AgTech Nexus offers glimpse of tech future

AgTech Nexus offers glimpse of tech future
AgTech Nexus offers glimpse of tech future

AgTech Nexus offers glimpse of tech future

From nitrogen-applying robots to CRISPR enhanced produce with extended shelf life: what’s trending in ag tech?

This past July, Marketing to Farmers was honored to be included as a partner in Chicago’s first AgTech Nexus USA.  As well, Rhea + Kaiser President and CIO Jeff Walter moderated the conference’s Innovation Showcase, discussing the newest items on the market and the importance of bringing farmers into the ag tech developmental process, well ahead of marketing the products to them.

One of the cornerstones of Marketing to Farmers isn’t just what we present to others and showcasing our knowledge, but what we learn from our peers by engaging with other professionals in the field. This is our continuing education and we’re always learning.

And one of the key points to launch AgTech Nexus was how ag tech is defined. Ag tech tends to be defined in a very narrow and one-dimensional manner, literally surrounded by the electric or digital mechanics of technology. And though the digital and mechanical portion of it is often integrated, what we discovered is that the context of technology takes many forms, far beyond our original perception.

Literature provided by AgTech Nexus, Global Ag Investing, defines ag tech within the following categories:

  • Plant health and nutrition – this includes novel plant biologicals, breeding techniques, soil amendments, bio-stimulants and bio-pesticides
  • Animal health and nutrition – this includes animal disease vaccines and medicines, new animal feeds, genetic makeup and livestock management
  • Equipment and data – this includes aerial monitoring, precision agriculture, agricultural equipment linked by the internet, big data and data analysis
  • Food technology – includes cultured meat, novel ingredients, plant-based proteins, food safety, new production methods and agricultural marketplace

This means that the concept of technology is not limited to hardware, software and new chemical or biological solutions, but it is the entire process of developing and delivering such products to the marketplace.

As any of these technologies scale and come to market, they rely on multiple systems to properly integrate and provide value and ease of use, which inserts questions of compatibility, data syncing, cost and separate proprietary entities that must link with one another. Ultimately, there exists the desire for a centralized system to bring everything together in one overarching digital farm management structure that does not yet exist.  However, with the limitations of broadband that are still a challenge for many farmers, one overarching system could also be too much.

AgTech Nexus also gave us a peek into the trends. There is a heavy influence on environmental sustainability and technology that influences behavior modification. So, we saw continuing interest and utilization of drones and their ability to capture greater amounts of data in a timelier fashion, as well as the ability to collect images, map and analyze information that is used for disease identification, weather impact, and other crop decision making.

We also saw an impressive amount of new technology surrounding robotics. There are robots that harvest; those that sort and package fruit; variations used for identifying and spraying of fertilizers and herbicides (depending on the plant); weed smashers; and technology that literally moves rocks. As well, many of these robots use solar power, are self-driving, built stronger and are made with parts that are easier to replace. The machines are intended to work harder and last longer, with fewer replacements.

The biggest question of AgTech Nexus and in moving forward in the ag tech sector is the value of the investment. To what point is this new technology worth the time and financial input? There are few instruments and objects that aren’t worth the investment but are more a question of necessity. As marketers, we must find the value of necessity in these products and learn how either they will be compatible with an overarching system of digital farm management or have enough of a unique purpose and function that the potential lack of compatibility will not be a limitation.

As we continue our partnership with AgTech Nexus, we look forward to the developments and progress in all of the products and projects we had the opportunity to explore during our time there. The process of bringing technology in any capacity to market is long and enduring, but we are excited to have a glimpse into what’s on the ag tech horizon.

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R+K partners with AgTech Nexus USA in Chicago

R+K partners with AgTech Nexus USA in Chicago

Agency President and CIO Jeff Walter to moderate conference’s Innovation Spotlight

With Chicago quickly becoming a hotbed of technology, it’s a welcome surprise that AgTech Nexus USA is making their Midwestern debut and hosting their conference series in our own backyard. Perched on the cusp of industrial advancement and the gateway to agricultural production, this combination of a tech hub situated in the midst of a modern farming operation creates opportunities for both farmers and startups alike.

The July 22-23 event, which traditionally draws the likes of venture capital investors and agribusiness executives, features workshops including How Ag Tech Has Increased Efficiency in Row Crop Production; Investor Perspectives: Which Technologies are Ready to Scale and a Keynote Executive Interview: The Role of the American Midwest in Shaping the Future of Global Agriculture, as well as a panel discussion on The Bridge Between Sustainability and Profitability. Ultimately, it’s a dynamic approach to the marriage of ag and tech and all that it encompasses.

This year, Rhea + Kaiser and Marketing to Farmers are delighted to be participants in AgTech Nexus. On Tuesday, July 23, R+K’s President and Chief Integration Officer Jeff Walter will be moderating the Innovation Spotlight: Fostering the Next Generation of AgTech Entrepreneurs. The panel will provide the audience with an opportunity to learn more about the millennial ag tech market, the obstacles they have faced, gains they are earning and how they are changing the game through their everyday practice.

“We’re really excited to be able to partner with AgTech Nexus. We’re so passionate about the ag tech space and how our clients are integrated with it. To be able to see the foundations of tech from the beginning and hear feedback from and have that interaction with farmers and producers is an opportunity that we could not pass up,” said Walter.

This year’s event includes hands-on demonstrations and exhibitions, which provide an opportunity to see and experience technology as it’s happening. In addition to investors and technology and agribusiness executives, AgTech Nexus welcomes farmers and producers to get a broad audience perspective and to gauge how technology is disrupting ag across the board. More than that, it’s looking forward to a productive event that explores the ag tech conversation in a compelling and progressive manner, which gets to the heart of issues facing farmers and producers and how ag tech is part and parcel to their solutions.

R+K is proud to be a partner for this event, co-hosted by AgTech Nexus and the Illinois Soybean Association. We thank them for the opportunity to bring this event to the forefront of Midwest ag marketers and producers.

To participate in AgTech Nexus, click here to register and be sure to use the discount code RK15 to save 15% on your registration fees.

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Capturing pet tech on Instagram

Capturing pet tech on Instagram

8 tips to optimize your pet marketing on IG

If you’re a pet parent on Instagram (IG), you’ve undoubtedly seen the pages @dogsofinstagram, @cats_of_instagram, @thedogist or @cats_of_world. But, did you know that up to 80 percent of Instagram users engage with brands on the platform, in addition to connecting and bonding over their furry friends? It also means that as a mobile tool, it’s easier than ever for brands to catch the eye of consumers, offering up stiff competition for their products.

So how do brands and brand marketers within the pet tech industry make their products not only stand out, but stand a chance of being purchased on Instagram? Below are 8 tips to maximize your IG participation and take your brand to the next level.

1. Engage with a pet influencer
There are pet influencers, in terms of the cute pets on IG with the most followers (think in the millions), and there are pet influencers that know the pet tech market. We recommend finding a pet tech influencer who can safely and successfully demonstrate your product with a pet. Be advised, you will likely need to give samples of your product to these influencers, however depending on their followers, this can be a very good marketing investment.

2. Demonstrate the product – in real life and slow motion
Seeing a product in the package does little to sell it. Seeing how it works on an animal and in use for a pet parent can make or break a sale. Put the action into slow motion, if possible, to give the viewer a better idea of how the product works and to demonstrate that it’s user-friendly.

3. Animation as an alternative to photography
To show a product, service or technology that may be sensitive to some viewers, such as a microchip, shock collar or bowel-related products, animation and illustration offer a nice alternative to photography or video. Similarly, technology that appears overly complicated can benefit from these practices, which can simplify and educate better in real time. @thelitterrobot  demonstrates this very nicely.

4. Graphs and charts to provide comparisons
Comparisons are a valuable tool for purchasing decisions by showing how one technology is more advanced, improved or simply stands out over another. Graphs and charts can colorfully illustrate these statistics, as well as show trends and generate interest in ways that words cannot. @GetFindster uses emojis and mini quizzes to make IG a fun and informative destination for their GPS trackers.

5. Craft professional images
This is perhaps the piece de resistance of Instagram: the image used must display the product itself and how it works on a pet. This applies even if the IG feed is intended for purchases, because this is what keeps viewers and followers engaged with your brand. If you show cute puppies, fluffy cats and mysterious lizards that are well-compositioned, in focus and in proper lighting, you are more likely to keep followers than if your images are poorly lit, out of focus and irrelevant to the subject.

6. Tap into IG Stories to see how the technology works
Instagram Stories have limited use for brands, as they expire after 24 hours. Within those 24 hours, they can offer a limited behind-the-scenes look at how something is crafted or a technology-in-action, since it is a video service provided by Instagram. The video is capped at 15 seconds.

7. Engagement and cross-pollination on multiple social media channels
IG allows for cross-pollination between Twitter and Facebook, which automatically increases engagement and sales opportunities, if the content on an IG feed is available for purchase. Even if the content is simply to generate engagement, cross-pollination enables multiplication of viewers and opportunities for shares, likes and comments.

8. Insert hashtags and other identifiers
Hashtags allow for viewers and followers to find your brand on social media, as well as through cross-pollination. Similarly, links provided in the bio of an IG feed allow for connecting to other posted content online. When it comes to creating hashtags, consider the function of your technology, as well as your brand and the type of pet your technology is used for.

Instagram can be a highly profitable social media tool, when used to its optimal potential. Take the time to craft smart, professional photography, use it intentionally, and the results will be successful.

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If you would like to have a conversation around tips to effectively market your pet tech product or service, please contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

For more information about our approach to marketing in the pet care industry, download our R+K Pet Care Credentials.

Pet panel survey series: supplement purchases

Insights from pet parent panel
Insights from pet parent panel

Pet panel survey series: supplement purchases

Who influences who: where to buy and why

Welcome back to our pet panel posts, reflections based on proprietary research conducted by Rhea + Kaiser, with the intent to assess and validate a variety of pet care trends and hypotheses, and to formulate marketing strategies within the category. Our previous post explored Fear Free Training and the influence it has on choosing a pet practitioner. The goal of this post is to look more strategically at pet care supplement purchases and how they are influenced by marketing decisions.

Supplements aren’t just the latest trend in pet care; they are a growing part of pet health and wellness. Though we think of giving supplements to dogs and cats as mirroring ourselves, the reality of administering joint supplements and fish oil to pets is to help them also live long, healthy lives with stronger bones and healthier hearts. Many of our pets get the same chronic illnesses that we suffer from as humans, such as arthritis, glaucoma and diabetes. Though supplements can’t cure these or any other illnesses, they are believed to delay and manage disease and pain onset.

What Influences the Supplement Purchase?

Supplements continue to be a significant share of the pet care market, with 50 percent of our panel responding that they purchase supplements for their dog and/or cat. Approximately 45 percent indicated that the veterinarian has the greatest influence on which brand they choose. Another 21 percent identified that they are influenced by online ratings and reviews when choosing brands of supplements.

The fact that our panel indicated that veterinarians, online ratings and reviews had such a high impact on brand selection suggests several implications on pet care marketing:

  • The advice may impact the supplement brand chosen. The brand that pet parents choose is likely influenced by whether they are learning about supplement brands from a veterinary office, online or a brick-and-mortar store.

  • Marketers need to prioritize – we need to target our efforts on those who have the highest impact on brand selection. In this case, veterinarians have the greatest impact on brand selection. That said, it’s the pet parent that ultimately purchases the supplement, so we cannot neglect the pet parent completely. We just need to prioritize the veterinarian first, with a secondary marketing plan to capture the pet parent who is paying attention and will seek out the supplement market through other channels.

  • If online ratings and reviews are where pet parents go to seek out information about supplements, they likely are there for other information as well. As marketers, we need to be paying expert attention to how pet parents are influenced by the online information flow.

  • Online reviews are posted in a variety of settings:

This is key for marketers, because it means that there is no one avenue for online reviews. Reviews are posted across the board, which provides not only a myriad of marketing opportunities to reach veterinarians and their staff as well as pet parents, but also for the brand.

Also consider that in the age of influencer marketing, we must question where we draw the lines between online review, promotion and endorsement. These terms must be carefully determined, to avoid assumptions and the ideology that use of a product assumes endorsement and promotion of a product, particularly something that is considered biomedical.

The bottom line is that different channels require different strategies, and marketers need to be adept at these strategies, as well as malleable to the surrounding market and the ways in which purchasing habits are continually changing. As supplements are more integrated into daily pet care as part of the pet care diet and as a larger share of the pet care space, it’s critical for marketers to take note and recognize how supplements are part of the total pet care strategy.

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If you have topics you would like to explore with our Pet Parent panel or would like to discuss marketing in the companion pet space, please contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

For more information about our approach to marketing in the pet care industry, download our R+K Pet Care Credentials.

R+K announces changes in executive management

R+K new executive management
R+K new executive management

R+K announces changes in executive management

New roles effective August 1

Rhea + Kaiser announced today new executive management positions that will go into effect on August 1.

Diane Martin, who has been with R+K for more than 30 years and president/CEO since 2010, is stepping into the newly created role of Chief Strategy Officer.

“Earlier this year, we announced we are restructuring Rhea + Kaiser to better meet the needs of our clients and to give our staff more opportunities,” Martin said. “Looking at how everything works, including executive management, is part of that restructuring. This is a natural evolution for the agency, and one we’re very excited to implement.”

Effective August 1:

Diane Martin President/CEO at Rhea+Kaiser

As Chief Strategy Officer, Martin will assist executive management with client, prospective client and agency strategy. This includes formalizing the agency’s communications planning processes, evaluating strategic planning tools and identifying resources.

Stephanie Heusuk Chief Operating Officer at Rhea+Kaiser

Current Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Heusuk will take on the responsibility of Chief Executive Officer, responsible for the long-range planning and sustainability of the agency. A 22-year R+K veteran, Heusuk started at R+K in account management, leading healthcare and commercial banking accounts. She has been Chief Operating Officer since 2010.

Jeff Walter Executive Director of Account Management and Planning at Rhea+Kaiser

Jeff Walter will move into the newly created role of President/Chief Integration Officer. Currently the SVP/Executive Director of agency management and planning, Walter’s new role will include ensuring integrated teams and integrated services across all agency business.

Angel Kelpsas

Angel Kelpsas, current Director of Finance, will become the Chief Financial officer. In addition to financial management, Kelpsas’ responsibilities will include oversight of compliance with government regulations, human resources, business technology and facilities management.

Steve Rhea, owner and co-founder of Rhea + Kaiser, will remain as Chairman of the Board.

“I’m excited to see the continued evolution of Rhea + Kaiser and I think we have a bright future,” Rhea said. “We repeatedly hear companies say they need agencies to be more nimble and flexible while still delivering smart, integrated solutions. This restructure helps us deliver just that kind of practice for clients.”

Martin added that this change will be a shift for her outside of the office, too.

“Personally, this opportunity also lets me focus on areas of most interest to me. In the office, that’s strategy. Outside of the office, it’s a chance to spend more time with my husband and grandchildren. They have always been patient with me, but especially over the last nine years.” Martin said. “I might be stepping down from my role at Rhea + Kaiser, but I’m definitely not stepping out of R+K.”

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Petfood Forum: A first timer’s perspective

Petfood forum
Petfood forum

Petfood Forum: A first timer’s perspective

How knowing your audience makes the most of the problem/solution trade show experience

I just returned from my first trip to Petfood Forum in Kansas City and I thought it was a great show for many reasons including the vast array of exhibitors, thoughtful panel sessions, presentations, and solid networking opportunities.  And everything supported the main goal: shared learning of the pet food industry, its trends and the marketplace as a whole.

I’ve been to more trade shows than I care to count, some good… some not so good.  One of the key measures of success for me as an attendee is how well the exhibitors put themselves in my shoes and focus on problem/solution.  I bring this up because often at trade shows we find ourselves bombarded by booths that are more focused on gadgets and widgets than providing the visitor with the real value proposition for their product or service.

At this show, most exhibitors, panelists and presenters did an excellent job of bringing thoughtful and creative solutions to current issues, such as clean label pet foods.  Others brought interesting ideas to future growth with new technology in food processing and packaging. And useful marketing discussion such as sessions on premiumization to purchases at brick and mortar versus online.

Whether the primary focus was on grain for ingredients, livestock feed or pet food… there was an abundance of ideas, solutions and learning.  And the conversations we had around the needs, wants and attitudes of the various target segments enlightened and validated much of our marketing focus in these categories. Similarly, we are seeing these conversations and opinions reflected in our Pet Panel series.

And, while there were definitely fun and engaging booths, there were much fewer of the “clown car” antics that we often see at so many other shows.  The booths were informative and most offered very clearly defined problem/solution values, such as various pet food fiber sources and the pros and cons of each And that, in my opinion, is what makes a very worthwhile trade show experience.

The key takeaway for me is that as we study the trends and outlook of the pet food category, it is with absolute certainty that the quality of ingredients and efficiencies in food processing are going to play a critical role in a brand’s success.

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For information on how our agency may help you reach your marketing goals, please contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director, or download our R+K Pet Care Credentials.

R+K launches inaugural pet panel

Insights from pet parent panel
Insights from pet parent panel

R+K launches inaugural pet panel

Fear Free Training among pet parent priorities

In March 2019, Rhea + Kaiser launched its first proprietary research panel of dog and cat owners, with the goal of analyzing and validating a variety of pet care trends and hypotheses, and to better understand the market and its influencers. These findings, along with additional information on the attitudes and behaviors of pet parents regarding things such as Fear Free Training, food and supplement purchases, help us better guide pet care clients in developing strategies to market effectively.

Our first panel survey unveiled some insights into valuable tips for effective marketing of foods, products and services to pet parents. One of the most intriguing was around Fear Free Training.

Fear Free Training: Sounds Good, But Not Sure What It Is

Our panel indicated that Fear Free Training by their pet care provider (i.e. veterinarian, groomer, walker) received, on average, a 7 out of 10 on importance, but that only 18 percent actually know what it is. We perceived this to be both a curiosity and interest in Fear Free Training, but also indicative of a knowledge gap in what the training is and how it can benefit the pet care consumer. We also suspect there were several interpretations of this data: an awareness of the training is not the same as understanding it. Furthermore, we questioned how consumers could rate the importance of a product or service at 70 percent without knowing what it is.

Why it matters: Fear Free Training is a certification that provides veterinary professionals, pet professionals and pet parents with compassionate physical and emotional animal education. However, our survey indicates that there is a population that values the importance of having a practitioner with this certification without having any understanding of it. Therefore, the goal is to market Fear Free Training not just as a value point, but as a way to truly connect with pet parents. This means to demonstrate all of the compassion and emotional nurturing that Fear Free Training offers, and to ensure through the marketing process and materials that pet parents really understand what Fear Free Training is and how it’s a benefit to the pet.

The pet care market includes a myriad of practitioners and pet parents, all of whom have the same goal of providing optimal pet wellness. That also requires a solid understanding of how each of these individuals selects the various products and brands that they use to keep their pets healthy.

R+K intends to launch additional pet panel surveys on a monthly basis (or as often as needed) and to use the data to guide clients and association partners on the most effective marketing practices to connect with pet parents.

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For more information about our approach to marketing in the pet care industry, download our R+K Pet Care Credentials or contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

Observations from Commodity Classic 2019

Commodity Classic 2019 Observations
Commodity Classic 2019 Observations

Observations from Commodity Classic 2019

Some insight, but more questions than answers

Trade show season is winding down and Commodity Classic (CC) is not to be left out. In contrast to the past five years, this year seemed much more low-key. Maybe it’s because we’ve come out of another tough year, and we’re heading into what seems like continued uncertainty in ag. We felt, more than saw, a vibe of slogging through another year… and less pie-in-the-sky dreaming. And though farmers were engaged in booths, we couldn’t get a sense for if they were in learn-to-buy, learn-to-plan or learn-to-dream mode.

When we go to trade shows and conferences, we see them through two different lenses: the lens of the event producer who creates an environment that is larger than life, a spectacle that is inviting for the consumer and makes him or her want to do business; and the lens of the brand manager, who is there to sell a product or service and in whichever way possible, strike up a deal.

As we navigated CC, we were reminded that we’re operating in yet another ag environment. It wasn’t lost on us the impact of recent years’ mergers and acquisitions with the shifts in the size and number of booths. We also noted a few new ag brands that were notably absent on the trade show floor, despite their presence on shirts in hotels and airports, and could only assume they took advantage of CC to meet with and entertain customers.

Not all trade shows look alike, but the challenges are the same

Comparatively, in our week prior at the Western Veterinary Conference (WVC), we saw stunning, well-orchestrated booths consuming as much overhead space as at ground level. At CC, there were bigger, more extravagant designs featuring bold headers and overhead signage, but most of the up-top disruption came from combines, tractors, sprayer booms and grain carts – familiar things that still catch farmers’ eyes. Though it’s easy to make comparisons from event to event, the differences for better and for worse are also quite recognizable.

And between conversations at WVC and at CC, we repeatedly heard marketers struggle with determining the value and measuring the ROI of exhibiting at shows. With budgets that need to work ever harder, many marketers debate yearly their participation in a trade show. They know that while a show represents only a sampling of their target audience, it is still a good opportunity to connect and gauge customer sentiment and points of interest about products and services.

The costs for exhibiting at events continues to climb no matter what sector or location. The quality of leads and in-booth collected data can vary dramatically with the challenges of self-reported data, repeat visits to a display and the tchotchke collectors. While overall traffic numbers may seem high, the net number of quality visitors is often unknown. Then after the show, there’s a need to get the leads back to the field for follow-up.

It makes us wonder: Does a marketer achieve more with private customer/prospect events?

Today we have a new generation of farmer. We’re seeing a more diverse population and a whole new world of technology that is advancing ag and solving problems for farmers that they didn’t even know they had. Perhaps it’s time to start marketing in a way that we’ve never considered before.

Data and ag tech dominated the trade show

We saw the full range, including: data and tech service companies; ag retailers; equipment manufacturers – full-line, short-line and aftermarket attachment and device manufacturers; aerial monitoring and data capture services, along with those capturing in-canopy, root-level and deep sub-surface data; plus production, marketing and risk management providers that leverage the data for farmers. No matter what direction you looked across the show, it was clear technology was top of mind.

This leads to many questions: How do farmers sort through it all? How do they determine what they need and from whom? How do they know who to trust… and how long will that provider be in business? How do they know how to make it pay… or when it will pay? Are rural broadband issues being resolved in terms of access, reliability and speed?

We left Commodity Classic energized about the scope and possibilities of where equipment and technology are headed. We also left wondering how we can help marketers and farmers answer those questions and many others about ag tech. Can we market products and services to a population that isn’t sure what to do with them and how to extract full value them just yet?

The onus is on us to ensure that we know our market, can educate them properly and can provide them with the tools to enhance their lives, increase their yields and make their farms more prosperous than ever.

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For more information about our approach to marketing in the agriculture industry, download our R+K Ag Credentials or contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

National Ag Day: stand up for U.S. agriculture

2019 National Ag Day
2019 National Ag Day

National Ag Day: stand up for U.S. agriculture

This year, March 14 marks the 46th anniversary of National Ag Day by the Agriculture Council of America. It’s an important day for those of us involved in agriculture. It’s an opportunity to share the great story of American agriculture with the rest of nation. Nowadays, too few people truly understand the role U.S. agriculture has on our daily lives.

From providing safe, abundant and affordable food and fiber products to its contributions to a strong economy, U.S. agriculture is working harder than ever to meet the needs of Americans and a growing global population. In fact, each American farmer feeds about 165 people. And with today’s emerging technologies, farmers are poised to produce even more and in a more environmentally friendly manner.

But U.S. agriculture is more than just farming. About 22 million Americans work in agriculture-related fields. Today’s agriculture industry offers more than 200 rewarding and challenging careers like communications. That’s why we strongly encourage young people to consider a career in agriculture, even if they did not grow up on a farm or in a rural area.

As a marketing communications agency with strong ties to agriculture, we at Rhea + Kaiser embrace our role as a storyteller for agriculture. And on National Ag Day, we join with producers, associations, companies, colleges and universities, government agencies and all those associated with this great industry to recognize and celebrate agriculture in our country.

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Experiencing WVC through multiple lenses

Insights from the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC).
Insights from the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC).

Experiencing WVC through multiple lenses

Insights from the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC)

When the Pathfinders, our team of marketing professionals at R+K who help clients achieve their brand visions, attend industry conferences and trade shows, such as the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC), we approach the show through multiple lenses. These lenses deepen our understanding of the market and the mindsets of our clients’ customers. Following are some of the lenses we used at WVC.

Journalist. Through the journalist lens, we ask questions and are curious about everything. We try to see what’s new, who’s new in the industry and what are the trending topics in the sessions and aisle-way conversations.

Customer. We use the customer lens because, at R+K, we hold to the mantra Think Customer First.

When using this lens, we try to see, hear and experience the conference as if we are the customer. In the case of WVC, we wore our veterinarian, vet tech and practice manager lenses. Admittedly, mine were a little foggy, as I had missed the last two years. But in the course of the day, my veterinary lenses cleared up. And I was eagerly learning about prescription fulfillment services from Vet Source, the role of hydrolyzed soy in a Royal Canin formulation, and the diagnosis and treatment options for chronic pain and itch in cats.

Ethnographer. The ethnographer in us comes to the conference, too. We observe how the attendees and exhibitors interact at the trade show. We listen and watch practice managers engage during sessions on improving staff communications and enhancing their website through customer empathy.

This is most often the lens that our Brand Strategist wears at shows and conferences. She pays attention to how exhibitors engage with veterinarians, noting their body language and facial reactions, as well as how they move through each booth and the duration of the visit. It gives her a sense of how veterinary customers respond to various stimuli – both messaging and human.

The ethnography lens is another dimension of our Think Customer First mantra, to ensure that we have a broad and deep understanding of the customers of our clients. and prospective clients.

Prospector. Speaking of prospective clients, the R+K business development lens is ever-present. Shows and conferences are an ideal opportunity to reconnect with former clients, prospects and friends and to make new ones along the way. It’s a challenge at times to curb our enthusiasm when in a conversation. We could go on asking questions to learn about their brands, business and show experience. Yet, we always want to be respectful of the fact that exhibitors are there to connect with their customers and prospects, not with agency folks. So, we are quick to excuse ourselves when others approach with questions.

Marketer. As marketers, we cannot sit through a presentation without art directing slides or admiring a presentation style. We cannot walk through a trade show without noting trends in booth designs and activities. And we take lots of pictures on our smartphones for show and tell of our observations back at the office.

One of the stand-outs for me this year was what I would call the speed-detailing I experienced in the Royal Canin booth. Like most booths, there were several stations where veterinarians and technical staff were analyzing products and the science behind them. The cool thing of the experience: Speed detailing, where each of these mini presentations were no more than two minutes, if even that. They were on-point and informative, yet inviting. This is a technique I plan to share with our clients.

As for our clients and prospects, when we attend conferences and trade shows, our minds and bodies are in a constant conflict of energy and exhaustion. This year, as we experienced WVC through the multiple lenses of journalist, ethnographer, customer, prospector and marketer, we also went home with aching feet, shin splints and a need for deep slumber. However, we left the show almost too excited to rest, as we are even more excited about where the veterinary and pet industry is headed and how our team of Pathfinders can help brands Think Customer First.

Rhea + Kaiser President/CEO Diane Martin welcomes the opportunity to talk about branding, website development or breaking through the clutter at trade shows.

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For more information about our approach to marketing in the pet care industry, download our R+K Pet Care Credentials or contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.