A Feb. 6 blog post by one of my favorite business and marketing gurus, Seth Godin, had me pondering this question recently and how it relates to ranching businesses.
Godin says there basically are two types of relationships we have with the future.
- The first involves an optimistic vision of what lies ahead – "tomorrow is likely to be better."
- The second view is that "yesterday was a lot better than today."
With the first outlook the individual sees promise, opportunity and the chance to make a difference. Using the second perspective, tomorrow is nothing more than dried-up resources, less chances for opportunity and another day closer to our own demise.
In agriculture and ranching especially, we have our fair share of both perspectives. When the future comes to mind most times our thoughts go to sustainability. However, the meaning of that word to those producing versus those consuming usually represent very different concepts.
Godin says in the tech industry there are "early adopters" and he makes it very clear is not the same as "early adapters."
"Adaptation implies that people aren't eagerly going forward, they're merely tolerating what gets thrown at them," he says.
Like it or not, when it comes to the future, Godin says a marketer only has two choices:
1. Market your wares to people who are eager for change.
2. Market to people who would prefer not to change.
In the ranching business it seems to me the majority of the industry spends more time trying to adapt than to adopt. Yet this is counter-productive because as Godin says, the future happens - every single day, like it or not.
The future could be risky or it could be filled with possibility and opportunity. Which one is ultimately left up to the stakeholders and is largely a function of attitude.
Curt Pate made some good observations in his blog post last week related to this topic. He suggests the sustainable movement isn't going away anytime soon. When Walmart and McDonald's have it on their marketing agendas the force of the concept is hard to deny.
From Pate's perspective, some producers view the customer's idea of sustainability with negativity. They forget that the purpose of their business (the ranch) is to produce a product for said customer. Most ranches do not sell directly to the customer. Companies like Walmart and McDonald's do. Pate suggests they likely have a better idea of what the customer wants than does the producer.
That being said, Pate suggests we need to "separate our wants from our needs." People don't need to eat beef, but ranch businesses "need" the customer to "want" their product.
The customer is telling us what they want. The opportunities are there. What relationship with the future will your ranch business choose?