• Cass Mao

Thinking like a startup part two: go digital

Last week we shared the first mindset shift that producers go through in the Farmers2Founders Bootcamp program - learning to move fast and pursue customer feedback.


The Farmers2Founders Bootcamp program trains producer-led businesses in the best practices of high-growth companies to help them grow faster. We believe that producers can unlock massive industry impact if they are equipped with the right tools and skills.


This series of posts explores the three big shifts that producer teams in the Bootcamp experienced over the program. Catch up on Part One of the series here!


The second mindset shift for teams in the Bootcamp? Going digital native.


Go digital: There’s hundreds of tools to help you grow


For companies getting their product in front of customers - what we would call a digital acquisition funnel - there’s a reasonably well-known format for this set of tools. Let’s call it a growth stack.


At the basic level you’ll want a website with hosting, a tool to manage contacts (CRM), and an email platform. More sophisticated tools might include analytics on your website and in your product (if it’s digital), advertising on platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter, and a dashboard or data warehouse so you can do detailed analysis of your customers and marketing.


That’s on top of day-to-day tools to manage files, take payments, record transactions, and stay in touch with your team, and assign tasks; not to mention tools to help 'deliver' your product like Amazon Web Services, or inventory and freight for a physical product. All in all, there’s easily 20+ digital tools that even a business of just a few people would be expected to use.


All small businesses struggle with this administrative load, and for producers not used to a digital-first business environment, it can be an overwhelming prospect. But effective and strategic use of digital tools is incredibly powerful for small businesses - offering not just internal efficiencies, but making it possible to to reach and serve a far larger audience than they might have otherwise. It just isn’t possible to go from dealing with tens of customers a month to hundreds without some automation.


This 'growth stack' is fairly well-known amongst startups and digital first companies, but is less common knowledge outside of startup land. Since the Bootcamp was focused on helping teams ramp up their sales & marketing, introducing teams to these tools was a high priority. We had guest speakers from successful startups share their ‘growth stacks’, and partnered with HubSpot to get the teams started with sales & marketing automation.


One company in the Bootcamp, FarmServiceManager, doubled their rate of new customers over the course of the program by jumping in the deep end of these digital acquisition tools. FarmServiceManager is an app for farmers to record their machinery service logs digitally rather than in a notebook, making it easy to set reminders, back up the records, and share the logs with other parties.


David from FarmServiceManager

FarmServiceManager used HubSpot in conjunction with digital advertising and social media to drive greater awareness of the app and get new trial subscribers. They also looked in their analytics to understand their customers' behaviour around trial, usage and conversion to the paid product.


“We have started using a wide range of tools to run and measure our marketing, and this has improved our trial and activation rates.


We started running advertising during the Bootcamp. Through analytics, we could see the numbers of customers visiting our website go up, but we could also see that not all of these customers were actually going on to sign up for the app. We looked into it and found changes we could make to improve the process of subscribing for the app.


We also started using HubSpot to record our contact with customers. Now that there are an increasing number hearing about us and trying FarmServiceManager each week, we wanted a tool to make it easier to stay in touch and provide them information when they needed it.


Getting set up on HubSpot and using digital advertising and analytics has really helped FarmServiceManager grow. We have doubled the number of new sign ups per month and we are still learning and experimenting all the time.”


Picking up a suite of new digital tools and skills to unlock efficiency and growth was the second big transition the Bootcamp teams were pushed to make. Many teams in the Bootcamp commented that the program helped them realise that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” By exposing them to the growth tools that many startups use, and providing access to experts and support onboarding, the Bootcamp saw many of the teams take up new digital tools with gusto and start to reap the benefits.


With thanks to HubSpot, Amazon Web Services and LawPath who have provided discounts & support to the Farmers2Founders Bootcamp program teams! Check out their websites for fantastic resources to get started with sales & marketing, hosting, and legal.


Come back next week for the last post in this series on mindset & skill transitions for producer-led businesses!


If you want to catch up on part one of this series, you can read it here.


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