By Kate Young
Content marketing is partly an art and partly a science. But mostly, it’s about building relationships with people by addressing their needs. And if you want to see what that might look like, Minnwest Bank’s latest content campaign, focused on women in agriculture, is a prime example.
Based in southwest Minnesota, Minnwest is a family-owned and -operated company founded in 1987, right around the height of the 1980s’ farm crisis. Jody Guetter, VP and marketing director at Minnwest, explains that when many other banks were stepping away from their ag business, Minnwest stepped in. Now the bank is one of the largest ag lenders in the state.
For the past several years, though, farming has been in a downturn, and the future holds a lot of uncertainty. Many young people have been moving away from their rural hometowns to settle in urban areas, often leaving behind communities that are aging and shrinking as a result.
To open a dialogue about those concerns—and with a nod to International Women’s Day and National Agriculture Day—Minnwest recently kicked off its new blog series on women in agriculture. Each month, the blog will spotlight a woman working in the ag sector, including an agronomist, a genetic scientist, a teacher, an ag lender—and yes, even a farmer.
We asked Guetter how they came up with this approach to content marketing, and what they learned along the way. And what she told us, it seems, applies to all banks—not just those with ag programs.
Lessons in content marketing, as illustrated by Minnwest bank.
- Find out what matters to your audience. Then make an emotional connection.
Guetter explains that the bank’s content program started out 18 months ago with a focus on market trends and insights selected to help readers make better-informed financial decisions. Then in 2019 Guetter’s team refined its strategy to develop “more locally-based content that’s relevant to our footprint.”
What does that mean in southwest Minnesota? “Many of our rural markets are shrinking communities,” she says. “Some of the consistent themes we hear from our chamber and other sources, is the need to educate—and to showcase the employment and career opportunities to keep the younger generation in our markets, or give them reasons to return to the area after college.” Because of Minnwest’s deep roots in the community, that effort became a labor of love—and it shows.
The first installment of Women in Agriculture tells the story of Jessie Alt, a plant research scientist who grew up on a family farm in Wabasso, Minn. By the end of the story, the reader sees how her life as a scientist has come full circle. When she set out in her career, she hoped that one day her father would grow one of her soybean varieties in his field. And eventually, it did happen. She wasn’t at liberty to reveal to him which soybean variety it was. But it was tremendously satisfying.”
- Define your objectives. Then build on your successes.
Anyone who’s tried content marketing knows how difficult it can be. “Trying to fill up the content calendar with topics was almost as much work as writing it,” Guetter observes. She adds, “If you take the time upfront, and spend more time on strategy and long-term planning, the process becomes more fluid and more organic. You can alleviate some of the inefficiencies within the department as well.”
After 18 month of testing various content types, it became clear that Minnwest’s ag-focused articles were the top performers. “We wanted to build upon something that was working really well, keeping it local and aligned with our brand,” she says. Already a leader in the ag market, Minnwest looked for ways to continue to move forward, even in a downward ag cycle. Based on those needs, the marketing team came up with two objectives:
- To reinforce the bank’s brand as an ag leader that can offer relevant knowledge and resources for women, as well as the rest of the community.
- To showcase to the local youth that the ag sector does in fact offer diverse job opportunities that are worth staying in the area to pursue.
“We want to get the message out that there are a lot of professions within agriculture—that there is the potential for longevity in the rural community, the potential for sustainable income,” Guetter says.
But it doesn’t end there.
From the campaign’s start as an engagement and branding tool, Minnwest hopes that it will lead to larger-scale projects in product development and corporate giving. Over the long term, Guetter explains, they would like to build out the series and develop lending programs for women in agriculture. “We’re also looking at developing a scholarship program,” she says. “Everything would be done at the local level.”
- Understand that as a local bank, your community depends on you for its economic health and long-term viability.
That requires sound financing and secure management, of course, but it also requires awareness and forward-thinking advice. “We have access to the kinds of stories we need,” Guetter says, “all day, every day—through the people coming into the bank—especially from the rural sector and agricultural community.”
Upcoming stories in the series will include a woman who brings an agriculture education program into the local classrooms to teach about the effects agriculture has on the local economy, the food supply, and sustainability issues. Another story will feature ag lenders, showcasing the potential for ag careers in the financial sector.
“Being a community bank, it’s our responsibility to help our communities to thrive,” Guetter says. “We understand that if our communities don’t thrive neither can the bank. We are looking at the very long term success of the bank and our communities.”