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Do Growers Trust You? It’s the Key for U.S. Ag Retailers

Retailers succeed by taking the time and the right attitude to build trust with their customers.

U.S. farmers report that trust is the key to giving more of their business to a retailer. 

Many farmers spread their business around to more than one retailer, but they don’t spread it equally.  Those retailers who are highly trusted get 78% of their customer’s crop input business; more than four times higher than the share of customer that retailers get when customer trust is low (just 17%).

Farmers think about a lot of different things when deciding where to buy their crop inputs.  According to a survey by Stratus Ag Research, the top three factors they look for are products being available when needed, people they trust and good prices. 

“Price is always going to be a factor,” said Mike Weddel of Stratus Research, “but when we dig deeper into why farmers really choose to give most of their business to a specific retailer, we find that it’s because of trust in the people and because the retailer makes them feel valued as a customer.  Price is not the key for most farmers.”

Of course, trust is complicated and can mean different things to different customers.  The Stratus study found that for some it is all about sound agronomic advice, while for others trust simply means being reliable with custom application.

The Stratus survey collected information from 1,506 American farmers in the spring of 2013.    

“Most of those farmers have been with the same retailer for at least three years, so we asked their reasons for staying loyal,” said Weddel.  “For 53% of farmers, knowing and trusting the people is one of the top-two reasons for staying with their retailer.”

It Takes Time to Build Trust
So, how can you build trust with your customers?  Time and stability are important.

Some farmers contributing to the study have switched crop input retailers within the past three years and Stratus asked them why.  One of the most common reasons for leaving a retailer is a change in ownership, management or staff. 

“A lot of customers leave when the people change,” said Weddel, “and those customers who stay on after personnel changes may give the retailer only a small share of their crop input dollars.”

Stratus found that farmers who have known a retailer contact for less than 5 years give that retailer 40% of their business; but those who have known their key retailer contact person for more than 5 years let him have 60% of their crop input dollars.  That is a 1.5 fold difference in share of customer, based on time alone.

It Also Takes a Helpful Attitude
Stratus also asked the 1,506 study participants what a retailer should do to earn their trust.  Fifty-seven percent rank “provides advice that helps you be more successful” as highly important; while 43% say it is important that their retailer “tries to understand their needs before selling a solution”.

Approaching customers in that way is the foundation to building trust, with all the benefits that brings to the relationship between retailers and farmers.

“It certainly pays for retailers to work at understanding what customers need and giving them useful advice,” said Weddel.  “Over time that builds trust, which means the customer stays loyal and spends a lot more of their crop input dollars in one place!”    

Our thanks go to those growers who participate in Stratus surveys.  Their input helps to shape agribusiness.  If you are a grower and you would like to contribute your opinions, you can sign up for on-line surveys at

Click here for more on Stratus research

By President

Mike’s extensive experience in all aspects of agri-business led him to discover the tremendous value of customer insight and how it can be applied to developing successful business strategies. He founded Stratus Ag Research in 1996 and has since been helping clients identify critical issues and make practical, functional recommendations based on comprehensive and innovative research.

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