The digital world is a fast-paced, ever-evolving industry and finding your fit into that space can be a difficult task, especially for marketers growing cooperative and independent retail locations. When you don’t spend your entire week devoting yourself to learning the latest trends in digital networking, analytics and marketing strategies, many find themselves learning on-the-fly and spending time and resources in the wrong places.
This is the reason why Faye Bliese, Director of Branding & Digital Transformation at WinField United decided to start a program five years ago called the Digital Influencers Network (formerly known as the Brand Council), to help the communications teams at co-ops learn and grow in the digital marketing world.
The Digital Influencers Network is about extending Land O’Lakes Inc. services to members, helping them be the most successful they can be, through marketing their own brands and growing their business.
“As our member co-ops grow, we found that they are operationally excellent, but branding and marketing may not necessarily be a part of their wheelhouse yet,” Faye explains. “Our goal is to help them build their brand locally by providing them with the tools, training and resources to do that.”
Using the ATLAS platform, retail-owners can partner with Land O’Lakes to create customized websites that optimizes their customers’ digital experience. This unique platform is a key component of the program, Faye and her team have been hosting bi-annual seminars providing training sessions and an opportunity for communications teams from the co-ops to connect with one another.
She says that there is sometimes a disconnect between the sales staff and the communications teams at individual owner locations. It’s important these communications teams are looped into the learnings from the field as they consider how to create a great digital experience. “We needed a way to help the communications teams at the co-op learn more about the key insights from agronomy, ag tech and feed teams so they can help provide the content to drive a unique customer experience. The Digital Influencers Network was one way to do that and broadening our members network is one of the most important pieces of this. Our attendees get to connect and meet other people and stay connected with them even after the seminar.”
We Can all Win
When Dan Moran, Sr. Director of Livestock Marketing at Purina, saw what Faye and her team were doing, he recognized the same need across Purina customers. “A lot of these communications teams for these independent retailers are on an island,” Dan explains. “They are looking for help and direction on what strategies to implement so that they can succeed, and we are here to help them do that; we can invest time and resources so that we can all win.”
When Faye and Dan realized that both business units, whose customers are often the same, had an opportunity to provide an additional service to members, they joined forces and combined and expanded the Digital Influencers Network seminars to include everyone.
“Many of the team members who handle marketing and communications for the co-ops are also running HR, payroll and wear many hats for the organization. It can be especially hard to keep up and to find resources to help. This is where we come in. Our enterprise-level expertise and team can provide the tools and training to help them grow, and more importantly, connect them to a network of other marketers who are in the same position.”
Networking & Training
The Digital Influencers Network seminars are offered twice a year in different geographic locations.
“It starts off with a big networking session and dinner, so everyone can get to know one another and talk about the biggest topics they are struggling with or want to learn about,” Dan explains. “Then we have a one-and-a-half day working group seminar with 8-9 sessions covering topics from Google analytics, Facebook, digital ads, tracking or email marketing. We like to find out ahead of time what they want to learn and then we tailor the program and bring in experts to share and train.”
The Atlas platform is also a big part of the meeting. Faye and her team tailor working group sessions by experience level with the platform and then work individually with each group to further train and develop their knowledge.
The team has also brought in agency partners like Filament other agency partners and even some business unit experts. “We brought in some field staff from WinField United to share about the products like the R7® Tool, and the work they do, so the communications and marketing staff who are writing about their company have a deeper understanding of the products and services they offer,” Faye explained.
The Digital Influencers Network is about leveraging our cooperative business model and extending Land O’Lakes, Inc. services to members, helping them drive their businesses forward trough cutting-edge digital marketing.
In addition to the in-person seminars, both WinField United and Purina offer an extensive amount of resources online to help member marketers. Through WinField United and Purina Business Link pages, marketers have access to Ad Builder which contains resources like radio, print and direct mail templates.
Those interested in attending the next Digital Influencers Network meeting on October 8-10 in Nashville can reach out to either Dan Moran, Faye Bliese or Kevin Smith for more information.
This year’s agenda includes sessions on: Managing an Electronic Media Crisis, Maximizing Facebook, creating a “Test and Learn” media campaign, beginner and intermediate Atlas tool training and Market Planning.
Meet the Digital Influencers
Jennifer Kuffel, Agronomy and Grain Marketing Communications Specialist from Country Visions Cooperative shares how the Digital Influencers Network has helped her business.
Why did you decide to join the Digital Influencers Network?
We attend the meetings that are held because we feel that these are the people we need to be working with to be better. It’s great that we can learn from some of the best in agriculture marketing and feel free sharing ideas.
Digital marketing is changing every day, if you want to be seen, you need to keep doing better. By meeting with this group, we can all work together to continue improving our marketing tactics and keep our cooperatives going strong. WinField United has helped us accomplish that.
What has been the most useful tool or training you’ve gained from the Network?
Our website by far has been the biggest improvement to our company marketing wise, but we have definitely enhanced our social media presence from the inspirations from the network.
We look forward to moving to phase 2 once we are ready. Our experience with the Altas Team has been nothing short of amazing. As we are very limited on marketing staff in the cooperative, since the Atlas Team has been involved, it feels like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders. Our coop continues to see more value in digital presence thanks to the help of your team. We thank you for doing this and helping our co-op out!
Nichole Gouldie, Communications and Brand Manager at MKC explains how the Digital Influencers network has helped her cooperative.
How has the Digital Influencers Network helped you and your business?
Often at the co-op, the communications department is small. You often don’t have many team members to bounce ideas off of, and shares successes and challenges with those who do the same job you do. The Digital Influencers Network has helped our organization by forming a collaborative group for me in the communications department. The Digital Influencers Network has helped our organization be better informed with a lot of the vision and tactics the Winfield United teams are taking as far as marketing and PR, and how we can work together for the benefit of our growers. The Digital Influencers Network has allows us to be more aware of campaigns and initiatives so the message can be funneled down and our team can be more aware.