Marketing is one of the challenges that user cases are struggling with in the FAIRshare project. There can be good-working Digital Advisory Tool (DATS), but how to ensure many advisors and farmers start working with it? Off course there are several ways of increasing the number of users of a DATS, e.g. making it user-friendly and ensuring it is an added value or has a good cost-benefit ratio for the user. But users first needs to know the product, see the added value before they will use it. Therefore, a good marketing strategy is also of high importance.
As ILVO, we work on the data sharing platform DjustConnect (www.DjustConnect.be). Onboarding new users – farmers and horticulturists, as well as companies and governmental institutes – is one of the most important pillars to increase the ecosystem and make it a sustainable platform. That is why marking is a prerequisite and tried out different ways to do this. In this article, we share some insights and good practices we implemented for our last marketing action, producing 4 short movies with the title ‘DjustAsk’. During the short movies, you get to know the DjustConnect-team, who answer direct questions asked by a robot voice. The movies have a playful concept and are made in a no-nonsense and humorous way. Every movie talks about another topic, chosen based on the questions we encounter often. At the end, the audience is each time encouraged to take up contact with the team if they have more questions.– DjustConnect… what’s that?– DjustConnect… how does it work?– DjustConnect…what does it cost?– DjustConnect… and within five years? The results are being spread through social media and newsletters. But off course our marketing strategy didn’t start there.
Marketing a DATS?
Interaction with the users of a DATS is important throughout the entire life cycle: from the moment they first hear about your tool, up to when they are regular users. Potential users need to discover your tool, be convinced, start using it (download, register), and most importantly stay engaged. The process of marketing throughout all these stages is called the marketing funnel for mobile applications.
- It begins with general awareness, introducing the application to potential users. You can attract people to start using the DATS, using press articles, directly, organising events, email, using the community, word of mouth, etc.
- The second step is called ‘consideration’. Potential users need to gain trust in the application. Videos, reviews, press articles, etc can help in this stage.
- A crucial step is converting the customers. This happens when a user installs the application, registers and start making use of the offered service.
- A continued customer relationship is important, providing value for your users beyond the initial sale. This can be done by continued support and services, notifications, updates, etc. In this way you ensure retention of your customers.
For DjustConnect, we are working in all of these stages at the moment. For each stage, we have other marketing strategies. For the DjustAsk movies, we are focussing on the ‘consideration’ step. A lot of work has been done the previous years on awareness – developing the house style, making the website, organising events, do hands-on workshops with the different target groups, being visible on agricultural fairs, etc. A big portion of potential users – farmers as well as companies – know DjustConnect, but we feel many questions stay alive. How does it work, is it difficult or expensive, what are the advantages exactly, and the disadvantages? With some categories of users, we feel a lack of trust in the system, because of all these questions. However, we do have answers to them, but we need to get the chance and some time to give these explanations – which is not always possible in a short social media post or a press release. Direct contact is very good to work on this, but it takes a lot of time to speak separately to all potential users. That is why digital marketing is also an important pillar to work on this.
Digital marketing strategy
With a digital marketing strategy you can achieve certain business goals using digital technologies and media. This is complementary to the classical marketing, but nowadays essential. As for all marketing strategies, you need to start understanding your potential users, and keep them in mind throughout the whole process. In the figure below, key aspects of a digital marketing strategy are visualised.
One of the important elements of a digital marketing strategy is off course social media. A good social media presence is necessary these days, since it is one of the easiest ways to be found online and giving a DATS visibility. As organisation or tool, you can have different social media profiles, including a LinkedIn or Facebook page, a Twitter handle, an Instagram account and a YouTube channel. Depending on your target audience, you choose one or more of these, to consistently be active on to engage with your potential users.
There are many different styles and insights on digital marketing, but one that speaks to us is the following: “It is important to be creative in marketing. Taking risks and colouring outside the lines are essential to bring crazy ideas to life. It’s not just about following the rules, but daring to deviate and present your brand in a unique way.” (Rob Van Impe, Worksmarter, 2023)
There is so much content on social media, that you need to stand out to be remarked. That is why the DjustConnect team had the idea to make short movies, implementing good practices on digital marketing. We really started to implement the quote on creativity, even though this is not that obvious in a sector with still often an old-fashioned or conservative image. For our marketing we always keep our target group in mind, trying to speak to them, but also using more trendy methods. We incorporated the different elements of the Cyber Work model on digital marketing strategy in the DjustAsk movies in the following way:
Team: During the short movies, the audience gets to know the team better. It shows the faces behind the tool, which makes the story more personal. This gives a feeling of familiarity, and makes it easier to reach out to us.
Trends: Videos and reels are trending at the moment on social media. That is why we chose to make video material, to spread our message. These videos can be used on different social media plaƞorms, but also on the website and during events.
Brand: DjustConnect has a very recognisable logo and house style, with 4 recurring colours. These have been used throughout the movies, in the backgrounds and colours of clothing.
Service: The services of DjustConnect are explained in an easy, accessible way: the API shop, dashboard, technical infrastructure, legal support and matchmaking.
Support: The helpdesk is mentioned several times, including the fact that users can get very personalised support. The audience also gets to know the different profiles in the team: coordinator, helpdesk, research, business development, IT. This makes it clearer how the plaƞorm works and who to reach out to.
Innovation: the innovative research on data sharing, the data economy and data spaces, based on which we continue developing DjustConnect, are mentioned several times, especially in the last movie that focuses on the future of DjustConnect. We share our future view on the platform, to convince potential users that they will join a community that stays up to date and used state-of-the-art resources. All this is done, keeping in mind the necessary balance, to keep our more ‘conservative’ users included. We try to achieve this by keeping it ‘feet on the ground’ and ensuring immediate added value for them. So that the whole thing does not feel unfeasible or futuristic and farmers/businesses really want to use it today.
Social media: The movies are published on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook – LinkedIn being the most effective channel for us. Nevertheless, there are not much farmers on LinkedIn, so for this target group we should find additional channels
Meaningful marketing framework
As research institute working on innovation for the sector, our goal is not profit, but contributing to the innovation of the agrifood sector. Consequently, our marketing doesn’t aim at making profit, but serves other innovative goals – e.g. generate and transfer knowledge about data sharing to contribute to a more sustainable agrifood sector and helping people and companies to become part of a fair data economy, keeping farmers in control of their data. Too commercial marketing frameworks don’t match with our mission. Despite the more commercial insert of other DATs, present marketing is evolving from “doing more “ towards “doing better”.
To facilitate this transformation, the Belgian Association of Marketing puts forward the meaningful marketing framework. This framework supports companies towards a new way of doing business, that allows them to secure their long term sustainability. This model envisages not to do more, but to do better, thanks to a new way of doing business that allows companies to secure their business in the long term. Trust is one of the key blocks.
Trust is important for DATs that were put into the market by research institutes like our DjustConnect, but it is as important for commercial companies. A lot of DATs in agrifood focuses on customized advice, using user specific data or information with makes the input data as well as the outcome sensitive. It relates to personal information and business insights of the farmers or agrifood businesses. Consequently, this requires specific attention in the marketing strategy. Trust is the ability of the organization to deserve the confidence of the customer. But how to make this happen?
Potential users expect fair products and services, with clear benefits for them, being transparent on how the systems work, how data is being managed, and how benefits are shared. Respect for the client, also through respectful communication is important to build a lasting relationship with your customers.
Another component for trust, is being authentic, always promoting the shared values you are working on. For example, demonstrating your purpose, respecting data privacy and being open to take concerns of users into account. Additionally showing the human touch in the interactions makes a huge difference, when you show your genuine interest and commitment around your tool.
Trust is the main aspect of marketing we are building on with DjustConnect. In the DjustAsk-movies, we did this by being transparent and genuine, by giving a face to the team and becoming more accessible. The more informal approach and humour should also help with this.