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Episode 55  |  14:39 min

Christi Korzekwa On How Tractor Supply Company Celebrates Life Out Here

Episode 55  |  14:39 min  |  04.21.2020

Christi Korzekwa On How Tractor Supply Company Celebrates Life Out Here

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This is a podcast episode titled, Christi Korzekwa On How Tractor Supply Company Celebrates Life Out Here. The summary for this episode is: As the SVP of Marketing for Tractor Supply Company, Christi Korzekwa leads the company’s integrated marketing efforts across a variety of channels. At the heart of this strategy is celebrating “Life Out Here” and the unique role that Tractor Supply Company plays for its communities and customers. We sat down to talk about their efforts around Out Here, launching the new Neighbors Club, and why working on the agency side made her a better leader.
As the SVP of Marketing for Tractor Supply Company, Christi Korzekwa leads the company’s integrated marketing efforts across a variety of channels. At the heart of this strategy is celebrating “Life Out Here” and the unique role that Tractor Supply Company plays for its communities and customers. We sat down to talk about their efforts around Out Here, launching the new Neighbors Club, and why working on the agency side made her a better leader.

Christi Krozewe...: Tractor Supply serves that a lifestyle in a way that many retailers do not.
Dave Knox: I'm your host, Dave Knox and this is Predicting the Turn. A show that helps business leaders meet their industry's inevitable disruption head on.
Dave Knox: Welcome to another episode of Predicting the Turn. Today we sit down with Christi Korzeweka who is the SVP of Marketing for Tractor Supply Company. Christi, welcome to the show.
Christi Krozewe...: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me.
Dave Knox: Oh, it's going to be a great conversation. Thank you for taking the time. So I want dive into Tractor Supply Company. It's a fascinating business that over the last decade has doubled in size, but isn't on the radar of some people despite being a Fortune 400 company. Can you tell me a little bit more about tractor supply company?
Christi Krozewe...: Oh, absolutely. It's one of my most favorite topics. So a lot of people are surprised about finding Tractor Supply and the size that we are. So we're a national retailer with over 1800 stores in 49 States. We're 81 years young and as you said, approaching 9 billion in sales, Fortune 400 company. But what we really like to think about ourselves, because our customers talk about this, is it's my Tractor Supply. So rather than saying we're 1800 stores, we like to say we're one store in 1800 communities. So just a really exciting company a unique culture and just love working with them.
Dave Knox: So Tractor Supply is the leader in what's called the Farm and Ranch Channel. And growing up we hear about food/drug/mass and see all of that. Farming ranch is a really fascinating channel though and it's one that's changing maybe even beyond its name these days. So what's been going on with the Farm and Ranch Channel as of late?
Christi Krozewe...: Certainly. Well Tractor Supply serves a very unique Farm and Ranch Channel and as you call it, we are more lifestyle farmers and ranchers. They can be called hobby farmers. So typically they have some other form of the way that they earn an income and their passion is really in small farm and ranch, usually one to five acres in many instances. But we're even finding now more and more that in the suburbs you'll see these farm and ranch. So it's a unique segment that we serve, not the industrial farmer. And it's growing and thriving and Tractor Supply serves that lifestyle in a way that many retailers do not. So we're very unique and differentiated.
Dave Knox: Oh, I love that. So related to that and that kind of celebration of the neighborhood farmer, if you will. One of your key messages for Tractor Supply is celebrating what you call "out here". Talk to me about what out here means to you.
Christi Krozewe...: Yes.
Dave Knox: And why is that, that message that-
Christi Krozewe...: Right.
Dave Knox: ... you've really gone and [inaudible 00:00:02:44].
Christi Krozewe...: It means a lot of things to a lot of different people. You can take the literal translation of it, which is, I live out here, I live in the country, in rural America. I might have a little more land. I might have animals like chickens or goats. But it can also be aspirational. Or it can be a state of mind where you just look for those values from authenticity and looking for that ability to really go back to your roots. And so we think about it as just a very genuine and authentic way that people live their lives. That very self-reliant lifestyle.
Dave Knox: So related to that then, that self-reliant lifestyle that you have without here. Recently you've launched a loyalty program, that Neighbors Club. Right?
Christi Krozewe...: Correct.
Dave Knox: To kind of capitalize-
Christi Krozewe...: Yep.
Dave Knox: ... on that. What led you to take the approach you've taken?
Christi Krozewe...: Yeah.
Dave Knox: Because it's a really unique version of a loyalty program.
Christi Krozewe...: Yeah, it's been an interesting journey. We think of our customers as our neighbors. Our store managers know all of their customers. Our team members know all of their customers. And we found that our customers were coming in to Tractor Supply and using it as a community meeting place.
Christi Krozewe...: And the more that we saw that we thought, how do we connect this community somehow? And we began to create this idea of a Neighbor's Club Program, which then evolved into, "Well maybe it's more of a loyalty program." And it's a way we can connect this community. And then we thought, "Well this could also, if we are able to connect them and to know them better then maybe we could serve them better." If we knew more about them, what their needs were that we could talk to them more frequently and understand what we might not be doing that we need to be doing. And so it was born out of serving our customers and then it's had many great benefits across the board since we launched it.
Dave Knox: So with all that, what's next for Neighbors Club?
Christi Krozewe...: Well, we're doing a lot with Neighbor's Club. We feel very accountable and responsible for bringing this community together. And that accountability leads us to want to provide our customers with more. Be that what I said earlier, that personalized experience. So if we know you're a horse owner and we know you're a cat owner and we know you're a dog owner, we should be able to serve your needs better.
Christi Krozewe...: But we're also trying to bring real, meaningful value to our customers. This last year we launched 5% off your entire purchase if you're a Neighbor's Club member and you have a private label credit card. We also began publishing the Out Here digital magazine to give those members content that's relevant to their lifestyles.
Christi Krozewe...: So what we're trying to do is bring them value being part of the programs. A personalized communication from us that meets their needs as well as is there more value we can provide because you're in this community of Neighbors Club.
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Dave Knox: So you mentioned Out Here Magazine.
Christi Krozewe...: Yes.
Dave Knox: I want dive in a little bit more on that because we were seeing this trend lately of brands and retailers become publishers.
Christi Krozewe...: Right.
Dave Knox: And the publishing industries had its own struggles-
Christi Krozewe...: Sure.
Dave Knox: ... as of late.
Christi Krozewe...: Sure.
Dave Knox: What led you to really say, "Here's a white space here."
Christi Krozewe...: Right.
Dave Knox: "That we want jump in and become a content and a publishing company."
Christi Krozewe...: Right. Well, we try really hard not to think of ourselves as publishers. Because I agree with you, that's a very tough business to be in. What we like to think about, why we created Out Here content or the digital magazine for our customers is we like to be a trusted resource for them. And to provide them with information they may need to live that sustainable lifestyle, that life out here on their terms.
Christi Krozewe...: So how can we continue to provide them with information and content that might help them? So that's really what we're thinking about here is they don't just want to receive ads from us. They don't just want to receive rewards from us, but what can we give them that's richer than that? And this was part of that thought process. And we're going to continue to evolve that content. Maybe it is more podcasts down the road versus a written digital magazine. So we're really thinking through how can we help them.
Dave Knox: And what's that team look like then to be able to do that? As you think about new meetings.
Christi Krozewe...: Right. Well, we are certainly not experts in content. So we do have trusted partners that help us with that content. They're usually people who live the lifestyle and are writers or know what the lifestyle is all about.
Dave Knox: No, that's wonderful. So now flipping to another part is technology.
Christi Krozewe...: Yes.
Dave Knox: So we're at the trade show for Tractor Supply.
Christi Krozewe...: Right.
Dave Knox: And you have this whole section on the technology changes-
Christi Krozewe...: Right.
Dave Knox: ... and what you're doing. How do you think about that retail evolution of the technology? Both that your consumers see from a shopper marketing to what you also need on the back end-
Christi Krozewe...: Right.
Dave Knox: ... to do the loyalty program-
Christi Krozewe...: Right.
Dave Knox: ... and Neighbor's Club.
Christi Krozewe...: As you know, Dave, technology is really important to enable the convenience for your customer. So what we think about first is how does our customer want to engage with us? And the backbone of tractor strategy, which we call "one tractor" is enabling our customers to engage with us anytime, anywhere in any way. And that is what technology enables.
Christi Krozewe...: So if our customer wants to buy online pickup in store. Or we don't have everything they need in the store, we take them over to the computer kiosks, the stock yard. Or if we know that they need something that is a specific part that may not be in the store, they can shop the more than eight times the number of skus that are on our website that are not in the store.
Christi Krozewe...: So we think about it from how do we make it more convenient and easier for them. So technology enables that in everything we do. If it's the technology that is the underpinning of marketing personalization, or it's the technology that is the underpinning of the website, or if it is the technology that is the underpinning of the service button that sits at the customer service desk so that when someone needs propane outside that we know that and we can send a team member out there. So everything that we're doing has to do with how do we make it easier and more convenient for our customer because their time is very valuable.
Dave Knox: Yeah. And so with that, you've had the pickup in store. How do you think eCommerce really is changing retail as a whole?
Christi Krozewe...: Well, with the buy online pickup in store was transformational for us from a technological standpoint because what we found is our customers love to come into the store, they absolutely do. But they're a needs based customer, they need to make sure that that product is going to be there when they show up. They cannot take that anywhere from 10 to 30 minute drive into town to pick up what they need and not have it there. So buy online pickup in store really helped give them that peace of mind that that trip is going to be worth it. And then once they get there, they might shop even more within the store.
Dave Knox: So switching gears a little bit, in your career before Tractor Supply and you've done the agency world and you also did a Home Depot in the big box world.
Christi Krozewe...: Yes.
Dave Knox: What kind of similarities and differences do you see in the big box hardware world and now moving into the Tractor Supply world?
Christi Krozewe...: Well, Tractor Supply is such a unique company. It's very difficult for me to compare and contrast. I think that's specific to Tractor Supply the differences for me has been the culture. While it is a rather large company candidly being almost $9 billion, you never feel that way. You always feel like it is a company that's serving a community and it might seem like it's just one store versus 1800 stores. The store support center is set up to where we are constantly serving our team members in our stores and that's a very different state of mind than it is in the bigger box retailers. From the standpoint of just ensuring that you're thinking about that end customer and how they're using what you're doing.
Dave Knox: So related to that your career has been both the agency side and the brand side.
Christi Krozewe...: Yes.
Dave Knox: And it's something we don't see enough marketers I think do.
Christi Krozewe...: Right.
Dave Knox: Is make the switch between the two.
Christi Krozewe...: Yes.
Dave Knox: What has been on both the brand side and the agency side taught you as a marketer and made it easier to lead your team?
Christi Krozewe...: Well one of the things that I didn't know when I started my career is how much being on the agency side was going to me and skyrocket me when I moved to the corporate side. I didn't have that forethought or insight at all.
Christi Krozewe...: But one of the things that you find in the agency world is it allows you to work on so many different projects and clients and customers. And it allows you to sync creatively and more strategically I think even than being in one business.
Christi Krozewe...: And it also teaches you to this idea of legendary service, customer service because you're serving on the agency side a client. And those are the two things that I think I learned the most on the agency side that I didn't even know I was learning until I got to the corporate side and realized that my breadth of thinking strategically was greater potentially than it would have been if I had just been in one business. And then this idea of servant leadership came from being on the agency side, which I don't think I would have developed as much on the corporate side on that.
Dave Knox: On that first point, there's a concept I've been playing around with called continuous beta. And this idea that we always have to be changing as companies but also as people. With all the change going on, how do you keep, when you're in the corporate world, that sense of learning that you had on the agency side-
Christi Krozewe...: Sure.
Dave Knox: ... of working with different industries and different brands and-
Christi Krozewe...: Sure.
Dave Knox: ... everything else?
Christi Krozewe...: Yes. Well, I like to think of myself as a continuous work in progress. So it is very important to continue learning. There's a lot of different ways you can do it. You can be very tactical about it and ensure that you're reading all the industry trades and in talking to your peers. But we also are members of the NRF and being engaged with the marketing leadership within the NRF. I spend a lot of time making connections there. And if I've got a particular challenge that I'm dealing with, I'll call up my peers in different businesses and different areas of the business and say, "How are you tackling this?" I also, because I have the agency experience, I still have many, many connections for people who are in completely different industries and retail and how might they be approaching and attacking it. But I think that it's that constant intellectual curiosity and ensuring that you never stop learning. And that's just critical to your success as just a human being, but also as a business leader.
Dave Knox: Well that is a perfect point to end on and put a an exclamation point on it. So I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down. It's been a true pleasure learning more about your career and Tractor Supply.
Christi Krozewe...: Well, thank you David.
Dave Knox: Thank you.
Dave Knox: Thanks so much for listening. If you liked the show, hit that rating and make sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single episode. And for more resources, head over to predictingtheturn.com.

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