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Transformational Thinking? Think Outside the Office

One way you can achieve transformational thinking is through innovative learning opportunities. Some days call for shutting down the computer and getting out into the fields for hands-on learning.

At Woodruff, transformational thinking is in our blood, and we believe in investing in lifelong learning to fully embrace this inherent value. We do this not only to enhance the services we provide for our clients but also to create strong team bonds while keeping our creative juices flowing.

Last year we looked at another way we enhance our transformational thinking. In the fall of 2022, our team built a series of agricultural tours to enhance our ag team’s knowledge about our clients and demographics. Our goal is to hold two agricultural tours a year, rotating crops, clients and team members involved. Our first two tours were rousing successes, and as you read on you’ll see transformational ideas have already sprouted.

Through the Lens of the Client

In late September, a group of Woodruffians and Alta Seeds employees traveled to Manhattan, Kansas, to visit one of the seed company’s test plots. Alta Seeds, one of our agricultural clients, embraced the opportunity to connect in person after hearing about our desire to get out in the fields and tour.

Seeing firsthand what our client does was an invaluable experience for everyone who attended. We deepened our understanding of our client’s business model and their customer base, which can only translate to better work.

You see, the sorghum industry isn’t as simple as “seed companies sell to farmers.” Instead, you may be surprised to learn that primary customers for a seed company like Alta Seeds are seed distributors and retailers who then sell their inventory to farmers and growers across the country.

Though we have quite a bit of experience with sorghum, it’s always important to have firsthand knowledge of a client’s products, especially when it comes to crop strains and hybrids. Plus, as our company grows, it’s great for newer team members who haven’t met with a client in person yet to get out into the field. After all, there’s a huge difference in seeing the products via video versus in real life.

We immediately took everything we learned on this firsthand tour and started pouring it into strengthening our client’s marketing toolkit and creating campaigns that align with our client’s brand and mission in 2023.

Learning in Motion

Since our tour, we’ve developed a new website for Alta Seeds to distinguish them as the true sorghum leaders they are in the industry. Discussing crop and client updates in person helped our team think beyond a conventional web design and transform our client’s website into a tool for grower success, season after season.

Our tour directly helped us revamp our client’s YouTube channel. We were able to use keywords gathered from the tour to enhance the search engine optimization of their channel. Through the redevelopment of video titles and descriptions, we transformed their channel to serve as a resource for anyone wanting to learn more about sorghum and the hybrids Alta Seeds offers.

Beyond developing a new website and giving their YouTube channel a facelift, we’ve transformed our day-to-day projects, including social media management, for the better since stepping foot in the field and getting out from behind our desks. Attending a field tour has been a transformative experience for the team at Woodruff, allowing us to better serve our client as a whole.

Through the Lens of the Grower

After the success of our Alta Seeds tour, a trio of Woodruffians traveled to Clearwater, Kansas, in early November to meet with a milo grower. We learned a lot while riding in the combine during the tail end of harvest, including what issues were top-of-mind for farmers, some of the media they consumed and what it was like to become a no-till operation.

While we’ve mentioned sorghum in the previous paragraphs, it’s important to note the difference in how the grower we visited referred to his crop. What is called sorghum by some was widely referred to as milo in the state of Kansas. This may sound as simple as tomayto versus tomahto, right?

But the words we choose in conversation and in marketing matter. Our choices show our team’s investment in our demographic and our passion about the industries we serve.

Taking time to understand regional differences in your demographics — more easily obtained in casual conversation — will set you apart from your competitors.

Speaking of standing out from your competition, the grower we visited was one of the first in his area to go no-till back in 1999. Not only did this switch make sense from an environmental standpoint, but he shared that it also made financial sense. Allowing the nutrients, biomass and residue to be recycled back into the soil to create healthier fields meant the grower saw roughly $30 more per bushel from this sustainable switch. No-till was something he was passionate about long before 1999. However, he explained the shift had to wait until it was his time to take over the operation.

Each generation of growers can bring something new to the table to enhance the efforts of growers past — whether that’s environmental, managerial or yield potential improvements. And this conversation served as a great reminder that the research, solutions and tools we develop today for a healthier tomorrow do not fall on deaf ears. Current and future growers are listening.

When reviewing potential products for his operation, he explained he looks at two key factors: 1) affordability and 2) whether it will harm the beneficial insects needed in his fields. The latter he doesn’t budge on.

What else can we learn from conversations and tours like this? Digestible data and transparency will be monumental when marketing to current and future growers. Solutions that can improve the health of our planet while also ensuring our society a safe source of food is not a trend. It’s a priority that has already been adopted by many, years prior.

It’s time to use that transformative thinking from conversations you have with growers yourselves to understand how we can all best serve them in their large task of feeding a growing population with less resources and land than they had 60+ years ago.

How We Use This Info for Transformative Thinking

Getting out of the office and into the field has already been incredibly beneficial for our team as we learned directly from farmers and our clients how best to serve them. We believe that learning from the source is crucial in order to be better marketers for those who are stewards of the land.

You’ve heard it time and time again: “There’s no such thing as a dumb question!” If there’s one thing we can emphasize when you take trips of your own, it’s not to be afraid to ask the questions — and then take time to really listen to your clients and your demographics when they answer.

One of the many amazing characteristics of those involved in agriculture is their willingness to help educate others on the process they go through to ensure the food we eat safely gets from the field to the dinner plate. You don’t have to be an expert when you step on the field; you just have to have an open mind, ready to bring the information back to your team, your current clients and your potential clients. There’s something we can learn from everyone. And who knows what conversation will spark that million-dollar idea!

Trips across the Midwest this past fall showed us the value of getting out of the office and into the fields. And we’re already gearing up for the third tour scheduled for the spring. Stay tuned!