What we learned at Farmfest

In an effort to better serve our agribusiness clients, Interlinx Associates took a family outing, I mean company outing, to Farmfest 2015 on Gilfillan Estate to talk face to face to businesses like us serving food and agriculture companies. Our business helps other businesses be more efficient with their important customer data by implementing a customized Salesforce.com CRM application. Simply put, we remove barriers to the perfect sales day and we wanted to learn more about the barriers in agribusiness. How are you tracking customer data? Where are you storing your lead information? How are you logging sales history?

The day started with a history lesson on corn and Redwood Falls, the birthplace and childhood home of the co-founder of Interlinx Associates, Scot Zimmerman. First, Redwood Falls is located on the richest soil in America. Lake Agassiz, an enormous glacial lake (100 square miles according to Wikipedia) that existed during the last ice age, produced a sediment rich lake bottom. When Lake Agassiz deteriorated it left behind black dirt 5 feet deep. And from that dirt grows corn. How many products are made from corn? There is the obvious – cereal, animal feed, corn oil, corn syrup, and the hundred other food products. Then there is the myriad of industrial and pharmaceutical products – soap, paint, corks, linoleum, polish, adhesives, rubber substitutes, printing inks, fireworks, caulk, wallboard, dry-cell batteries, cosmetic powders, candles, dyes, antibiotic products, lubricants, insulation, wallpaper, alcohols, ethanol, plastics, enzymes, octane enhancers, oxygenates, solvents, amino acids and much, much more.

Packed with knowledge, we entered the Estate grounds, separated into groups so as to cover the most ground, boys verses girls, and headed down the avenues spotted with branded flags, massive machinery, grain bins (I never did ask about the difficulty of setting up a grain bin for a 3-day event) and many smaller exhibitors supporting the food and agriculture industries.

After a day of meeting people and talking Customer Relationship Management we headed to the local Dairy Queen (we tried Dairy King first but it was closed) to share what we learned.

First, not all the exhibitors were actively selling. A large percentage was either there for brand recognition, like Monsanto and DuPont, or to distribute information, like the University of Minnesota or the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Among this group, none were using a CRM application to track any information obtained at Farmfest.

Another group of exhibitors, that were selling, did not record any customer data but instead advised the customer to contact the main dealer or distributor directly. We talked with businesses that were using a CRM application and it seemed like these companies were not large enough to hire extra people to work the festival and not small enough to get by with a notebook or spreadsheet; they were just the right size to realize the benefits.

In every case, we recognized ways we could improve their selling process or marketing with a CRM application. Today’s options are customizable, simple, reliable and mobile.

We left Redwood Falls, Dairy Queen and the 12-foot high corn stalks at 5:00 pm and headed back to the Twin Cities complete with a new insight into agribusiness, Lake Agassiz and corn.

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