Farmers and ranchers were recently asked to rank how 15 different kinds of ag marketing influences their purchase decisions. Guess what ranked #1 in terms of helping them make the final decision to purchase? Dealers. Forty-seven percent of the more than 900 farmers and ranchers who responded listed dealers as the information source they relied on most when they were ready to purchase ag products, equipment, services and suppliers. This is from the 2014 Agri Media Council Media Channel study.

In fact, dealers have ranked #1 as a trusted source in the Agri Media Council’s 2010 and 2012 studies. And, dealers show up at the top of the list earlier in the purchasing decision, too, ranking #2 regarding how farmers and ranchers learn about new products. Ag magazines and newspapers ranked #1 in that category.

Congratulations, dealers. This is an accomplishment, considering your competition includes farm shows, ag websites and manufacturer information.

The study brings forward a challenge to dealers, however: Find a way to play a bigger role in the first stage of the purchase cycle. Ag magazines and newspapers have a commanding lead — 60% of the responding farmers and ranchers turn to ag magazines and newspapers when they begin thinking about a purchase, compared with 26% who turn to dealers at that stage.

The takeaway: You need to be visible in those ag magazines and newspapers, so customers are not only reading about equipment, but they’re reading about you as a supplier of that equipment. If you’re already purchasing ads, don’t let up. And, many of these media have online components, so be sure to consider that in your marketing plans.

There’s another way to increase your visibility — and it’s free. Consider how your dealership might land in the editorial pages. Here are some ideas from my editor’s chair.

1. Think about your dealership’s story. What are you doing that is different and better or that relates to a current business trend?

2. Has your dealership introduced something new or reached a milestone?

3. Think about the problems your customers have and the solutions you provide and stay away from marketing lingo, like “high tech” or “cutting edge” or “industry leader.”

4. Think “people.” People like to read about other people, not a faceless company, so consider what news you might be able to share about you or your team.

5. Finally, be ready to answer this question: So what? Why should the editors and readers care about this?

Then, give the editor a call or send a short email, briefly sharing those messages and inviting them to tour your dealership. If your story is good, you’ll be doing the editor a favor in giving them a great story. 

Even if you aren’t considered for a story, you can share the information in your own content channels, such as on your website or in social media. Find ways to add snippets to advertising or marketing collateral, too.

You already have a great head start as an information source thanks to years of providing trustworthy advice. It’s time to bring that advice outside the conversations that your salespeople are having one on one and show the community that you’re the experts.