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Cooperative Uses Online Service to Cost Effectively Reach Customers
by Troy Tepley

United Farmers Cooperative (UF Coop), Shelby, Neb., is similar in many ways to many other cooperatives throughout the country. Tighter profit margins and higher costs, coupled with the ongoing desire to improve the bottom line means that UF Coop’s managers are continually looking for ways to improve customer service and increase revenue streams.

However, limited resources make investing in new revenue streams a tough task. Therefore, managers must think proactively about how to reach new customers while providing existing customers the services they need and deserve.

That is why last summer UF Coop began using DTN Marketer, a service that Bonnie Tindall, controller/support, UF Coop, believes has helped the cooperative to cost effectively meet customer needs. DTN Marketer offers a package of services that provides companies multiple features and tools to provide existing customers information and to target prospective customers.

Tindall says the cooperative benefits from its partner site on DTN’s satellite service, which provides for four pages of content, including a home page, grain bids and two pages of additional content. DTN Marketer enables UF Coop to offer market information, bids for its locations, loan deficiency payments and posted county prices, weather, ag news, newsletters, an events calendar and customer account access.

“Online market quotes enable our employees to get live quotes on their PCs so they are in tune with what’s going on in the markets,” says Tindall. “They can be talking to the customer, checking quotes and looking at their grain details to assist them in marketing decisions.”

Satellite services will continue to exist in rural areas where dependable Internet connectivity continues to be an issue.

The ability to view a range of current market information along with the ability to easily obtain customer information allows UF Coop to provide personalized customer service, even though it operates 26 locations in nine counties and has more than 3,500 active customers.

The Nebraska cooperative uses the additional content pages to announce upcoming events, caucus meetings, annual meetings, employee comments and daily news updates, says Tindall
DTN Marketer provides companies with branded partner sites on the DTN network and personalized, full-featured company Web sites. Each site features the business’s logo, company information and local pricing. In addition, each Web site contains market commentary, local market information, weather and news from DTN.

The advertising component to DTN Marketer is designed to make it easy for companies to reach new local customers. UF Coop banner ads, for example, appear strategically on the DTN network in 10 local counties of the cooperative’s choice, ensuring its message will be seen by its target audience. Local DTN online and satellite subscribers can click on the banner ad and be directed to the UF Coop DTN network site.

The UF Coop banner also is featured on DTN Snapshot, a daily bulletin e-mailed to customers. Clicking the banner will send producers directly to UF Coop’s Web site.

“For some customers, using a DTN receiver is easier to use than a computer,” says Tindall. “Most companies have Web sites and offer live market quotes, but in the agriculture industry, satellite services will continue to exist in rural areas where dependable Internet connectivity continues to be an issue.”

Prior to using DTN Marketer, UF Coop mailed thousands of direct mail pieces a week to its customer base. This was a time-consuming and costly process to reach its customer base and to reach potential customers, says Tindall.

“DTN Marketer enhances our relationships with our customers, increases our efficiencies and keeps our name in front of potential new customers,” says Tindall. “Like the producer’s business, with tighter margins and higher costs, we hope to make their business more profitable. To do this, we need partners like DTN to create strong and dependable business solutions.”

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