Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Relationship and needs based marketing of Futureprofit: TheSureFireThing

John Barker1, Karen George2, Lew Markey3, Rachele Morton4

1DPI, PO Box 282, Charleville, Qld, 4470
2
DPI, Mundubbera Court House, Mundubbera, QLD, 4626
3
DPI, PO Box 519, Longreach, QLD, 4730
4
DPI, Gatton Research Station, LMB 7, MS 437, Gatton, 4343

Abstract

The Sure Fire Thing is the name given to a number of processes for marketing an extension program and matching this program with the needs of potential clients. This process has been used with a strategic planning based program, Futureprofit. The strategic planning process needs to be acceptable to all parties involved in the business and a working relationship with the facilitator is desirable in developing this plan. The marketing of the product and the developing of the working relationship require confidence in the deliverers of the process. In tailoring the strategic planning process to producers needs, the process relies on understanding their perceived level of control over components of their business. This paper explains the process and some of the rationale of the Sure Fire Thing and why the West Region Futureprofit team developed a relationship marketing approach that addresses the needs of the customer.

Key words

Futureprofit, Property Management Planning, strategic planning, relationship marketing, needs , control, adult learning, market segments, semi-structured Interviews

Introduction

Relationship marketing has been successful in attracting primary producers to a change management program, being Futureprofit. The Sure Fire Thing is a needs based marketing program to meet Futureprofit outcomes and was developed through the understanding of participants perceived level of control over their businesses (Appendix 1).

Futureprofit staff in West Region, Qld, identified that there was a need to develop a different marketing approach to involve property owners and managers in the Integrated Workshop Series (IWS). Participants identified that the first workshop did not specifically address their needs, initial uptake of the workshops was low, and Futureprofit staff were recruiting people from market segments with characteristics that they had little understanding of.

The Sure Fire Thing was developed as a need based relationship-marketing tool. It enables deliverers to identify specific market segments and assist them in meeting the needs of customers efficiently and effectively through applying flexible and relevant adult learning processes.

Context

Futureprofit is the Queensland component of the National Property Management Planning (PMP) Campaign. The Futureprofit program is a service provided to primary producers through a number of group based workshops. It aims at the farm family business unit using strategic planning to incorporate whole systems content and is delivered using adult learning principles.

Futureprofit’s program is recognised for a number of facets. These include a self-directed needs based learning culture and empowering participants to identify what they need to know through exposure to new concepts and ideas. Learning environments need to be adapted to the needs of each group .The different needs, likes, learning’s and expectations amongst producers were seen as necessitating different introduction and promotion techniques and presenting at different levels, from basic to advanced.

What needed to change?

In the PMP Strategies document (SLWRMC, 1999) it was identified that facilitators have a role in establishing effective group structures prior to workshop commencement. The workshop approach is dependent upon the learning that occurs within the group structures, and it is important therefore to develop cohesiveness within groups before the workshops are undertaken.

Program deliverers believed they needed to improve on meeting customer needs. One way identified for achieving this was by better meeting the needs of the different market segments. Market segments can be developed to aid in the development of producer’s business skills. An appropriate basis for segmentation may be the levels of control people perceive they have over the combination of production system, marketing and price of their produce (Appendix 1).

People’s perceptions of their level of control are markedly different across groups of primary producers in a similar geographic region. Market segments based on these perceptions of control may identify client group needs specifically in information and business skills development areas. Similarly what attracts people to participate in training may be identifiable using these market segments. Combinations of these perceptions of control appear to indicate attitudes towards the future direction of the business.

Methodology

There is no hard and fast rule to methodology. The processes incorporated in the Sure Fire Thing have been manipulated in various ways, all achieving similar results.

A prerequisite to this process was that it was well planned and adopted the following principles;

  • Individual property visits
  • Semi-structured or unstructured interviews
  • Form needs based relationship with property owners
  • A high level of efficiency in administering the process
  • Flexible needs base products and services

The following is a guide to the processes of the Sure Fire Thing:

  • The Sure Fire Thing started with creating general awareness (marketing) of Futureprofit principles and products with a short presentation at an industry or community meeting. A champion was identified during this meeting to assist in further communication with members of the community.
  • Contact details were collected of interested parties or ‘champions’. Details of others in the community that may have had interest in the program were collected. Neighbouring properties of interested parties were identified using a cadastral map, available through Department of Natural Resources and Mines.
  • Letters were then sent to interested parties and neighbouring properties. The letter provided details of interviewees role, purpose, business, date and time of intended visit and potential benefits to the property owner. The property owner was provided with a reply section to decline the visit if they so wished.
  • Property visits were conducted with those accepting the invitation. While on property, a needs analysis was conducted and Futureprofit products and services were marketed. Methods used to collect the required information during the property visit were semi-structured interviews and participatory observation.
  • The completed semi structured interviews and participatory observations were used to assist in telling a story about each of the interviewees. Each analysis contributed a story about primary producers in relation to the Futureprofit program, their current awareness, understanding and willingness to be involved in the program (Appendix 1). The process also identified issues apparent in the local area.
  • The interview framework was designed to cover the four major areas of management for primary producers, being natural resources, human resources, business and finance and production and marketing. The questions focused the participants at the strategic and tactical level of decision making because that is where Futureprofit activities are targeted.
  • The questions for each participant varied according to the facilitator’s initiative as the interview proceeded. To successfully achieve the desired outcome, the facilitator kept the objectives of the process in mind at all times.
  • The facilitator took an unbiased interviewer role by asking questions and not engaging in extended dialogue with the client. Transparency of the facilitator role was intended to be evident to the client at all times during the process.
  • Responses to the interviews were compared to the most local and documented best practice. A subjective set of criteria were then established for each resource area managed. A ranking was given for the perceived level of control over each aspect of their business. The ranking was described as no control, some control and good control. (Appendix 1) The criteria for each category was not strictly set. Instead the discretion of the interviewers was used to categorise each participant’s responses.
  • The data was analysed using participant’s perceptions of the level of control they had over the business and related this to products and services available. The data collected was directly linked to the content delivered in DPI products and services. (Appendix 1)Links were also made to other training providers to help meet client needs.
  • The results of the level of control were then matched to particular products and services. These details were used to develop a profile of the training needs of individuals. (Appendix 1)
  • The marketing process was designed to gain some commitment from property owners to participate in Futureprofit on completion of the interview.
  • Collated interview results were provided to participants at a Setting Directions workshop, where issues were prioritised and further activities negotiated and committed. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis were completed along with strategies to capitalise on strengths and minimise weaknesses.

Some variations to this process have included:

  • Telephone marketing followed by individual property visits
  • Unstructured interviewing
  • Negotiation / commitment workshop
  • Snowballing to pick up people not previously identified in the area

Findings

Findings from application of the Sure Fire Thing include:

Effective and efficient

  • Participation rates in the Futureprofit program were extremely high following this process. The Sure Fire Thing was a more efficient and effective marketing method for group formation than a combination of others used together, such as brochures, telephone marketing, presentations, newspaper articles & radio advertisements.
  • Following each application of this process, customers have completed Futureprofit activities, including Integrated Workshop Series (IWS) and individual follow up workshops as requested. From initial contact, at least 30% of properties were visited for interviews. From the properties visited, an average of 90% completed the workshop series.

Strike rates of the Sure Fire Thing

Location

Properties contacted by mail

Properties visited

Snowball effect

Businesses completing workshop series

Total people completing workshop series

Julia Ck

47

15

0

9

19

Wyandra

28

7

2

6

10

Eromanga

43

9

1

8

14

Monto

12

8

7

12

23

Note: Completed means people completing 75% of workshops in the series. Snowball effect means participants not initially interviewed but contacted as a result of people interviewed suggesting them as potential participants who then completed the workshop series.

  • This process is unlikely to work in feuding communities. Regardless of the trust built up with the facilitator there is unlikely to be a level of trust built up with the people they have been feuding with for the past 5 or 50 years.
  • Futureprofit evaluations have shown that clients have felt their needs were met, they were involved with the planning of products and services and have increase levels of knowledge, attitude, aspirations and skills. Many have been involved with ongoing learning.

Relationships

  • As a relationship marketing process we found that the individual property visits were the key to relationship building and needs identification of potential customers. Because all members of the management team were invited to the interview at each property and involved with the process, we found that the management teams have been better represented throughout the workshop series. Individual participant ownership of the process and workshop outcomes appear to be higher than those from previous groups that were not involved with the Sure Fire Thing.
  • The Sure Fire Thing encouraged a snowballing effect. Participants interviewed provided the interviewer with contact details of other primary producers. For example: in the Monto area, four properties completed the workshop series as a result of interviewees contacting them about Futureprofit and / or providing their contact details. Three of the original properties interviewed that did not complete the workshop series chose not to due to the 'feuding community' effect.

Communication leads to customising for relevance

  • The interview technique creates an environment where questions explore the client perceptions of their level of control, not just both parties sharing agreed assumptions and doubt about issues related to the business (eg. weather, government etc). This leads to a clearer understanding of the client’s perception of their level of control. Content that is very specific to the group is essential. Individual interviews allow the opportunity to ask meaningful questions in language easily understood by participants. The facilitator becomes very familiar with the nature of and the issues confronting businesses in a geographical area. This has allowed a flow on effect of relevance provided through Futureprofit products and services. Participants needs have been better satisfied following their involvement in the Sure Fire Thing. The understanding of the process by participants is equally as important as having the right content.
  • By using a combination of semi-structured interviews, participatory observation and briefs with interviewers, findings were triangulated and the resulting products and services could be guaranteed to meet customer needs.
  • The whole process has a large administration component, especially communication. If this is not done effectively the process will break down. This leads to additional data about participants in a local area being recovered and it can be stored for future reference. This data was used with sensitivity to better meet the needs of Futureprofit participants. Facilitator confidentiality and trust are paramount in this process.
  • Data was gained about primary producers in relation to their perceived level of control of their business. This data contains biases, as it is based on the interviewee’s perceptions, however evaluation results detail success in meeting customer needs.

Adult learning and planning

  • Futureprofit and PMP aim, mission and outcomes have been achieved effectively and efficiently through the Sure Fire Thing. Adult Learning principles are better applied through the Sure Fire Thing. The focus of planning and decision making at the strategic level rather than the tactical and operational levels has encouraged an environment of ongoing learning. This has improved the relevance of all content and process of Futureprofit products and services administered by the facilitator. Participants 'readiness' for adult learning using Futureprofit products has been heightened

Conclusion

If using the principal that improved knowledge and skills increases confidence, then education in the areas identified, by participants, as having low confidence will improve perceptions of their level of control. It is possible to track changes to people and their businesses through understanding their increasing perception of their level of control. There will be some anomalies. For instance as they learn more about their marketing they may suddenly discover that the level of control they thought they had over the production system may not be sufficient. Therefore their perception of the level of control over production reduces until they align their production with market requirements.

The critical success factors in this process were:

  • One to one contact with clients in their home or on their property
  • The need for facilitators to develop rapport with their clients
  • Applications of adult learning principles, including use of appropriate language, transparency, negotiation, comfortable environment, and availability of relevant products and services
  • Active listening
  • Commitment to Futureprofit from participants on completion of interview

The key to the success of the process is the individual property visits. These enable a better understanding of customer needs and wants, facilitator rapport, application of relationship marketing and provision for market segmentation.

This combination of relationship marketing and needs analysis positively impacts on the program delivery by developing a good understanding of the range of management styles in an area while learning the major issues that need addressing to assist with business performance. Feedback gained through The Sure Fire Thing enables extension packages to be modified to suit the needs of a particular group. In the broader context extension officers are required to continually match the products to producers needs in order to remain relevant. The Sure Fire Thing is a series of processes that facilitators can use to improve and enhance the performance of almost any extension package.

The Sure Fire Thing processes have assisted in the selling of a package, as a result of the facilitator developing a rapport with potential clients. This may be a very useful series of processes to access market segments not previously involved in products and services requiring participants ongoing commitment over a given period of time.

The authors of this paper have continued to use the Sure Fire Thing processes on several occasions with similar success rates and intend to continue using it for future integrated extension activities. It is a very effective process for marketing.

References

  1. Sustainable Land & Water Resources Management Committee 1999, A National Strategy for Facilitating Change Management for Family Farm Business. Occasional Paper. Natural Resource Management Policy Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia, Canberra. Commonwealth of Australia. Finsbury Press, Thebarton South Australia.
  2. Van Beek, P., Claridge, CL., & Frank, B. (1997) Property Management Planning – National Evaluation, Interim Report, Funded by the Department of Primary Industries & Energy, Canberra, Centre for Integrated Resource Management.
  3. Van Beek, P., Claridge, CL., & Frank, B. (1998) National Evaluation – Property Management Planning, Queensland Report, Funded by the Department of Primary Industries & Energy, Canberra, Centre for Integrated Resource Management.

Appendix 1

An exert of a case study of the Eromanga Futureprofit group highlighting the relationship with perceptions of the level of control and a product or service to assist meet Futureprofit goals.

The following is the list of combinations used in determining perceived level of control over the business.

1. Those who don’t believe they have good control over the production system or the marketing of their produce.

2. Those who believe they have control over their production system but not the marketing of their produce.

3. Those who believe they have control over their production system and take some control over the marketing of their produce.

4. Those who believe they have control over their production system and demonstrate a lot of control of the marketing of their produce.

The following is the ranking system used in determining perceived level of control of the business:

Within each grouping there are those that have seen the need to, and have the desire to implement change, those that have seen the need to change but have no desire for change, and those who do not see any need to change at all.

While these segments are very broad categories we are finding they may be sufficient as a working guide for Futureprofit segmentation purposes. Although this is a very subjective ranking when explained to producers they can then use it as a way to track their own changes in perception of control.

Example of data gained through the Sure Fire Thing

Bus.

No

Perceived level of control of resource area

 

Production

Marketing

Control level

1

Good

Some

3

2

Good

Some

3

3

Some

None

1

4

Some

Some

2

5

Some

Some

2

6

Some

Some

2

7

Some

Some

2

8

Some

None

2

The match of these participants to a product or service offered could go as follows;

  • Participants 1 and 2 would benefit from a financial benchmarking exercise.
  • All except participant 2 would benefit from the Computer Aided Management workshop series.
  • Participants 3,4,5,6 and 8 would benefit from a Succession Planning workshop
  • The FUTUREPROFIT integrated workshop series has little to offer participant 1 & 2 if the remainder of the participants is to be involved. However, if they were joined with other like participants they would be able to maximise their learnings.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page