. And most people who exit this business don't do so by choice. They simply get to the point where they can't justify the costs relative to the financial rewards, or the banker tells them it's time to quit.
As an industry, and as individuals, we must take a much more aggressive and customer-oriented approach to the marketing of our products. It's vital we all understand the urgency of the situation.
You may say, “I only have 30 cows. I don't want to retain ownership. Nor am I interested in a marketing alliance or targeting a market niche. I just want to run cows and make a living from it without a lot of work to market them. After all, I'm a production guy.”
I understand the sentiment. When you're engaged, as we are, in one of the purest commodity markets known, it's sometimes difficult to think about differentiating oneself. But just start with the little things. Sit down and list the things the market is rewarding — superior genetics, outstanding health, appropriate marketing windows, information, age/source/management verification, etc.
Then ask yourself, “Am I doing all I can do? What are the market leaders doing that I'm not, and what can I do differently?” Do that for every segment of the business and for the ultimate consumer, as well. Honestly assess your product and services, and then start today to make your product more desirable to the market.
Sometimes, big differences are created by simply doing all the little things a whole lot better.
Troy Marshall is editor of Seedstock Digest, and a weekly contributor to BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, a free weekly newsletter delivered by email every Friday afternoon. To subscribe to BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, which provides timely news, opinion and analysis of events and trends of particular importance to the cow-calf production segment, visit www.beef-mag.com.