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Croplan Reaps Tall Response From Survey of Sunflower Growers

Croplan Genetics, a division of Land O' Lakes that sells seed to farmers, achieved a 32 percent response rate in a campaign to survey sunflower growers and build a database for future sales efforts.

The effort featured two mail pieces and, between the two mailings, a prerecorded message reminder. Croplan targeted the 3,000 largest sunflower growers nationwide to try to lure them away from the competition and grow its market share.

Sunflower growers are a small piece of the agriculture business, representing perhaps 10,000 farmers nationwide, said Jack Carlson, director of oil seeds for Croplan Genetics, Shoreview, MN. It made no sense to pursue them with a mass media campaign, so direct marketing proved the perfect channel.

Marketing agency Whitney Worldwide, St. Paul, MN, conducted the campaign. It advised Croplan to hit prospects with two mailings and use the same offer in each, said Les Layton, president of Whitney Worldwide.

“It's worth it to mail people twice,” Layton said. “We used to do huge mailings for banks, and a lot of times we mailed some package to 100,000 people, waited a couple of weeks and mailed them again, and we would get 65 percent of the response of the first time.”

Whitney used a list from Farm Journal, an agriculture magazine. The mailings included a survey that aimed to learn why the prospects were not buying Croplan seeds in the hope that Croplan sales people could use the information to convert prospects to their products.

The first mailer came in a white, 6-by-9-inch envelope with Croplan's logo on an address label. Inside were a letter to the prospect, the survey with reply envelope and a yellow “to-do list” Post-It notepad. On the first page of the notepad, the No. 1 item “to do” was “Get Sunflower Seed From Co-op.” The mailer also included a four-color picture of sunflowers with a list of seven reasons to buy seed from Croplan.

For the second mailer, Croplan used a 9-by-12 envelope and included the same items from the first mailing, including an update letter. The second envelope also contained a yellow 3M highway emergency vest, useful to farmers who spend a lot of time on tractors, Layton said.

Croplan also used a 40-second voicemail message featuring a Ronald Reagan impersonator reminding prospects of the offer. The message helped boost response and Croplan agreed to the idea, though one of its executives who helped with the campaign was the son of an agriculture secretary who served in the Carter administration.

The campaign was timed to coincide with the growing season. The first piece mailed in the third week of February, the message came during the second week of March and the second mailer dropped the third week of March.

The mailers offered incentives for returning a survey about their business to Croplan. The incentives were $100 in coupons from 3M — a supplier familiar to the farmers, Layton said — and a $50 3M gift box.

“The things we were sending out were pretty modest items,” Carlson said. “We were pleased to get that kind of response to a survey.”

The mailers also offered a $60 laptop carrying bag if the farmers bought 10 bags of Croplan Genetics sunflower seeds and returned the receipts. This offer has generated about a 3 percent response, though it is harder to track because not all prospects send in their receipts, Layton said.

Whitney Worldwide has a relationship with 3M and so got good deals on 3M products used in the campaign, Layton said. In addition to providing marketing services, Whitney Worldwide is a 3M authorized distributor and owns several 3M business units.

Whitney has worked for Croplan Genetics on several campaigns in the past, including one last year marketing canola seed, Carlson said. Croplan looks to do more direct marketing, using the channel to expand market share among crops with a limited universe of growers.

Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing and direct response TV marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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