Hunters and Farmers…Rural Marketing 101

My friend had applied for the position of Business Development Manager and was asked, during the interview, which approach he would prefer over the other. This was a tough question as both the hunter and farmers have same objective but two very distinct even contradicting approaches. This question, when raised at dinner table that night, created a very healthy debate among the marketers around the table. Some praised ‘farmers’ for eating what they grow and hated ‘hunters’ for they eat what they kill. Others brought in efficiency argument in favor of ‘hunters’ as ‘farming’ takes too much time. Why rear when there is game in the woods? Some said hunting is one shot and farming goes a long way. And some voted for doing-in-Rome in a cut throat market. Of course, there can be no right answer as preference would change with context of the problem. While participating in that debate, I had not even imagined of a situations where farmers would be the game for hunters.

Business Development was one of my assignments at Micro Drip in Pakistan. I spent Fall of 2009 visiting different villages meeting farmers to promote the usage of drip irrigation system – a totally new concept for them. And there I discovered how these farmers felt about companies marketing their seeds, fertilizer and pesticides etc. With prices and quantities of recommended inputs increasing every year, farmers have well placed doubts about the intentions of these companies. “They come in big cars and you know how those are financed? By sucking our blood – the salespeople are rewarded for sucking our blood, more the better”, said a farmer.

Well, is it just the mistrust? May be, but perceptions are reality. You are doing something that is scaring them away. So when you go to farmers, you better show some understanding of their business, establish a value proposition, demonstrate a win-win situation, solve the problem instead of selling the solution. Otherwise farmers would erect another scarecrow in their fields.