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Monsanto cultivates online partnership with Weather.com

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Objective: Monsanto Co., a provider of agricultural seed and technology, was looking for ways to connect with farmers online.
Strategy: The company partnered with Weather.com to create an online channel dedi-cated to farming and established exclusive advertising rights.
Results: The channel had more than 250,000 unique visitors in the first three months and now averages about 60,000 unique visitors a month. Click-through rates on Monsanto's ads on the channel have averaged 2%, or about 10 times the industry average.

Timely, accurate information about the weather is critical to farmers, so when Monsanto Co., a provider of agricultural seed and technology, was looking for ways to connect with this audience online, the company decided to deliver its marketing message on a weather-related Web site.

“We know that farmers use the Internet quite a bit to look at the weather, but there really wasn't one site that had control of the audience,” said Gary Sakin, marketing services lead at Monsanto.

After conducting research and determining that Weather.com is one of the top three Web sites visited by farmers, Monsanto began working with the company to create an online channel dedicated to agriculture. In conjunction with mar-keting agency Brighton, St. Louis, Monsanto established exclusive advertising rights for the channel, called Farmers Forecast.

Launched this January, the Farmers Forecast channel features agricultural informa-tion about climate conditions of interest to farmers, such as wind reports and hail indicators. “It has a lot of that more targeted information that you wouldn't get on the general Weather.com site,” Sakin said. “But it looks and feels like you're on Weather.com, which we wanted because that's where the trust is.”

Partnering with a trusted source of weather informa-tion was an important part of Monsanto's strategy, Sakin said. “The trust base was there, so we took the site and made the content more relevant to the farmer when he goes there, but we didn't have to change his behavior because he's already going there,” he said.

As the exclusive advertiser on the channel, Monsanto runs ads for seven of its major brands, based on the visitor's location and online profile. The company promotes the site with ads on the Weather.com home page, direct mail to large farm customers, trade show demos of the channel and public relations.

The effort has yielded great success in the first year, Sakin said, with more than 250,000 unique visitors in the first three months. The channel averages about 60,000 unique visitors a month currently. “That's really fantastic considering there may be about 340,000 farmers out there in total [that Monsanto is targeting],” Sakin said. “So 60,000 unique coming to that site—assuming most of them are farmers—that's pretty amazing.”

Plus, said Tina VonderHaar, CEO of Brighton, click-through rates on Monsanto's ads on the channel have been impressive, averaging 2%, which is about 10 times the industry average. “We have the proof that we need that the appropriate audience and message targeting yields pretty significant results,” she said.

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