How well do you know your consumer and how well does your consumer know you?


Perhaps it is difficult to quantify, but it's worth thinking about.


Without positive beliefs in each other, which if they are to last can only come from open and honest communication, the relationship between consumers and producers can be difficult.


Increasingly gone are the days when consumers had limited choice, limited information, and perhaps limited interest beyond taste in the food they ate.


If poultry-, or any other food-producers, want to ensure their existence in the market, they need to move beyond being distant suppliers and build relationships.


These relationships are not relationships of equals, however. Producers need to adopt the role of actively informing customers, and not waiting for consumers to come to them.


Antibiotic-free poultry production has been pushed from the headlines by avian influenza over recent months, but think back to earlier in the year and U.S. company after U.S. company was making an announcement about ending, or limiting, antibiotic use in poultry production.


You could argue that this was in response to consumer pressure, so was reactive rather than proactive, but certainly companies were falling over themselves to send out the message that they believed consumers wanted to hear and acting on it.


If consumers are asking, then the poultry industry needs to be communicating. And even if it’s what you think consumers are likely to ask, it’s still worth trying to preempt any questions that may arise – prevention is better than cure.


Benefiting from transparency

This helps to build relationships, and aren’t openness and honesty qualities that we all value?


Few of us know the local chicken grower down the lane these days, it’s simply not how the modern farming industry works. But the danger of this situation is that food ends up coming from faceless corporations.


It may be more than 10 years old, but the Meatrix video has stayed in my mind ever since it was released, and I doubt that I am alone. Whether you agree with its message or not, the animation is still strong, and I’ve not seen anything as powerful from poultry or any other meat producers.


Where relationship building is concerned I was quite interested to see the return of Colonel Sanders to KFC advertising – a familiar and kindly face strongly associated with a product and much easier to resonate with than simply a strong primary color!


This may be a relatively straightforward approach to simply one aspect of consumer relationships, but a friendly face works.


What would your father say?

Good client relationships, however, are a lot more complex. It may be worth drawing up a list of which are the major issues affecting your business as far as consumer relationships and perceptions are concerned and trying to address then objectively.


Answers need to be honest and backed with action, not a mere public relations exercise.


I’ve often heard the question asked, and it really is worth considering, would you be happy for your friends and family to see every detail of what your job involves? If not, then perhaps something needs to change. The same question could be applied to poultry production.


If your family and friends would not be happy, why should your customers be? They work hard for their money, and we don’t have the right to expect them to spend it with us. We have to earn that privilege not only by acting properly but also broadcast honestly why what we do is so good.