It can be a small world, after all

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Entrepreneur and author Seth Godin calls himself “an agent of change.” His books on marketing are as thought-provoking as their titles are entertaining: Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing out of Sync? is his most recent effort.
More than anything, Godin challenges individuals to think differently, to see the world through different lenses. His driving motivation is to shake you up.
“There has never been a worse time for business as usual,” Godin wrote in a recent blog post. “Business as usual is sure to fail, sure to disappoint, sure to numb our dreams.”
He’s right. The phrase “it is what it is” is on my favorite list when it means “whatever the situation is, get over it and deal with it.” But the phrase is on my blacklist when it means “just settle for whatever.”
We don’t need Godin to tell us it’s a marketer’s world now. Not a manufacturer’s world, a marketer’s world. You may produce corn, but you make your money through corn marketing. You may raise cattle, but how they’re marketed is the real bottom line. It’s about value-added, niches, convenience and prestige.
Can you transform your farm from production into marketing? Are there opportunities to market even your commodity products differently?
Maybe.
The Internet gives you the world. It gives you customers in the town next door or in a city in the next hemisphere. No middlemen. It’s a direct marketing connection that Godin says “upsets traditional power structures in just about every industry.”
Nebraska farmer John Miller recognized that connection early in the 1990s. He was raising hay for the traditional, commercial buyers, but wondered about a market for smaller (lots smaller) four-legged forage-eaters – the rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas of the world. Where did they get their forages? And could he create a market from tiny Murdock, Neb., population 300?
He and his then-12-year-old son printed some labels from their home computer, glued the labels on plastic bags in their garage, and filled them with a forage pet food. On a crazy-slow dial-up Internet connection, he fostered a Web site and received e-mail orders from an interested Internet audience. Then, in 1997, he received his first international order. Now, his products – with names like “Cavy Cuisine” and “Alfalfa Nibbles” – are in 20 countries.
“The whole world is your market,” Miller is quoted in a current Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City newsletter.
He’s still farming, but the old barn is now a modern office and his company employs 50 people.
We live in a world that’s filled with opportunity. And the last time I checked, opportunity was size-neutral. Even the small guys can grab it.
(Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at editor@farmanddairy.com.)

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

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