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Why companies can't get marketing right


Marketing rarely fails because of a lack of interest, ideas, or even adequate resources. However, it always fails when it doesn’t turn prospective buyers into believers.

Marketing derails when it's little more than a series of loosely strung together and uncoordinated “tactics”— email campaigns, promotions, presentations, blogs, social media engagements, charitable support, newsletters, collateral pieces, webinars, events, and all the other stuff intended to “get the message out.”

While this is a high activity picture, it’s also a fruitless one. It helps explain why marketing budgets are cut and market managers last a year or two and move on. Then, the story is repeated, once again.

There’s another way to look at marketing: helping customers enhance their lives and fulfill their aspirations. When someone makes a purchase, large or small, it’s as if they’re saying, “I believe.” Far more than spending money, they are putting their trust in a business or a brand.

Making marketing work

So, what will make marketing work? What should a company do to get it’s marketing on the right track and keep it there? The answer is in asking the right questions:

#1. What’s your message?

Or, do you have one that everyone in the company can verbalize if asked? Most importantly, could your customers express it? Like so many other companies, you may be letting others define your message. If so, it’s time to take charge. That begins with asking questions and gathering information. Here are a few starters:

  • Why should anyone want to do business with you?
  • What sets your company apart from the competition, if anything?
  • What are your customers' complaints? What do they like about you?

How do you know what your customers think about you? Ask them. Get on the phone, use surveys, or, better yet, go see some of them. That’s right, in person. They’ll get excited to see you, instead of an invoice.

By now, you may have figured it out. Marketing has nothing to do with your company or what it sells. Marketing is 100% about what customers want and what’s in it for them. To put it bluntly: if you talk about your company, visitors will run. Why? They care about themselves. We can learn from companies with a customer-focused message: 

  • Walmart. Save money. Live better.
  • Toyota. Let’s go places.
  • Burger King. Made to order.
  • Coca-Cola. Taste the feeling.
  • Capital One. What’s in your wallet? 

Now, take it a step further. Focus on what’s important to your customers, such as responsiveness, transparency, ease of access, keeping promises, helpfulness, and caring. 

Next, come up with four or five customer-focused messages. Then, survey your customers and prospects, asking them to select the message that best represents your company. Along with obtaining valuable information, you are letting them know you care.

#2. What’s your strategy?

Then, with a compelling marketing message, the next task is deciding how to deliver it to customers and prospects. In other words, how do you go about pulling them closer, so they want to do business with you?

 Here are possible components of a marketing plan. Each one should have it’s own strategy and customer-focused content: 

  • Social marketing. Choose and nurture the social platforms that work best for your business. Don’t dilute your efforts by trying to be everywhere. Explore Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Yelp.
  • eNewsletters. Capture interest by sharing your knowledge and experience, as well as customer testimonials, along with periodic helpful alerts.
  • Events, webinars, and podcasts. Make sure the content is always customer-focused.
  • Group presentations. Identify and contact relevant groups, along with asking customers for suggestions.
  • Charitable support. Partner with a charity where you can leverage your company's capabilities and make it your corporate mission.
  • Advertising. Both online and print ads do well if your choices are well researched. Consider Facebook advertising.
  • Website. Think of your website as a resource for attracting customers. Focus the content on what interests them, what they want to learn not what you want to sell.
  • Bylined articles. Demonstrate your competence with both short pieces and longer articles. Post on LinkedIn, and send to trade and general online and print publications.
  • Videos. 45 to 90 seconds. Demonstrations, customer testimonials, but no talking heads. 

If you think such a list is daunting, you’re right. So, first, tackle those tactics that are most critical. Then, set realistic deadlines for implementing new initiatives, but always think excellence. 

#3. How can you keep your marketing on track?

Watch out! Marketing tactics often begin with enthusiasm but quickly fade away. This happens when the purpose isn’t clear. Keep asking, “Why are we doing this?” and “Is it helping us pull customers and prospects closer?” If, the answer is no, evaluate and make changes. More than anything this is what helps keeps marketing on track. 

But there’s one more thing, as they say: The effects of marketing are cumulative, not instantaneous. Sure, early adopters are quick to jump aboard, but it takes more time for others. They want to be sure before they buy and that doesn’t happen quickly. Unfortunately, too many marketers fall into the trap of quitting too soon. What’s important is being there when customers are ready to buy. 

Even so, competitors are always ready to strike, and that’s why consistency is marketing’s “secret juice” that goes a long way in bulletproofing customers. When customers know why they are doing business with you, they stay with you, and they are also more likely to make referrals. 

There’s no magic to marketing, and there are no gimmicks. Marketing delivers the right results when it pulls customers closer and closer so you can understand them and they can appreciate why doing business with you makes good sense—their way of saying, “I believe.”


John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. He is the creator of “Magnet Marketing,” and publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.” Contact him at, 617-774-9759 or


Max Armstrong says he finds it hard to pass by a red kettle without putting something in. You can donate anytime at They do a lot of good. Ezekiel Elliott jumping into the kettle in the end zone didn't hurt either.

At the recent Missouri Governor's Conference, two of the honorees are long-time friends of ours: Mindy Ward, editor of the Missouri Ruralist, and Glen Cope, Aurora, chairman of the Missouri Beef Industry Council.

His farmer buddies find a variety of jobs to do in the off-season. At the Indy airport, area farmers keep the runway cleared of snow.


Police in Moline, Illinois, have a vivid example of why motorists have to slow down - a squad with two dents.

A Rabobank report shows the challenges the ag sector is facing right now. Three years of consecutive losses have taken a bite out of liquidity. With the lower commodity prices, the livestock sector is expanding.

The Nashville music community is mourning the death of songwriter Andrew Dorff, who moved to Nashville 13 years ago.

Salvation Army red kettles don't raise as much as they used to because we don't carry cash like we used to. Maybe the end zone celebration where Dallas Cowboys player Ezekiel Elliott jumped into the red kettle may boost donations. The kettles will be out through Saturday.

Teaching ranch kids the Nativity story

Amanda Radke Toy Nativity Scene

My two-year old daughter Scarlett received an early Christmas present this week — her very first Nativity. We’ve enjoyed telling her the story of Jesus’ birthday and introducing her to Mary, Joseph, the three wise men and the shepherds.

It’s heart-warming to watch her play with Baby Jesus and see her imagination at work as she lines up the figurines inside the manger.

Ever the farm girl, she is particularly fond of the shepherd and his flock of sheep, cattle and donkeys. She has even lent her toy square bales from her farm set to feed the livestock and tend to the shepherd’s stock.

Last night, the whole family bundled up and headed to the barn to work on our sale bulls that we’ll be consigning at winter events this January. While in the quiet, dim barn, I was reminded of the manger in which Jesus was born, and I imagine the night of His birth was a peaceful and joyous occasion.

From the Bible in Luke 2:8-15, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

We know there was no room at the inn for Mary, Joseph and Jesus, and the Nativity story is a good reminder that there is always room in our hearts to help someone in need. History tells us that the shepherds were seen as lower class during Biblical times, and yet, they were one of the first to be told the great news of Jesus’ birth.

Imagine them sitting in the quiet barn — cattle peacefully chewing their cud in the darkened corners of the barn; Mary cooing to her newborn son; three wise men bringing royal gifts for Jesus; and the meager shepherds joining in as witnesses to this miraculous occasion. What a night it was indeed!

As Christmas 2016 approaches, I’m grateful to be in the same profession as the “lowly” shepherds, and I’m thankful to raise my children in this life. I hope they walk like Jesus as they grow older— offering a hand to those in need, never looking down upon anyone else and choosing kindness and honesty above all else.

I also pray my children grow up to have hearts like the shepherds — working quietly to care for the land and livestock while providing food for the world. It’s a modest profession but an important one, too. And as we celebrate the holidays over a delicious prime rib meal, I will remind my children of the reason for this season. Merry Christmas from my ranch to yours!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.

Farm Progress America - December 21, 2016

Max Armstrong offers information from Dr. David Kohl, well-known ag economist, about the need for farmers to enhance their marketing skills. Today's episode, the second with information from Dr. Kohl, builds on the need for farmers to boost skills in a number of areas in this soft market. risk management skills are considered a critical skill in a soft market.

Dr. Kohl, and Max Armstrong, will be joining farmers who attend the Farm Futures Business Summit, January 19 and 20, 2017. Learn more at


So, just how does Santa get around so fast?

Sean Gallup | Getty Images Santa and his Reindeer fly through the night

Those of you who had small children in the late 70s and 80s most likely are familiar with Sesame Street and the Muppets. And especially at this time of year, you likely watched the Christmas specials that this talented and creative group of people produced.

For my two daughters, several of those Christmas specials have become a holiday tradition. By far and away, however, the favorite is Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. In it, Oscar the Grouch plays mind games with Big Bird about how Santa gets down the chimney and how he gets in when there is no chimney available.

That is indeed one of the main questions small children have this time of year. The other is how Santa can span the globe in just one night and deliver all those presents.

Your intrepid reporter has yet to learn the secrets of the chimney. However, Glenn Selk, emeritus Extension animal scientists at Oklahoma State University, has penned his explanation of how Santa’s reindeer can accomplish the task, and he offers it for all to consider every year around this time. Here it is:

First of all, historians report that reindeer have been domesticated by humans for over 5,000 years. Since Santa himself is no spring chicken, we can assume that they have worked together for quite a while. They should not have any trouble finding their way around. There is no need to worry about them getting lost. 

We do know that reindeer are ruminants. They are like cattle in this regard. They have four compartments to their stomach. Of course, Santa gets them filled up with hay and moss before he leaves the North Pole, so they should have plenty of feed stored in the four compartments to make it all around the globe. Also, cattle nutritionists have known for years that hay digests more slowly than grain, therefore the big meal that the reindeer eat before the journey should last even longer. Or just like your mom says "It'll stick to their ribs!"

As for drinking water that should be no problem whatsoever. In their homeland, the water is all frozen so they are used to getting the moisture they need by eating snow. So as the sleigh is parked on snowy rooftops in cold weather cities, the reindeer can take on the moisture they need if they get thirsty. 

How do they keep warm while flying around on Christmas Eve? The reindeer coat is made of two layers; an outer layer of bristles and an inner layer of dense fur. The fur that they have is very thick and can hold a lot of air. The "blanket" of insulation combining fur and air helps keep them warm in even the coldest of climates. Plus, flying around Christmas night in many areas of the world that are warmer than they have at home should not be a problem. 

Next, remember those huge antlers. Antlers of adult male reindeer can be as much as 4 feet long! Just think about it. Each reindeer has two sets; that’s 8 feet of antlers and with eight reindeer, or nine, if we count Rudolph on foggy nights, that is 64 to 72 feet of total antler span. A typical small Cessna airplane only has about 36 feet of wingspan. Certainly it seems feasible those eight reindeer running that fast with all that antler span could get off the ground. 

There are a couple of myths about reindeer that we should clear up. You have probably heard the poem that says that they have tiny reindeer feet. Actually, they have a very wide, large hoof that they use at home to dig through the snow to find grass and moss to eat. You've got to think that those wide hooves would come in handy for sliding to rather sudden stops on the small landing sites that Santa has to work with on Christmas Eve. 

And you've probably heard the song about “up on the house top click, click, click.” Well, it is true that reindeer do make a clicking sound as they walk. They have a tendon that snaps over a bone joint and makes a clicking sound on every step. 

These are just a few facts about Santa's Reindeer.  Maybe this will help us understand that age-old mystery that occurs every Christmas Eve. 

Readers share favorite holiday beef recipes

Amanda Radke Christmas Steak

Christmas is just a few days away, and if you’re like me, you’re gearing up to attend or host a few holiday gatherings with friends and family this upcoming weekend. There’s a lot of pressure to serve a delicious meal when hosting a crowd, and beef always brings the “wow” factor at Christmas events.

Sometimes it’s easy to get in a rut about what to put on the menu each year, so I decided to ask readers for their favorite beef recipes to spice up my holiday table for 2016.

I asked readers on Facebook to submit their favorite beef recipes that they enjoy at Christmas, and here are five tasty options to consider this year:

1. Beef tenderloin with garlic horseradish cream by Tom Perini, Perini Ranch Steakhouse

When we think of Christmas, prime rib is often the traditional fare, but consider a juicy tenderloin, cooked to medium rare and sliced to perfection.

2. Cross rib roast by Megan Brown for The Beef Jar

For a traditional prime rib recipe, California farmer and rancher Megan Brown suggests this fool-proof rib roast recipe featuring herbs, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

3. Beef Wellington featured on the Prairie Californian blog

Also from Megan Brown, Jenny Dewey Rohrich featured this tasty recipe on her blog. Delicate puff pastries filled with beef tenderloin, mushrooms, butter, breadcrumbs, horseradish and dijon mustard would make an excellent appetizer or a standalone meal for your guests.

4. Short ribs with wine and cream from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

An often forgotten-about cut of beef, short ribs would be a surprise addition to your holiday menu. With a rich wine and cream sauce, these are melt-in-your mouth good!

5. Beef bourguignon by Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa

This rich soup features smoked bacon and beef chuck slow cooked in broth, Cognac and a dry red wine. What’s not to love? Warm up from the cold winter weather with this delectable soup!

Do you have any crowd-pleasing beef recipes to share? Comment below with your favorites.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.


Max is in Kansas City, Missouri, today.

Another cold morning this last full day of fall. Soon, the days will start getting longer little by little.

There were nearly 8,000 entries in the National Corn Growers Association Corn Yield Contest. The highest yield was 521.3968 bushels, grown by Randy Dowdy near the Georgia/Florida state line. Dowdy didn't grow up in agriculture. He's the son of a minister.

Are you familiar with Wreaths Across America? Volunteers put wreaths on gravestones of military veterans. Effort is growing. Donations make it all possible.



Max is in Kansas City today.

We're almost done with the fall of 2016. As hard as it is to believe, we haven't started winter. Winter comes in at 4:44 a.m. central time tomorrow.

There was a winter rally in the wheat market triggered by the cold based on fears the cold can winterkill some of the exposed wheat. Yesterday, wheat helped counter the downturn in the market because of the winter temps. The near term forecast indicates the worst of the cold is behind us for a time.

This is the fifth year of declining college enrollment. There are now about 19 million people in college. College enrollment peaked at over 20 million five years ago.

The Lands End clothing company CEO will live in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.