Merschman Seeds is an independent seed company in West Point, Iowa. The company is a huge supporter of radio and uses stations throughout its seven-state territory to promote its products and services. Our weekly advertiser success stories are sponsored by SPECbyte.com.
Joe Merschman, president and CEO, is the second generation running the business that was started 65 years ago by his dad and mom on the family farm. The multimillion-dollar operation prides itself on being able to compete with what Merschman calls the “BS Companies.”
Radio Ink: “BS Companies” — where does that fit into your radio success story?
Merschman: We are a regional company in the seed business that competes with the multi-national seed companies. We actually had a radio campaign called the “BS Companies — Big Seed Companies.” We cover about seven states, and we try to do things differently than them and try to stand out.
That’s why we do our own spots. “You know you can’t meet Mr. Dekalb or Mr. Pioneer, but you can meet Mr. Merschman.” When our customers call, we answer the phone, not a machine. You don’t have to go through layers and layers to talk to the person you called. Our radio ads reflect our personality, someone you would like to have a conversation with and trust.
Radio Ink: You are the top man in the company, yet you do all the ads. Why?
Merschman: We made our radio ads conversational. Every radio ad that I have done over the past 15 or so years, we have never had a script. I go into the studio and tell them about the competitive advantages our company has over the multi-nationals.
I have a conversation with Chris Postin, the sales manager for Galesburg Broadcasting Company, just like we are having this conversation right now for this interview. Chris may coach me, maybe to emphasize something a little more, but overall, we do it from the heart.
Radio Ink: What got you interested in using radio?
Merschman: It was in the 1960s, I was 10 years old, and we went to the radio station with my dad because he used radio. He would do the ads at the local radio station. I would sit there and watch and listen to him make the radio ads on tape; back then it was more scripted and limited to the technology of the time. We have always had a tradition of doing radio because you can change your message very quickly. It can be timely, and everybody at some time during the day typically listens to the radio in some fashion or another.
Radio Ink: Why do you like radio?
Merschman: For us, radio is a very inexpensive media to use, compared to some of the other ones we could choose. It’s “intrusive,” in a good way. When you are in a vehicle listening, you are typically not going to switch the channel — you will listen through the ad. As opposed to TV and social media, with a lot of channel-changing going on.
We have found that farmers have peak listening times during harvest. That’s when they are in their trucks, combines, and tractors. That’s when they are really plugged into the radio, so that’s when we really try to amp up our message.
It’s also the time when they are making decisions about what they are going to plant the next year — because if they have a product that’s not performing or have a problem out in the field, hopefully I’m offering solutions and other options. Our farmer customer base is older. The average age of a farmer these days is about 63 or 64, so radio is what they are used to. There are younger farmers, and we do use social media, but the majority of farmers are older and like radio. It’s been very effective for us.
Radio Ink: How do you know radio is working for you?
Merschman: Our broadcast partners asked us to attend a meeting in Galesburg after we had been on the radio for a while. There was a large group, maybe 60 to 70 businesspeople in this room. They went through all of the companies that advertised on their stations and asked if they could say their slogan.
They started with some of the national companies, and then they said Merschman Seed. The whole room erupted with “Your friend in the field.” My dad and I looked at each other and said, “I think our radio is pretty effective.” Many of these folks didn’t know anything about agriculture, but they could remember our slogan. Of course, many of our customers also tell us they heard me on the radio, so we get feedback that way too.
Radio Ink: What stations are you on?
Merschman: We use all of the Pritchard Broadcasting and Galesburg Broadcasting
stations. We also use other stations in the states that we cover, and John Pritchard actually researches and purchases all radio flights for us all across the Midwest. We do 25 to 30 radio stations during a campaign. Chris Postin helps us create all of our commercials at the station in Galesburg. Using John for all of our media buys and Chris for creative means we don’t use an agency, so we get things done very cost-effectively.
Radio Ink: The music you use in your radio ads is an interesting story.
Merschman: We wanted to use music in our ads that reflected who we are, but trying to get permission, clearances, and paying for the rights was getting very frustrating. We contacted a young man with roots in rural Southeast Iowa, Jake McVey. He’s now down in Nashville, where he writes and performs a lot of his own music. We told him that we were looking for an agriculture-type song, and he wrote the song called “Grow.”
After we heard the song and how great it was, we incorporated the word grow into all of our marketing. We have billboard ads, TV ads, we use the music in our radio ads, and we even have some painted barns with the “Grow” theme. It was going to be a one-year deal, but our customers love it and it caught on, so now we’ve been using it for about three years. It has been as successful as our “Your friend in the field” slogan, as far as recognition goes. So it may be part of our marketing campaign forever. We also have made the song available as a free download on our website.
Radio Ink: What advice do you have for those considering using radio?
Merschman: Get with a good independent radio station that has been around for a while that knows the business, and trust them to lead you in the right direction. We have trusted Chris and John since day one, and everything they do has been highly successful. They became trusted advisors and not just a vendor.
Also, you have to be consistent, with a good message that distinguishes yourself from your competitors as to what the advantages are in doing business with you. Trust your local independent station and create a campaign that has enough longevity and consistency. Don’t be afraid to do it yourself. Make it as personal as possible; that has worked for us.
Thanks to Chris Postin, SM, Galesburg Broadcasting Company.