In today’s ultra-fast, highly digitalized world, it’s sometimes easy to overlook how much real, human to human relationship still matters. In life, in business and in agriculture, taking time to communicate openly, develop trust and build rapport is vital to success. Whether you are a potato grower, a seed producer, a retailer, a consumer, or – like us – a variety marketing company, you are a key player in the potato production network. Our individual and joint futures depend on each of us committing to strong, two-way communication within the network: asking good questions of one’s suppliers, investing time in one’s customers, and making choices for long-term relationship over short-term gain.
Business success starts with good product. However, assuming one’s product will speak for itself with no help from you is a serious mistake. Want proof? Every year, Duke University’s School of Marketing, Deloitte and the American Marketing Association conduct an in-depth survey on marketing and consumer trends. Not surprisingly, a high percentage of this year’s respondents – 24.7 per cent – ranked product quality as their customers’ highest priority. What is more surprising, however, is that almost double as many respondents – 47.4 per cent – ranked key relationship priorities as their customers’ highest priority: 23.7 per cent of respondents ranked excellent service as priority one; 23.7 per cent ranked trusting relationship in top position. These results prove customer service is not an optional, ‘if you feel like it’ business add-on. Rather, it is literally the most fundamental component of business viability.
Building strong, long-term business relationships depends on developing a mind-set of openness rather than marking off tasks on a to-do list. What does that look like in action? Shipping a load of seed potatoes and sending off an invoice is a necessary to-do. Maintaining open dialogue by following up with the customer and then responding promptly to any questions – even if those questions come long after the product and payment are received – is a mind-set.
In our business, summer used to be very quiet. Today, summer brings a non-stop flow of people: growers checking out our fields to see new varieties in action, customers connecting to find answers to their agronomic questions and challenges, seed producers meeting with us to visit customer fields, scientists and growers alike walking the rows at field days and field trials. We welcome the change and encourage our entire industry to take these kind of opportunities for enhanced connecting and relationship building.