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Source: AgriMarketing Magazine article

Atglen, PA
by Thom Finn
Partner, ActionCoach

As the business coach for Horizon Structures for the past few years, I've objectively seen first hand how to successfully market to the rural lifestyle customer. Horizon Structures of Atglen Pennsylvania originally started out building storage sheds, but through attentive listening has successfully added horse run in sheds, modular horse barns, horse barn kits, chicken coops, chicken coop kits and just recently, chicken coop plans to their line of products.

I hold all my clients accountable to paying close attention to their marketing data and to genuinely talk to the people on the other of the phone line, and Horizon Structures has executed this with near perfection. The team was actually one of the first in the marketplace who picked up on a trend that turned out to be a marketing fact: More and more of our consumers fit into the newly burgeoning Rural Lifestyle Consumer. The senior managers faithfully take turns answering customer calls- not really to answer the questions and book orders- but to listen and find out what this subset is asking and saying.

It's fascinating to watch this market segment change, grow and develop. I believe there are 3 unique characteristics of the Rural Lifestylers: 1) Their strong need to do it themselves 2) They make purchases that improve their own natural world (health and environment) and 3) They will research us to no end.
What we've seen and are talking to the market about is not just Do It Yourself, but DIY as a hobby with a purpose: a past time that gives them more meaningful side effects like better health or an improved home environment. Any product and support for their purchases that will make them more self sustaining always sell well.

The Rural Lifestyle Markets quickly sees through any vague "going green" mention so we've made a conscious decision to stay away from anything so patronizing. These consumers invented the "go green" mantra and have long since moved beyond that. And the impact on the environment is actually secondary to a positive impact on themselves, their health and their family. Analyzing our products and exploiting the benefits to this end has kept our marketing investments at fantastic percentages. These buyers are not as easily convinced as traditional markets are. They will politely listen to a sales pitch, but rest assured they are going to invest hours researching our claim. And if we are not the ones to offer what they really need and want- then they will quietly find the suppliers who will.

We've spent years of coaching beefing up our website and from the beginning we've made it consumer focused throwing out all the old rules that most websites tend to follow. Session after session, we ask ourselves what our customers want, what they will question and what they will object to. By adding rich meaningful content to our website and some offline material, we've seen higher close rates as the prospects can do research on their own time and come to their own best decision. And it's usually with us.

Thom Finn is a certified Business Coach with ActionCoach. He works with many agri-businesses throughout the Northeast. He can be reached at thomfinn@actioncoach.com