What we can learn about cattle marketing from COVID-19

rhdRHD Blog

How would you feel if you were holding a 500 head bull sale, and this was your crowd?

 I would freak out. I would probably have a panic attack.

But, this is the new reality during the COVID-19 safety orders. This is an actual picture taken from the auction block at the beginning of the 2020 Leachman Cattle sale.

About a week ago, we started getting floods of calls at RHD from many of our 800 web clients asking if they should cancel their sales because of the coronavirus. It was a time of great uncertainty.

Not one cancelled. Like true Americans, they adapted. And, what we saw was several outstanding case studies.

Triangle B, one of our Wagyu clients continued as planned with their online sale hosted through CCI live. It was great.

Musgrave Angus continues with their sale, and sold cattle to 16 states and 2 countries, with 1329 online viewers watching around the globe. DVauction placed 1945 bids!

England Cattle, a Brahman Ranch who we do email blasts for but not their website or print ads, adapted from a previously scheduled live auction to an online auction at cattle in motion paired with a live close out. Their first lot sold for 1/3 interest for $35,000. 

And finally, Leachman Cattle. With their 700 head – biggest sale of the year – and huge in person event ordered to be restructured just three days before the sale — they completely transitioned this huge event to be “covid compliant.”

And – over 445 head of bulls sold for an average of over $5000 per head! Success!

So what can we learn from these case studies? 

Adaptability, and the power of solid marketing practices. Not just the month before your sale – but all the time.

  1. Good cattle are always in demand. While you can’t give away a sorry one, people will come from far and wide, and go to great lengths to acquire good cattle. Now, more than ever, this is paramount. Buy the ones with good pedigrees. Buy the ones with proven performance. Buy the ones with proven data.  Buy the ones with that unmistakable look you want. These are the ones that will maintain their value and add to your herd.

2. People to do business with people they trust.
In the Leachman sale, many of their buyers used the Leachman Sight Unseen Guarantee. If you can’t come to the sale, Lee Leachman or a Leachman rep will visit with you about your needs, pick a bull for you, and if you don’t like it, he’s guaranteed. Do you think people would use this feature if they’re buying from a “used car salesman” or a “shister” type? Heck no. But people trust the Leachman team and have confidence in their integrity. Second, Leachman offers immense data on those cattle. So, you’re not buying based off someone’s personal whim of how they feel that day. Or how their “picker” is working that day. Through fundamentally good selection matched with proven data – more data than you can really ever fathom – all the bad ones are already weeded out. It’s easy to offer a sign unseen guarantee when you daily practice integrity and good management.

3. Good print advertising is key.
Notice all the programs I mentioned have solid print advertising campaigns. They run regular ads in their breed publication. They had a printed sale catalog so they have a mailing list, and use direct mail. You can’t just decide to have a sale and three weeks later post it online and hope it’s a success. Building your brand reputation is something you do brick by brick. Month by month. Ad by ad. Everything you do builds on each other to create that solid brand perception and recognition. If you aren’t using print advertising and direct mail, it’s a must.

4. They had a strong digital presence established and in place to provide the late breaking sale changes.
I always say, it’s print for the long term awareness and digital for the daily news. While all of these case studies had a solid print campaign, they shifted to digital in the 1 month preceding the sale to really drill down the message to their core group of prospective clients. They had a website with the online catalog, updated sale pics and videos. They had daily Facebook updates where they could post new information or changes quickly and get the word out. They had an email list (or used ours at RHD), and they had trusted online sale partners that could adapt and get things going on a short turnaround. A lot of people think they can just put all their eggs in the Facebook basket, but that just doesn’t work. To be truly successful you need that combination of print+digital. And digital means website+email marketing+social. Digital doesn’t just mean Facebook.

5. They had faith.
This isn’t a marketing strategy, but it’s a mantra for daily life. When life through challenges at these folks, they put their faith in God. They could have cancelled their sales. Could have given up. But they prayed, they had adequately done their jobs getting ready for their sales, and they believed God would provide. They stepped out in faith. And, as Lee Leachman texted me after his sale was over: “God is good. Amazingly, 447 bulls avg $5376.”

Will cattle sales return back to the “normal” way we are used to, where hundreds of ranchers get together for a chicken fried steak and then anxiously watch as the first one storms the ring and we hear that call of all the ringmen yelling “yes, yes, yes!!”

I don’t know. I surely hope so. But, until then, keep going fellow ranchers. You can do it. And, if you need a team to help you like we’ve helped these ranchers above, you know me and the Ranch House team are always here.