From the Desk of Lynn Woolf: January 29, 2013
Each week brings new developments regarding manufacturers entering or leaving markets or taking a different direction.
Just last week, Kubota Corp., known for its tractors targeted to the rural lifestyle market, shared more about its expansion into the production ag sector. Chairman and President Yasuo Masumoto referred to the company’s readiness to acquire a foreign maker of large field-farming machinery by year’s end to expand overseas operations.
Last year, Kubota acquired Kverneland, a European manufacturer of farm implements and hay tools. Masumoto says he wants Kubota to get into “dry field” grass and arable farming equipment as part of a globalization plan.
The recent announcement further confirms that the company is serious about taking a bigger stake in the production ag segment of the market.
In other industry news closer to home, Briggs & Stratton announced its decision to sell Snapper-branded walk-behind mowers at Wal-Mart beginning this month. Last summer, the company announced a decision to no longer place its lawn and garden products at national mass retailers.
Change happens and diversity can bring strength. However, rural lifestyle dealers need to make sure they don’t get lost amid industry developments by doing two things:
1. Make your voice heard with your manufacturers.
2. Leverage your position as the one rural lifestylers trust.
You may not be in the board room when decisions are made, but you can take advantage of every opportunity to meet with your manufacturer reps — or their bosses.
Let them know how decisions will affect you at the dealer level. Tell them what kind of support you need to sell the company’s products better.
Serve on dealership advisory boards, with the emphasis on “serving.” Don’t just add to the head count for dinner. Come to the meetings armed with your ideas and good and bad feedback from customers. Volunteer to serve on committees. Yes, it will take time away from the dealership, but it’s an investment in the brands you carry, so an investment in your dealership.
And, talk to us. We want to raise visibility to your challenges and help offer solutions. We cover what’s happening with manufacturers, but the focus is always on providing successful strategies for your dealership.
When you’re talking with manufacturers, don’t underestimate your power with the consumer. Our 2013 Dealer Business Trends & Outlook survey shows that in more than 70% of cases where the dealer recommends a certain product, customers accept their recommendation.
Manufacturer marketing efforts may lead customers into your dealership, but you’re the one that seals the deal. I’m sure manufacturers know that, but it’s good to remind them every now and then.
One other industry announcement that’s downright good news for rural lifestyle dealers: The U.S. Commerce Dept. says housing starts were up 12.1% in December. That’s the highest level of new home production since June 2008. Here’s hoping those new home owners find their way into your dealership.