Story: Struggling organic farmer saves the family farm

by Rick Braddy on November 23, 2009

in Precision Marketing

sunrise-farms“Struggling organic farmer saves the family farm and discovers new growth opportunities”

This blog post is quite a bit different than most.  In this post, we’re going to explore an actual example of how effective storytelling can be at grabbing a reader’s attention, conveying the benefits of a product by way of example, and stirring emotional interest and desire in a prospect’s mind, leading to more sales from a portion of an audience who is ignoring or increasingly resistant to traditional marketing and advertising methods.

First, let’s take a look at the usual way this “case study” kind of information is used. Have a look at the PDF Case Study, which is typical of case study documents on literally tens of thousands of websites across the Internet.  Unfortunately for these companies, this is as far as these cases are ever explored or communicated – an enormous missed opportunity.

pdf

Case Study

Next, I would like to share the story of how AgriOrganics Labs products saved their customer’s farm, then helped them grow the farm into a thriving business.  Here’s the story:

“Struggling organic farmer saves the family farm and discovers new growth opportunities”

Jimmy Dunn, Jr. awakes before dawn and enjoys a cup of coffee on the front porch, just like his father and grandfather did before him on the family farm, where he’s lived and worked as long as he can remember.  However, this day isn’t like any of those other days before. Today, he realizes just how close he is to losing the farm.

Over the years, the family has fought droughts, locusts and even the Great Depression and somehow managed to hold on to the farm – but today things are different.  The big farming coalitions are blocking the flow of their produce to the national market, forcing the farm to sell its products locally at a steep discount and lower volume that’s threatening to bankrupt the farm – and his family.

As the sun rises over the hills, Jimmy ponders their options.  His wife, Victoria, thinks they should just sell the farm to the coalition and find another way forward.  Working this farm is all Jimmy knows and wants in life, and he’s not about to just give up and sell out to the big guys.  They’ve faced adversity before and prevailed – there has to be a way.

Jimmy realizes he’s powerless to overcome the stranglehold the coalition has formed against the independents like Sunrise Farms – at least if he continues to play by their rules.  He stands up, walks down the stairs onto the front lawn and out of the corner of his eye notices the bag of fertilizer next to the flowerbed.  It says “Organic Super-growth Formula”, and claims to be free from chemicals and safe for organic gardens.  Their gardener was using it to plant some tulips in the flowerbed around the front porch.  Then it hit him.

“Of course,” he said to himself aloud!  It just might work.  They would convert the farm over to growing and selling organic vegetables.  Organic vegetables are fetching a premium price at the markets, and are in extremely high demand, both locally and nationally.  How hard could it be to learn organic farming?

Jimmy immediately began the process of switching over to organic farming methods, took out a loan to get the new equipment required, and filed for their organic certification inspection and permit.

Victoria continued to worry, feeling like perhaps they might be going in the wrong direction.  What if they couldn’t sell the organic products or something else unexpected happened?  The loan they’d taken out was looming over their head like a dark cloud, and money was so tight she’d sold her grandmother’s diamond wedding ring to raise money to pay bills last month.  She could feel they were running out of time.

About 3 months later, the farm received its organic certifications and Jimmy began contacting various buyers of organic produce.  Their crop wouldn’t be available for a few more months, but experience has shown it’s better to sell as much of the crop ahead of time, if possible.  It was tougher going than Jimmy had expected, forging new relationships with buyers they didn’t know, and with a new, unknown organic farm with no track record, there were lots of questions Jimmy wasn’t sure he knew the right answers to when asked.

As Jimmy drove past one of their fields on the way to church one Sunday, he noticed something didn’t look right – the field had a yellowish tint to it.  That afternoon, Jimmy drove over to the field to take a closer look.  What he discovered made his heart sink – the entire field was infested and the crops were damaged, some beyond recovery.

And from the looks of it, the problem was spreading toward the rest of their main fields.  Jimmy knew if he didn’t get this infestation under control fast they could lose the entire crop – and the farm.

Under normal circumstances, they would just dust the crops with the pesticide they’d used for years. In fact, there was enough of it still sitting in the barn to do the job; however, using that pesticide would violate the organic certification they’d worked so hard to earn over the past few months.

When Victoria heard the news, she panicked.  “We have to do whatever it takes to save that crop, Jimmy.  Besides, who will know?  It’s our farm and we can do whatever we must to protect it!” she said.

Jimmy replied, “I’ll know.  I’ll know we’ve cheated and that our crop isn’t qualified to be sold as organic – and it’s a violation of state law to claim a crop is certified as organic when it’s not.  There has to be another way.”

Their 16-year old daughter, Vanessa, listening to the conversation and seeing how upset and worried both her parents were, decided to see what she could do to help.  Unlike her parents, Vanessa is technology-savvy, like most kids today.  She quickly goes to Google and researches “organic pesticides” and finds several options.

A very promising company named AgriOrganics Labs claimed they could address most any vegetable crop infestation using their state-of-the-art organic pesticides.  And unlike the other options, AgriOrganics Labs offered a free testing service, where you just send them a sample of the plant and infestation, and within 48 hours they’ll ship you the solution.  This sounded like what was needed – a quick solution they could count on working the first time, before any more damage was done to the crop.

Vanessa filled out the free testing service request form and printed everything out to show her dad.

He was sitting on the porch, staring out at the dark clouds and lightening of a thunderstorm that was growing closer.  She said, “Daddy, I know how worried you are, so I went online and looked around.  I found something that looks like it might help our farm.”

Jimmy perked up out of his near depression state, and said, “What’s that, Honeybee?”  Honeybee is Vanessa’s nickname that her dad has called her since she was just a little girl, working her little honey farm out back.

“I found a company that makes organic pesticides and guarantees they can get us a solution to our problem in 48 hours or less,” she said, handing the printed papers to him.  “All we have to do is send them some samples and they’ll ship us what we need to get rid of those caterpillars and beetles.  And they’re certified for use in organic farming – that’s what we need, right?”

Jimmy pulled his glasses out of his shirt pocket and put them on, studying the material more closely now.  Then he smiled and said, “This looks like just what the doctor ordered, Honeybee.  I’ll give ‘em a call first thing tomorrow.  Thanks darling“, reaching out and giving her a big hug and a peck on the cheek.

The next morning, Jimmy called the toll-free 800 number and spoke with a very nice person, who explained exactly what they needed in order to run their tests.  Given the presence of caterpillars and beetles, the man was very certain they could address the infestation with one of their best-selling organic pesticides.

The AgriOrganics Labs organic pesticide was about three times as expensive as the usual pesticides they had been using, but well worth the price if it worked as advertised.  Jimmy quickly visited the infested field, gathered the samples, and placed them in a small box that he then sent overnight to the AgriOrganics Labs folks.

Sure enough, 2 days later, Victoria came outside and said that the lab people were on the phone.  They told Jimmy they had exactly what’s needed to treat the infested field as well as the rest of the farm to prevent further spread and damage – a product they called “Formula 5™”.  They also said that Formula 5 would protect the farm against 73 other potential pests, and would last about 6 months between treatments.

Jimmy placed his order over the phone on the spot, not wanting to waste another minute.  Fortunately, AgriOrganics Labs has a distribution center just 75 miles north of the farm, so they could deliver and apply Formula 5 within just a few days.

Jimmy was happy to pay the nominal delivery and application service charge to have it all taken care of for him at this point, and to ensure the product was applied properly by the experts this time.

The AgriOrganics Labs team called and set an appointment to arrive on Friday morning, and said they planned to work through the weekend to get the job done.  Jimmy was impressed by how professional they looked, wearing their white lab coat uniforms.

This was definitely different from anything else he’d ever seen.  He was grateful that they weren’t wasting any precious time and were willing to work through their weekend to take care of everything.  He just hoped and prayed that it wasn’t too late…

Jimmy watched them prepare their equipment and go to work.  They applied the Formula 5 using a “fog” delivery system.  They used the wind to help distribute the Formula 5 across the fields.  It took only about a day to treat the entire farm.  They came back and repeated the same treatment two more times over the weekend.

Then Sunday afternoon, they came by the house and said they were finished, and that their early testing results showed the infestation was cured.  They asked Jimmy to accompany them to inspect the fields.  As promised, there was no sign of any caterpillars or beetles.  Jimmy thanked them and they took off their white lab coats, climbed into their truck, and drove away down the gravel road.

Victoria brought out a tray with plastic glasses and a pitcher of iced tea, and they sat on the porch together, watching the sunset.  Victoria said, “Well, they sure were very nice people.  Do you think the crops will be OK now?”

Jimmy said, “Yep. That Formula 5 product of theirs worked better than anything I’ve ever seen – heck, better than anything I’ve ever heard of.  I’m going to tell Jed and Barry about this stuff, since their farms are also showing signs of those same critters now.”

About then, Vanessa drove up in her white Mustang convertible, and parked on the grass where she usually does.  Jimmy said, “You realize our little Honeybee saved the farm, don’t you?”  Vanessa said, “Yeah.  Let’s go into town and celebrate with a nice dinner at that fancy new restaurant, Jimmy.”  Jimmy replied, “You betcha.  We definitely have a lot to be thankful for and celebrate today. Let’s go.”

The following week, the phone rang again.  It was the AgriOrganics Labs people following up to make sure everything was alight.  Jimmy explained how there was still no sign of those “pesky critters” (as he called them), and gave them the names and phone numbers of his nearby farmer friends, who were also in need of Formula 5™, since the traditional pesticides they’d tried didn’t seem to be working very well on the beetles for some reason.

For just a moment, Jimmy reflected how they’d been tempted to by-pass the organic farming rules and use conventional pesticides just a few weeks earlier.  In retrospect, that could have cost them the farm, since these particular beetles were not responding to traditional pesticide treatment.

Then the AgriOrganics Labs representative asked Jimmy something unexpected.  She said, “We noticed you’re growing organic tomatoes, corn and squash.  What if your organic vegetables grew up to 50% bigger and faster – would that be of interest to you?”

Jimmy said, “Yeah, sure.  Why do you ask?”  She went on to tell a story about an organic vegetable farmer who doubled his profits last year using their new OrganiGrow™ fertilizer product.  She said it was one of the best-kept secrets in their industry, and it came with a money-back guarantee, like all AgriOgranics Labs products.

Jimmy thought about it a moment.  He realized they had lost nearly half of that first field before curing the infestation, and could really use some kind of boost to recover fully. She said they were even able to provide the product on credit, since they believed in it so strongly and knew it was a great investment for his farm.

Jimmy said, “Well, if it works as well as Formula 5 did, I’d be a fool not to try it!”  This time, Jimmy was able to apply the fertilizer himself in a couple of day’s time using his regular equipment.

They were only a couple of months away from the harvest now, and the future was already looking brighter to Jimmy.  Even Victoria seemed to believe they were going to make it through these tough times.

A few months later, the harvest went smoothly and they found several buyers, but only sold about half of the crop.  The tomatoes were the biggest, most beautiful Jimmy had ever grown at their farm.  Jed asked him what kind of “steroids” he was using on them!  Jimmy just smiled, realizing the AgrilOrganics Labs folks really saved his farm.

The next day the doorbell rang.  A man introduced himself as a representative for a national grocery chain supplier.  After a good discussion and a few glasses of iced tea, the man placed an order for their entire remaining crop, at a price that was 25% higher than market prices.

Jimmy signed a contract to sell their next three years crops, all they could grow, to this one national distributor.  The man mentioned repeatedly that the demand for organic vegetables was doubling every year, and it was tougher than ever to find top-quality organic produce like Sunrise Farms’ was selling.

After the man left, Vanessa said, “Daddy, I saw the Bruner’s are trying to lease their fields – maybe we could expand our farm by using their land and help Mrs. Bruner out.”  Mr. Bruner had passed away that summer, there was nobody to run the farm for them, and Mrs. Bruner was now struggling financially.

“That’s a brilliant idea, Honeybee!”  I’ll give Mrs. Bruner a call and see what she’s asking for a lease.

That was two years ago.  Today, Sunrise Farms continues to grow and expand – along with AgriOrganics Labs, who continue to supply Sunrise Farms with its premium quality organic fertilizers and pesticides.

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Learn more about how to use powerful storytelling techniques in your marketing mix…

Discover how easy it is to create powerful stories that reach a part of your audience who will very likely continue to ignore you… until you do.

Note: This story is fictional, serving as an example of how to use storytelling in marketing.  Any relationship to actual companies, places, people or things are completely coincidental.  No beetles or caterpillars were harmed in the making of this story.

See the difference?  It’s like night and day… especially to a customer!

Customers are much more interested in stories about other customers who are like them than they are in your (or anyone else’s) product.  That’s why case studies need to be turned into compelling stories – and these stories need to be promoted as low-key, high-powered campaigns that boosts your sales.

These stories are everywhere around us, just waiting to be told.

These story-based techniques are responsible for generating millions of dollars in sales in a matter of days… (in the Internet Marketing arena).  They work anywhere human beings are involved (which is still around 100% of any market, at least until “V” really shows up!)

That’s why we created “The Precision Marketing System” – to provide our customers with a way to unleash the untold power of these stories.

What kind of stories do you have to tell?

Next steps:  Watch this video

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