Pictured Above: RDO Equipment Co. has put more of a focus on smaller tractors designed for rural lifestylers, large property owners, and hobby farmers.

RDO Equipment Co., a large and family-owned John Deere dealership, is meeting challenges from the downturn in production agriculture by marketing to rural lifestylers. The dealership has 75 stores in 10 states, as well multiple overseas operations in Russia, Ukraine, and Australia.

“Especially within recent years, RDO Equipment Co. leadership has put more emphasis on telling our story. Every company has a story — several stories — to tell; our company has a long history of partnerships, is diverse in locations and offerings, and is made up of great people who deliver every day for customers,” says Keith Kreps, RDO executive vice president.

“Our PR efforts revolve around our goal to develop and share content that tells these RDO stories, from helpful articles that offer expertise from our team members and stories highlighting our customers and their success, to announcements of new partnerships and grand openings of RDO Equipment Co. stores. The content we produce informs, educates, solves our customer’s problems and answers questions they might have,” says Kreps.

Keith Kreps is RDO Equipment Co. executive vice president.

Kreps shared more strategies with Rural Lifestyle Dealer about the company’s approach to public relations, content marketing and involving many areas of the dealership team.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer: Can you explain more about RDO’s PR efforts, especially as it relates to content development?

Keith Kreps: In addition to creating our own content that’s defined in our PR strategy, we partner with our manufacturers, agencies, newspapers and trade publications, and other media to provide input, quotes, or full articles.

We’ve been doing this for several years, and not just our leadership team. Several team members across the company have contributed to and still contribute to our PR efforts. It’s important to us that we engage multiple people in various positions to be involved in our PR efforts and content creation.

RLD: What are the reasons behind the outreach to the rural lifestyle market? Is that a growing market for RDO?

Kreps: We’re a John Deere dealer and, because of that, a lot of our market is large agriculture equipment and traditional farmers. The silver lining that came with the downturn in the commodity market was the chance to devote more time and focus to smaller equipment.

We’ve also witnessed the urban sprawling effect in many of the areas we have stores. The hobby farmer/large property owner is becoming more common, so we see a good business opportunity in the rural lifestyle market.

Not only that, large agriculture equipment has become so sophisticated; those who aren’t professional farmers find it challenging to operate the equipment. With its smaller, more consumer-focused tractors, John Deere has put greater focus on designing them to be easy to use for operators of all skill levels. As more people get into hobby farming or want to expand care on their properties, they need the capabilities of a tractor and implements, and now we’re able to offer that, even to those who don’t have much experience or familiarity working with equipment.

While many of these customers do research before coming to the store and have a good idea what they want, our team members take the time to ask them questions about their property and what they want to accomplish with the tractor and help ensure they get the right model and attachments. We also talk through basic care and maintenance so they’re comfortable taking care of the basics on their own.

RLD: How do you go about choosing what to feature in your PR efforts and how do you develop and share content?

Kreps: We have a PR strategy that’s developed early in the year with our PR and leadership teams and includes efforts for owned, earned, shared and paid content. It’s based on large, broad company goals like telling the RDO story and support of marketing initiatives. Then, we dig in and come up with defined content topics that are organized into “buckets” of the different types of content we create, such as subject matter expert articles, customer stories and news releases. Like any plan that’s created for the year, our PR plan expands and grows throughout the year as new and timely opportunities come up. PR works closely with RDO Equipment Co. subject matter experts to develop owned content that’s high quality and will resonate with the audience.

To create PR content, RDO Equipment Co.’s team works with subject matter experts across all departments and areas of the company. Here, Ben Hilde, product specialist (right) talks with Nate Dorsey, agronomist and product specialist supervisor (left).

To bring in the earned side, we pitch select pieces to industry publications that we know our customers are reading, and we especially try to target it when that publication has an editorial focus that’s related to the article topic or story. News releases are distributed to larger audiences than to what we pitch stories, but still only sent to outlets that are relevant, not to the masses.

All PR articles and stories are posted on our website so we can bring in the shared piece of our strategy — sharing on our social media channels. Because of our company’s diversity, we have multiple segments to balance, so that plays a big role in how and when we share content. The final piece, paid, comes in areas like boosted social posts, or providing articles via an advertising program or sponsorship agreement.

We also share our content and coverage internally; every other week our PR team sends a report of earned PR coverage as well as notable social mentions/shares. This brings awareness to what we’re doing as a company and is especially valuable for our leadership team to see what’s being said across all divisions and channels.

RLD: How else are you marketing or doing outreach to rural lifestylers?

Kreps: We take advantage of John Deere’s co-op advertising program, with the majority devoted to advertising compact utility tractors; rural lifestylers are a large portion of that audience in nearly all of our regions. Historically, we relied mostly on print advertising to reach this audience, but we’ve begun doing more digital marketing. We know the rural lifestyle market is a good opportunity and digital allows us to target this audience much more effectively.

In addition to traditional advertising, we invest in this market through events. Many of our stores participate in local fairs and shows, exhibiting and demoing equipment. Every year, each of our regions hosts at least one demo day event where customers can test drive our compact utility tractors and try out attachments.