"When it comes to marketing, it is not about what we are doing; it is about what we are not.” Dan’l Mackey Almy needs no introduction. She is a presence, a force, the lighthouse in the storm for the future of fresh produce marketing. Calling her company, DMA Solutions, a niche marketing agency exclusively for the fresh produce industry does not quite detail the impact that the company has made and will prove to make. Here, language falters a bit, stretches to define the essence of DMA. But the company, in its truest form, is a pure expression of Dan’l, her evolution as a leader, and, most importantly, the team she has surrounded herself with during the past 15 years.
“When I decided to start the business I committed to serving fresh produce solely, because I knew otherwise our clients and the industry would not receive the laser focus and the thought investment that would be required to elevate marketing. I don’t want to be distracted by other industries. And let’s be honest, they’re not as sexy anyway,” Dan’l smiles and says. “Before DMA, I had been boots on the ground on the supply-side for 10 years, in sales with companies like Standard Produce and Fresh Del Monte, and I recognized that selling more produce was not a barrier, but rather the lack of marketing—the lack of story, of a voice and a face—of a message. ‘Marketing’ as a term, may carry too narrow of a connotation for some, maybe even some scrutiny. For me, it is what will change fresh produce from commoditized and transactional products into trusted and demanded food brands.”
We all take pride in what we bring to market—now let’s give it a voice.
Produce marketing is full of nuance, made even more dynamic by the distinct and characteristically lively, even—dare I say—provocative space which it occupies. For the longest time it has been an afterthought. Marketing is, by its very nature, proactive, and our industry can live in a seemingly reactive environment—reacting to policy, food safety measures, market fluctuations, retail demands, consumerism...Hey, even feeding your family. We won’t knock you there.
So what does it take to shake loose the barriers to more investment in marketing? If a reaction is a reflex, then marketing is a mindset—an idea, but unlike just any idea, marketing for DMA is an asset that creates equity for a company in the long- and short-term. Marketing is not compartmentalized and singular; it buoys up the whole; elevates all aspects of a business, and it does not “potentially” drive sales, it does drive them. A product without marketing, as the DMA team tells me, is a commodity. And the fate of a commodity is that yes, it will sell, and there is your bottom line. Produce will sell without marketing, but the result is merely a transaction. There is no opportunity for creating and fostering a connection that will lead to a meaningful relationship or purchase. So, if that is your safe space and you want to watch others get bloody breaking through the wall, then stop reading now.
If you are interested, let’s bend the ear of the DMA team a little bit more.
"... I recognized that selling more produce was not a barrier, but rather the lack of marketing—the lack of story, of a voice and a face—of a message."
- Dan’l Mackey Almy, President & CEO, DMA Solutions
“Marketing can seem nebulous, but we ground it in action. What does it really take to develop a brand? That question is never stagnant and does not sleep, which means we don’t sleep much either,” Dan’l tells me. “Both the challenge and the opportunity is that the discipline itself has accelerated tenfold, along with digital and social, and the reality is marketing is a team sport. The resources that were required 15 years ago to achieve results from an investment in marketing are far from that reality today.”
Dan’l admits, “Our work is for a still somewhat skeptical industry when it comes to marketing, so regardless of performance, our work can accelerate or decelerate seemingly on a whim. It can be very scary, but the good outweighs the risk. Because when fresh produce marketing wins, good things happen.”
DMA has an interesting ethos. Right out the gates, the team is about the why not the what. Now, what does that mean?
“All the nuances of our industry add up to something much bigger and braver than we can even know yet. We see that as an opportunity to pivot the perspective within our industry and to respond to the already established desires of the consumer for fresh produce,” Dan’l reflects. “Our why? We do what we do because we believe there is the opportunity for a connection and the potential to build a relationship that transcends price and trend; it responds to the chance that someone might be inspired to think about food in a different way. We exist because of this work, and the positive impact on society. If it is not about our belief first, our why, then we are just what we do.”
DMA’s goal is to evolve marketing from a series of activities into a long-term, strategic plan and an integrated part of the business, with the ability to drive sales, reach a larger audience—consumer and buyer—and bring new opportunities to measure success in unprecedented ways.
The dial won’t move on its own. Let’s move it.
"...When fresh produce marketing wins, good things happen."
“We continually get asked, ‘What’s the ROI.’ I think a more prevalent question is, ‘What about this ROI; the risk of inactivity?” Dan’l questions.
If companies stick to the same narrative they have had leading up until now, that risk of inactivity becomes detrimental. The consumer has changed; the retailer requires a new level of value and engagement—it is only inevitable that the supplier must change along with the times. The risk? Becoming insignificant.
DMA is not all talk. The team is heavily invested in being able to produce data to show the results of their marketing activities. The company utilizes performance metrics, equipped with insights that build a stronger bond and more impactful value proposition to generate increases in engagement, and inevitably sales, for both the supplier and the buyer. Clients receive monthly reports on goals and progress, which means the goal and the results are always front-and-center.
The company’s 360-degree approach to elevating its clients go-to-market strategy is an integrated methodology that drives the success of the business as a whole. DMA’s services also include content marketing, brand creation, promotions, public relations, social media, graphic design, website development, trade marketing and advertising, trade show management, strategy and budget planning, the promise of longevity—and the team brings the heat with strength in numbers.
The DMA team offers a range of perspectives, generations, educational backgrounds, and schools of thought. And the woman-owned and driven company strikes a chord with today’s consumer, retailers’ demands, and the sales-driven fresh produce team. Dan’l describes the tenure of her company as a testament to the industry’s evolving understanding that marketing is a fundamental aspect of business and that she attributes the company’s success to the team’s continuous quest for producing results.
“Marketing usually happens in the last mile—we are trying to change that. Fresh produce marketing can no longer be an afterthought,” Dan’l shares with me. “The barriers that we now face are within our own industry. We already have the solution to much of what the world needs—hunger, disease, obesity—and we already see produce moving to the center of the plate. The vehicle for success is right in front of us, now let’s grab the bull by the horns.”
DMA is a catalyst, an engine for change. The message is clear: the company is not in a place of taking before they give. One of the core values that guide the DMA team is “Helpful First.” DMA has long offered services and tools to the industry because the team believes in their why and put the industry first before a contract is signed. This isn’t to say that financial health for DMA goes by the wayside, but the team believes when they put their values first, business will come.
DMA is fully committed to supporting fresh produce marketers, whether they are a client or not. The company’s free resources include The Core blog, which constantly shares marketing best practices, insights on new food and business perspectives, and ways to address the shifting dynamic of the fresh produce industry’s need for a more proactive nature. Couple that with the numerous resources the team publishes—annual food trend guides, social media calendars, produce marketing calendars, and more.
"The vehicle for success is right in front of us, now let’s grab the bull by the horns.”
At the end of the day, what is your story? How do you not only define yourself in a commodity-centric space, but create an authentic narrative that consumers and retailers can see themselves inside of? Do you know why that why matters, or the reason it should? Maybe the barrier to progress is what you are not doing. Don’t stand in your own way.
Marketing is at its best when it changes people’s values and minds. And a winning new and committed mindset will grease the wheels every time.
If you ask me, the writing is on the wall.