From the Desk of Lynn Woolf: November 20, 2012
Beatrice, Neb., is home to mower manufacturing facilities for Exmark, as well as Worldlawn Power Equipment and its Encore Manufacturing division. That means thousands and thousands of mowers originate from this town of 12,302.
Worldlawn and Exmark even share the same industrial park and are only separated by an intersection and a UPS facility. Back-to-back visits with the two provided an interesting glimpse into two sides of the same market. Here are a few highlights from my visits.
Jamie Ware, Worldlawn general sales and marketing manager, says it’s an exciting time for his company, which is just seven years old.
“Worldlawn has shown tremendous growth in a short amount of time,” Ware says. Its purchase of Encore in March 2011 helped revive that brand, which had essentially been dark for two years. Still, dealers stood by the brand during that time. Why? Ware says Encore offers dealers a good commercial machine at a lower price point. And, the simplicity of the machine makes it easier to service.
Today, he’s getting good feedback from dealers about warranty and parts support. And, he says, the company now offers dealers other advantages beyond the equipment, such as floorplan financing direct through the company and improved dealer processes through its new websites, www.worldlawnpowerequipment.com and www.encoreequipment.com.
We’re staying tuned to what’s coming next from Worldlawn and Encore.
My visit with Exmark was to attend their dealer meeting, with hundreds of dealers from the central United States. One dealer made this comment during the introduction of new products and enhancements, “It’s hard to fix something that’s not broke.”
Daryn Walters, director of marketing, talked about that product and brand strength and Exmark’s growth strategy, which includes adding innovative products to its core lines and expanding into adjacent categories.
- Defined mower operation modes — maximum, efficient and low
- Engine monitoring — audible warnings of critical system issues, damage prevention and “safe transport” mode.
- Clutch saver — functionality that extends clutch life by engaging and disengaging at specified RPM levels, regardless of the position of the throttle switch.
These engine enhancements contribute to a 40% or greater reduction in fuel consumption, says Exmark.
The Kohler EFI technology is also being used on propane engines for Exmark’s new propane-powered EFI Lazer Z S-Series zero-turn riding mower and Turf Tracer S- and X-Series walk-behind mowers.
Garry Bussboom, Exmark engineer, says, “EFI with propane is the best of both worlds. It reduces fuel consumption and reduces carbon footprint.”
(Read our story on propane mowers in the fall issue.)
Exmark’s strategy to enter adjacent markets includes expanded turf management products, such as its new 36-inch walk-behind rotary broom, with its patented power steering.
“Exmark doesn’t enter a market as a ‘me too.’ If we can’t innovate, we won’t enter the market,” Walters says.
Walters and all the Exmark experts stressed that communicating brand innovation and product excellence rests with dealers. They urged dealers to attend training schools and take advantage of co-op dollars. That’s good advice for dealers of all brands.
Here are some other best practices shared during the meeting:
- Get out of the dealership and meet with customers, especially when business is slow. The goal of cold calls should be to secure a demo, not a sale. That will increase your chances for success. And, consider bringing along parts and oil as a way to show all the services you offer.
- Greet customers within four steps of them entering your dealership and answer phone calls within four rings. That first contact will gain you extra time if you’re busy with someone else.
- Use product hang tags. It helps reduce price negotiations. It also helps your customers gather information if you’re busy.
- When marketing to new prospects, make sure they receive the product promotion at least three times.
- Reminder: Walk through your dealership like you’re a customer and rate its cleanliness, eye appeal and more.
Thanks to those dealers who took the time to talk about their operations. Watch for their stories in the coming months.
And, one more thanks, Happy Thanksgiving to you, your teams and your families.