Lee LeFever provides a great analogy between building a business and farming. There are more similarities than he presents in his short excerpt. LeFever highlights a point of cultivation. For your companies success, you must understand that businesses, like the relationships around them must be cultivated.
As the farmer cultivates a crop, it is important that you cultivate customer relationships. Understand that they can't be bought or acquired through any short-term means if they are to last. You earn more profits when a customer is involved with your product for the longest period-- i.e. referrals, satisfied actions.
How do you keep customers for the long-term? You do it though relationships specifically cultivated to serve the needs of customers while producing enough profit to continue to grow for them.
I grew up in Southern Maryland among numerous farms, my family even rented a small house in the middle of a corn field. Experiencing farming first-hand was interesting and shared some great lessons that I benefit from today. Here are some things I learned about farming that applies to business relationships:
You sometimes have to over plant to cover for unexpected crop loss or failure. Your not always guaranteed the outcome you desire, so you hedge your efforts by cultivating relationships you don't need right now. Focus on the long-term value of your relationships, even if they don't produce results you can see right now.
It's hard work with a visible reward in the end. You plant the seed of a new relationship, but often have to wait months before the first transaction. Cultivating business relationships is hard work with rewards often only visible in hindsight. Understand the seed you plant enough to know when it's fully grown.
You have to fertilize crops, even though it's difficult and sometimes smells. You'll go through a lot of manure before you get a healthy relationship that pays off for all involved. Without the right nutrients of timely service, understanding customer needs, and educating them about what you offer, the relationship doesn't grow.
Over farming without taking into consideration its nutrient needs of the field ruins it for future crops. If you take advantage of your customers without putting back the value they desire, you'll lose all you invested and the customer too. Measure a markets need, then provide those things they are most likely to buy and benefit from.
Use seed swaps to contribute to biodiversity and a more healthy crop. Always add new customers to your stock by trading, sharing, and referring individuals between select strategic partners. This allows you to provide the greatest value to your customers while diversifying enough to protect your investment.
You have to put the right seed in the right soil at the right time or you get nothing. Send the right message at the right time to the right individual to produce desired results. This means you have to test and understand the needs of your customer before trying to pitch them. Look beyond your own interests and think about what will make the seed grow.
Sometimes you have to call on your neighbors to help bring in a crop. When a crop is ready to harvest, you can't do it alone. Look for strategic partners that make it easier to help customers get what they want, and who are available when customers want it. Partners help you give customers what they want when they are ready to buy it.
Let's look at cultivating business relationships instead of collecting them. A single healthy stalk of corn can produce hundreds of new seed, a few strong relationships are worth more than many. How are you watering and feeding your relationships so they grow to produce a fruitful crop?