Posted by: usset001 | October 30, 2009

Why no Minnesota Master Marketer Program?


Minnesota Master Marketer Program

I received a good question concerning the Minnesota Master Marketer Program. It’s a question I hear from loyal past attendees who wonder when it will happen again. My response follows.

“Ed, I puddle around and find a class of young fellows interested in marketing. Are there plans for another Master Marketer Program? I am located in SE Minnesota. I traveled to the first one in Mankato and picked up Elwynn Taylor in Owatonna. I found it rewarding.”

Over an eight-year period (1999-2006), I led the effort to put together 11 different Master Marketer Programs, all but one in Minnesota (I like our producer friends in Sioux Falls, too). Modeled after a program of the same name in Texas, the Minnesota Master Marketer Program was a training program for grain producers, intended to develop their grain marketing skills (The Texas program remains active – click here).  We reached nearly 500 producers with the program.

The training was intense and the list of speakers impressive. I would invite Dr. Robert Wisner from Iowa State University to discuss fundamental analysis of grain markets. Alan Brugler of Brugler Marketing often joined us for a full day devoted to technical analysis. Dr Elwynn Taylor, Climatologist at Iowa State University, was always fun and enlightening to hear. I would invite a long list of other speaker to address crop insurance, production costs, marketing clubs and other topics. And, yes, I would be involved with sessions on writing a marketing plan and executing them in a simulated grain marketing game.

The feedback from our producer participants was outstanding – they loved it!  So why have we not put on a Master Marketer Program in the past three years, and why is none planned for 2010?

Every Master Marketer Program we produced presented the University (and our Center for Farm Financial Management) with two difficult challenges; time and money. It is not an easy task to identify producers who have six days to attend the program. Every year we would promote and call, then call and promote, to find the 50 producers needed to make it work. Many times during the Master Marketer years, I would hear from Minnesota producers who would say, “I really wanted to attend the program, but I could not spare the six days needed to participate” (as you know, many producers have jobs or run businesses during the winter months). The lack of attendees would lead to the other challenge of money.

For our last program in 2006, we charged producers $350 to attend. Multiply that figure by 50 participants and it sounds like a lot of money. Start paying the fees and travel expenses for 6-8 different speakers, print materials, rent space and buy the “eats and treats” for 50 people over six days and you will learn that it is not a lot of money. We struggled each time to make the program break even. It had to break even because the University is not in a financial position to subsidize a program that reached just 50 producers.

The challenges presented by the Master Marketer Program may explain our success with our “Winning the Game” and “Tool Time” marketing programs. Half-day programs open the door to many more participants and the cost is reasonable enough that one or two local sponsors can make it happen. It also helps that the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association covers many of the costs related to the continued development and distribution of these programs. I understand that the depth and breadth of topics covered in “Winning the Game” is not as impressive as a six-day program, but I like to think that attending a number of different programs will come close. Many shorter programs also has the advantage of developing and reinforcing lessons learned in earlier programs. Six days of intensive training over a few weeks time had one distinct disadvantage; it was too much information for many producers to absorb.

I will never say never to another Master Marketer Program, but a number of special circumstances are needed to make it happen, including a partner to help us with funding and attendance. When we could pull it off, the Minnesota Master Marketer Program was a real winner.

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