Once the merger vote passes, you’re now one big cooperative. And that’s when the real work begins: new signs, new licenses, consolidated billing and the list goes on. But along with those formalities, it’s important to pay attention to the human side of the merger during your communication to maintain and build customer loyalty through community outreach.
The number of co-ops in Kansas has fallen from 350 in the 1950s to approximately 80.1
The number of co-ops in Oklahoma has fallen from 243 in 1980 to only 50.1
How do you unite all of your locations under your merged co-op? It’s more than just putting a new logo on elevators or agronomy vehicles. Farmers in outlying locations need to feel connected to the newly merged co-op.
One thing is for certain: Your farmer-patrons in new locations will keep a watchful eye to see how the changes will benefit—or hurt—them and their local community.
Connecting with all locations through community outreach
Community involvement has always been a cornerstone of the farm cooperative model. And now, with the trend toward fewer large cooperatives serving more communities, it’s important to establish a spirit of goodwill that stretches across your entire service area. Ensure that post-merger communication showcases your dedication to community involvement throughout the area.
Following are some ideas for community involvement. You’re probably doing some of these already. Just think in terms of how you can extend community outreach activities to include locations that are new to your merged cooperative to build loyalty among those communities and co-op members.
- Start a special promotion at c-stores. For example, “1% Wednesday.” Your cooperative donates 1% of the location’s gross sales on a specific Wednesday of each month to benefit a nonprofit organizations selected by the local co-op members. The beneficiary could rotate each month to include school organizations, food banks and other specific local needs.
- Host get-to-know-us lunches at locations. Invite area farmers to meet the people they may interact with from the headquarters, such as management, accounting, agronomy, grain marketing and energy staff members.
- Establish school education programs focusing on items such as farm safety or grain marketing.
- Support local FFA and other student organizations in all area high schools.
- Make scholarships available to all high school students throughout your trade area.
- Consider sponsorships of local events such as parades, festivals and sports events.
- Sponsor adopt-a-highway programs across your trade area.
As the trend toward mergers continues, connecting with farmers across a broad trade area will become a natural part of operations … whether your cooperative covers two counties or five counties … has 500 members or 5,000.
By starting as soon as possible after the merger, you can set the groundwork for positive communication and acceptance throughout your cooperative.
Want to talk with someone who can help you with all the communication details of a merger?
Originally Published Here: Merge Ahead: Using Community Outreach to Build Customer Loyalty