Sow the Seeds of Your Successful Business: Think Like a Farmer

Marketing like a farmerWhen you talk about marketing, the conversation inevitably turns to “conversion.”

There’s something about that word that bugs me.

When people talk about converting prospects to customers, I get the impression they think it’s like flipping a switch.

You know, one minute someone knows nothing about your business and then click, suddenly they’re a customer!

They make conversion sound like an instantaneous event. In reality, conversion is a lot more like farming. It’s a nurturing process that leads people from:

  • hearing about your business to …
  • a first transaction to …
  • doing repeat business with you to …
  • recommending your offerings to …
  • helping plant the seeds for new customer relationships.

But how exactly does conversion happen?

Read on to learn the five-step process you can use to sow the seeds of a successful business, farmer style.

The Crucial Middle

The conversion conversation so often leaves out the middle part of the process, which is where the magic happens.

Prospects go through stages. Your job is to nurture them like a plant as they move from seed, to seedling, to healthy, full-grown, productive, and alive.

Let’s walk through how it works from the very beginning.

1. Start by Planting a Seed

Start your marketing with a seed of interestThe goal of this first step is to get the attention of your prospect, who may know nothing about your company. You want to get on their radar screens, and create awareness about your business.

At this stage, prospects are nowhere near ready to do business with you.

You simply want to make them aware that your business exists, and plant the seeds for a future relationship.

2. Add Information to Grow Your Seedling

Nurture prospects with informationWant to continue to grow the relationship with your prospect? Try adding valuable information to the mix.

The prospect seed you planted is now sending out one or two tenuous roots, looking for more information. Give them plenty of things to choose from!

Offer resources they find useful. Become an authority in your field by creating:

  • Buying guides
  • Audio interviews with well-known experts in your field
  • Worksheets
  • White papers
  • How-to videos and product demonstrations
  • Online knowledge banks
  • An FAQ page
  • An auto responder series delivered by email
  • A self-evaluation quiz

This is important: offer this information for free, but ask for an email address in exchange so you have a way to keep in touch and nurture your prospects.

3. Nurture Your Young Plant with Consistency

Grow their interest with follow-upHere’s the crucial middle point.

This is the part of the process where many people give up: don’t do it! Your efforts will pay off soon.

At this point, you want to prove that your business is trustworthy by following up consistently over time. Continue to add water, sun and nutrients in the form of information, follow-up and responsiveness to inquiries.

This is where your ongoing marketing efforts — those few minutes you put in every single day — will pay off.

Because this is where the click really happens. This is where you see action, and your prospect becomes a first-time customer.

4. Care For Your Full-Grown Plant with Great Customer Service

Marketing efforts bear fruitFinally, you can see the results of your efforts. Your seed has grown into a plant that’s fully mature and ready to interact with your brand as a customer.

In order to keep that relationship alive and flourishing, you need to have a system in place for after the sale. How will you follow-up with your customers? How will you make sure you’re meeting their needs? What will you do about problems?

It’s not enough to get a first sale. You have to keep your customers happy over time, so you can enjoy the fifth and last step.

5. Show Gratitude for the Fruits of Your Relationship

Show gratitude to current customersIn the final stage of the farmer-style marketing process, you continue to nurture your customer relationship over time, and it bears more fruit.

Your current customers become repeat buyers. They “seed” new prospects for your business by recommending your company through testimonials and word of mouth.

Show your gratitude for helping your spread the message. Send thank you notes, offer discounts, bake a cake! Get creative about making your current customers feel appreciated.

Start Planting Now to Reap Rewards

You can’t go from a seed of interest into harvesting the fruits of the customer relationship overnight. Building that relationship takes time, patience and effort. Start planting the seeds now so you can count on healthy conversions in the future.

Question of the Week

Have you discovered a particularly effective way to thank customers for their business? I’d love to hear about it! Will you share it in the comments?

Comments

  1. says

    Great post and a very important principal to follow for every customer. Thank you for this BIG reminder.

    Percy O.
    Miami FL

  2. says

    Wow, what a great analogy. It seems one of the hardest things for small business owners to understand about modern marketing is that the days of Mad Men style mass media promotion are over, and that it’s back to nurturing relationships. Maybe it’s because we live with so much instant gratification, but your take is one I think most people can at least understand. Mind if I use it?

      • says

        Saw the article, real good.

        Yes, I mean to use the analogy when I speak, and I’ll definitely credit you with it.

  3. says

    Well done, Pamela. Takes time to develop a lasting relationship. In answer to your question about showing appreciation, the well-tested practice of offering a small gift (useful & tailored to the person) is always a winner. As a guy, I still respond to the old firm handshake, look-you-in-the-eye, sincere “Thank you.” But then, I am old fashioned.

    • says

      A firm handshake is great, Jim.

      So many of my customers are virtual, and I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting a handful of them in person. “Digital thank yous” work well if that’s your situation: special reports, exclusive access, etc.

  4. says

    Another great nugget of gold, Pamela. Maybe thousands will read it and enthusiastically nod in agreement — give you the ‘high 5′ — maybe make a comment about how brilliant you are! Some might even send it on to others… “You’ve gotta read this…!”

    And yet, there’s nothing new to your words. Every business owner knows the truth of them (or at least should).

    But how few — how very few — will take those words and implement the activity suggested?

    In building the Main Street Customer Loyalty Program, which is basically a turnkey conversation starter and tool to keep the conversation going, I am amazed at the well entrenched habit that most business owners buy into that results in frantic marketing with hopes of getting attention.

    Like the drowning man who’s flailing and wailing prevents him from seeing the life preserver but a mere 3 feet away.

    Shout all you want and offer a solution to his problem but until he stops doing what he’s doing and creates some stillness to his turmoil, the words are wasted.

    It could all be so much easier… IF the wisdom was converted into action.

    • says

      That’s one of the reasons I like to use analogies in these posts, Luke. Nurturing a plant from seed to seedling to productive, living thing is just the way business is done for farmers. And for the rest of us, too!

      But sticking a seed in the ground and expecting nature or “the Universe” to do the rest is just foolish. Hopefully anyone reading this post will be inspired to do what you recommend — take action.

  5. says

    This is a wonderful post. I love they way your have explained in terms of growing and nature and growth. Brings it all down to earth really. Thanks for an excellent set of principles to follow .

  6. says

    Appreciate the simple analogy, and it’s important to help businessfolk understand that sales is a sequence that occurs over time and not a one-time event. And the importance of focusing on new products and services for existing customers, not new customers for existing products or services.

    But you mention conversion and follow-up as if all customers are the same, without the critical distinction of grading the quality of leads and the importance of niche and sub-niche segmentation. Chasing unqualified leads is probably more harmful then not marketing at all.

    • says

      The focus here is patience, and persistence. You have to direct those qualities toward the right market or you’ll end up waiting for something that just won’t happen!

      Thanks for your comment, Danny.

  7. says

    I agree with you… and it’s amazing how few businesses devote any energy or attention to proper lead-capture and follow-up… just wanted to add, to focus the firepower ;-)

  8. says

    Now you had to of known, Pamela, that this post would resonate with this Red Bird on a couple of levels, huh? Thanks once again for sharing your magic of clear and savvy thinking, relatable terms (and pictures!), and seeds of inspiration.

    As to your question, historically, we have officially thanked our customers at the completion of a landscape installation or styling session and at the holidays with custom created boxes of nuts, chocolates, confections made by local *farmers* — in a red box no less. :) Now inspired to grow thank yous that are more seasonal & include peeps along the 5 step journey you mention in your post. Thx!

  9. says

    Pamela,

    Really enjoyed this post. You have a smooth and comforting writing style!

    This really is a great analogy and I think you’re right about being consistent. It’s easy to get caught up in the beginning ramp-up stages and later selling stages.

    Best,
    Philip

    • says

      Thanks, Philip, and thank you for making a first comment!

      That unglamorous middle part of the process is where the real action is. Glad you enjoyed the post, and welcome!

  10. says

    I love this post Pamela – I found you via your Copyblogger article (simple plan for writing – fab btw – I’m printing it out as a guide!). I actually live on a farm, so I often use this analogy with clients. SO much has to happen – and in the correct sequence as much as possible – to get your final crop – and marketing and selling is just the same. The middle part as well can be the most disheartening because just like a crop, often you can’t see much changing, you just have to trust in the process, and know that it’s a vital part of getting to the end result!
    Thanks :-)

    • says

      Well, hi Tanya! It’s good to “see” you over here. :-)

      I agree about the middle part being a bit disheartening. That’s where the magic happens, but you can’t really see it. And you’re right: it takes trust (and patience) to see it through.

      Thanks so much for your comment!