Working Outside Your Comfort Zone

As I sit at an industry conference for my construction marketing job, I notice a booth nestled among the typical construction suppliers and vendors that is quite out of the norm. In the midst of routine and expected is a hunting guide, his stuffed pheasant and camo gear in a booth advertising a pheasant hunting lodge in northern Oklahoma.

Chris Grounds, owner of Pheasant Ridge Hunting in Hooker, Okla., began like most in his industry, exhibiting and selling his product to others in the hunting and fishing industry. It made sense, he knew people in that industry liked to hunt and spoke his language. But Chris rarely left a hunting and fishing expo with a sale. He is the first to admit he attended those events because that’s where his competition was. But after speaking with a man trying to sell him equipment, Chris changed his marketing strategy. The salesman urged him to step outside his industry, move into unknown territory and start talking to people that had absolutely nothing to do hunting and fishing. He did just that.

Six years later, Chris and an employee are exhibiting at an oil and natural gas conference after just exhibiting an electricians conference. At these conferences, Chris surrounds himself with people who need or might potentially have a use for a hunting and fishing lodge. The sale may take a little longer and the lingo might have to change but the company representatives listen, like what he has to say and quite often become customers.

We in the agriculture industry are often a lot like Chris, we believe that talking to other farmers, cattlemen and agriculture advocates is the best way to share our message. They get it, they understand us and they aren’t likely to question our motives. But those conversations rarely net the agriculture industry new allies. It’s only when we follow Chris’s path that we find new friends and convert enemies into allies.

As an advocate for agriculture, I fall into the same trap. My Twitter feed is full of farmers and ranchers, my blogs appear on the news feeds of other farmers and ranchers and I find myself sharing my story with others just like me. It’s an easy habit to fall into and one that doesn’t hurt anything, but doesn’t move us any farther into the conversations between consumers.

We as farmers and ranchers need to be networking with dieticians, educators, child care providers, law makers, doctors, college kids and anyone else that questions our motives, our lifestyle and our work. To do that, we need to move into their worlds, attend their trade shows and knock on their doors. Agriculture can’t wait for consumers to come to it, industry leaders and spokespeople need to go to them.

The change won’t be easy, it won’t be comfortable but just ask Chris, and he will tell you that it will net plenty of positive results.

Learn more about Chris’s hunting and fishing lodge at

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