Next to sustainability, transparency may be the second most-used word in agriculture and food circles these days.
I, too, am sometimes guilty of overusing the term. We say we must be more open and transparent in our communication with consumers. We must engage them in conversation, listen to their questions, and build relationships. And this is exactly what we should be doing.
With all that said, there still seems to be hesitancy to share certain aspects. Maybe it’s because the bad news always seems to outweigh the good. Maybe it’s farmers’ and ranchers’ innate need to cling to tradition. Whatever the reason, there is good cause to be more transparent in our business.
Enter McDonald’s and one of my favorite blogs, The Sales Lion. Marcus Sheridan, the author, is a staunch advocate of transparency in business. While his blog posts have nothing to do with agriculture or food most of the time, the point is he "gets it."
In simple terms Sheridan spells it out: "If your customers have questions it’s your duty to answer them … with utter transparency."
This may scare the bejeezus out of some of you but Sheridan makes some good points why this works. When customers ask questions, he listens. Then he answers by shelling out loads of information and answers via his blog and other social-media outlets.
Through this sharing of information and taking the time to answer questions he has empowered his customers by giving them the tools, information and education to be familiar with what he is selling. In the end he says this has led to more productive sales and higher 'closing rates' for his business.
Back to McDonald’s (of Canada that is). It has become one of the most transparent social media companies ever with their latest "Our food. Your questions." program.
In his latest blog, Sheridan does a great job of pointing out examples of McDonald’s strategies to answer questions from customers and address their problems head-on. I highly encourage you to read it.
Sheridan says, "The bottom line is we live in an age of marketing where we can bury our head in the sand and act like consumers and customers don’t have questions, doubts, and concerns about our products…or we can have the guts to not only acknowledge these questions, but embrace them as well."
It’s time we start thinking outside the box (heck, let’s just throw the box away for that matter) and get agriculture on the right track; one of transparency and in line with the moral values that our community was built on.
In the end, our customers are simply looking for a voice they can trust. So what better way to build that trust than by being straight with them from the start?