Rural Lifestyle Dealer published its first Dealer Business Trends & Outlook Report in 2008. At that time, dealers were coping with the mortgage crisis and the housing slump. Yet, even then, dealers saw opportunity in the rural lifestyle market.

Ninety percent of the responding dealers thought revenues would be as good as or better than 2007, with 15% expecting revenue increases of 8% or more.

The top 5 products dealers expected unit sales to increase by 2% or more were front-end loaders, tractors under 40 horsepower, UTVs/ATVs, rotary cutters and tractors 40-100 horsepower.

Zero-turn mowers, the top product for this year, didn’t exist as a separate product category in the 2008 survey. And, utility vehicles now have a standalone category and hold the number 3 spot in terms of increased revenue potential for 2016.

Financing purchases remains a critical component of selling, especially as the equipment continues to evolve in terms of technology and features.

Mike Kelly of Kelly Tractor & Equipment, Longview, Texas, our 2015 Single-Store Dealership of the Year, shared his thoughts back in 2008 when his dealership was known as Kelly Ford Tractor. He said he was pursuing financing options to boost sales. “Getting that monthly payment low appears to be what the customer is after. Our focus has always been to get the customer into our tractors with a payment they can afford.”

What does Kelly think of that strategy 8 years later? “The trend still is the same. You have to hit people’s budget and it has to be in a product that will fit their application,” he says.

Kelly says there is one major change about selling now vs. then and that is customers’ use of the Internet to gather additional details. For instance, he says customers who might see their TV ad on a Sunday evening advertising a monthly payment will go to their website to find out the total price, along with horsepower, features and more. If that information is not listed, they want to be able to call, email or text and get a response right away. The dealership is looking at ways now to meet the need.

“We have got to change how we market our equipment,” says Kelly.