Winter Cattle Journal 2019: Customer appreciation gifts cattle customers actually want
- Consider local options—honey, jams, beef products, artwork, calendars, signed books, etc. It sends a positive message when you support local small businesses, and they can often offer custom options on a smaller scale.
- Think about supporting local cause, like the local 4-H or FFA program. They often are selling items as fundraisers, but in many cases, a buyer might appreciate a nice note telling them a donation has been made in their name to these programs.
- While the branding and marketing element of appreciation gifts is always a consideration, keep your customer’s needs in mind and consider giving something that they won’t feel compelled to keep around forever. A subscription to your favorite ag publication will remind them periodically of your thoughtfulness.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a thoughtful thank-you note. Get some branded note cards, and once the dust has settled from the sale, sit down and write a personal note to buyers.
Bull sale season is right around the corner, and seedstock producers will spend the next couple of months collecting data — everything from genomics to carcass information — to compile into sale catalogs that will make their way to mailboxes across the country.
Sale dates will be set; auctioneers booked; videos and photographs taken; footnotes written; catalogs printed; mailing addresses double-checked; rolls of stamps purchased; and phone calls answered in the days and weeks leading up to the sale.
On sale day, food will be prepared; coffee served; jeans starched; bulls cleaned and bedded in viewing pens; and trucks and trailers lined up with buyers filling the stands ready to bid-off against their peers to purchase their favorite new herd sires.
As checks are written and bulls make their way to their new homes, the final step for the seedstock producer is to provide the bill of sale and a certificate of a passed breeding soundness examination before commercial cattlemen hit the road back home.
Traditionally, a bull or heifer sold not only comes with a receipt and vet papers, but branded merchandise, too. Customers make great advertising for seedstock producers, and each year, ranchers stamp their brands on everything from can koozies to sweatshirts.
Great customer swag can create a lot of hype for a ranching enterprise. As a seedstock producer myself based out of Mitchell, S.D., our family’s brands — Nolz Limousin and Radke Cattle Company — typically stick to traditional fare such as ball caps, stocking caps, calving books and sorting sticks, but we’ve also gifted jewelry from my sister Courtney Coughlin’s boutique, CCXO, as well as copies of my children’s book, “Levi’s Lost Calf.”
This year, we wanted to up our game in the customer swag department, so I sought ideas on Facebook, asking my friends to share their favorite items they’ve given to customers or received as buyers. As you read through some of the responses, you’ll notice a common theme — cattlemen love to gift items with their brands on them, be it after a sale or during the holiday season.
“One family we bought a bull from from buys wreaths that the 4-H program sells as a fundraiser, which are then delivered to the customers a couple weeks before Christmas,” said Maria Tibbetts, Tri-State Livestock News digital & sections editor. “The wreaths arrive with a nice thank-you note and a brief reminder of their upcoming bull sale.”
Kim Matthews, owner of Riverstone Cattle Company of Olds, Alberta, believes branding is an important part of being in the seedstock business. Riverstone merchandises Limousin, Simmental and Angus cattle, and with each purchase, customers receive everything from wild rags to barbecue scrapers to magnets.
“I will admit I have a branding addiction,” said Matthews. “Each bull buyer receives a custom folder with contact information and our business card, a photo of the bull, copy of registration papers, semen evaluations and custom breeding sheets. Insurance information on the bull purchase is also kept in this folder.”
Matthews also offers her customers hand-made barbecue scrapers, boot jacks, calving books, beer koozies, cookies, post-it notes, magnet calendars, hats and gloves.
“Our assorted pure silk wild rags feature a custom logo and our name in the scarf design,” said Matthews. “These are a hot item with our customers. We also have custom-made summer and winter thermal-lined face shields that are a big hit.”
“Riverstone Cattle Company has the best scarves and silks and chocolates, too,” said Kaye Woolam Kaufman, a customer from Harrodsburg, Ky., who recommends Old Kentucky Chocolates, LLC of Lexington, Ky. for personalized candy treats. To order, check out oldkycandy.com.
“Our chocolates are wrapped in a custom-printed card stock casing with our logo imprinted on the chocolates,” said Matthews.
Cold weather gear is a popular gift for many seedstock producers. Items range from branded cotton gloves to stocking caps to sweatshirts and other layering items.
“We have done sweatshirts or jackets the past couple of years,” said VeaBea Thomas, of Thomas Ranch in Harrold, S.D. “They are great advertising as we see these jackets all over the U.S.”
“Our stocking caps are really loved by moms with little kids because they fit so well,” said Cam Fagerhaug, owner of Fagerhaug Cattle in Wessington Springs, S.D. “Our calving books are a big hit, too. As a buyer, I love getting flag whips, and we got a hitch pin one time, which I thought was really unique!”
Food items are a fan favorite with gift boxes being a popular item that serves as a meal or snack for buyers as they travel home from a sale.
Jason Boyer, of Boyer Family Farms in Weldon Iowa, has a second business, called the Harvest Barn Marketplace, where he sells gift boxes in the shape of barns that include beef sticks, cheese, honey, jams, coffee, salsa and fudge. Boxes can be purchased at http://www.harvestbarnmarketplace.com.
“Harvest barn gift boxes make a great gift,” said Boyer, whose family raises Limousin cattle. “They include our own beef stiks and other goodies. Customers call and tell us how much they like them.”
“We have received meat and cheese boxes and gourmet cookie boxes as appreciation gifts in years past,” said Michelle Weber, of Weber Land & Cattle in Lake Benton, Minn. “We have given breed specific art prints from MichelleWeberStudio.com the last couple of years, and they have been very well received.”
Other swag items mentioned in my unofficial Facebook survey included visors, sunglasses, phone wallets, calendars printed with the producers’ sale date and customized caps with leather patches from Branded Bills Hats.
Brand recognition is an important part of marketing, and customized swag that is useful to buyers is a fun and easy way to promote a cattle program.
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