Editor’s Note: Jeff Bowman presented the kickoff presentation at the 2018 Dealership Minds Summit. He was a longtime marketer at Caterpillar before joining Titan Machinery, where he also serves on the publicly-held firm’s management team. This article was adapted from his presentation to equipment dealers in Iowa City, Iowa in July 2018.
Before joining Titan Machinery up in Fargo close to 2 years ago, I spent the better part of 20 years in and around Caterpillar and its dealers. As I mentioned last night, that means I’d been on the wrong side of John Deere and John Deere dealer marketing for two decades, which isn’t always a fun place to be. That’s 20 years of inspiration to always move faster and try to figure out what’s next and stay ahead. At Cat, we felt John Deere nipping on our heels on the construction side and certainly on the Case side, too. Especially in marketing, we feel like we’re playing catchup. To the John Deere dealers here, thank you for the inspiration over all those years.
You’ve noticed that this event is not a conference and it’s not an expo, it’s a Summit. Summits are when the stakes are high, when the leaders are together, and you’ve got to make some really big changes. I feel like that’s absolutely where we are right now as marketers, especially with all the digital continuing to ramp up, and trying to understand this progression and how to take our dealerships from traditional to intelligent marketing, data-driven marketing.
I hit my teenage years during the 1980s and remember these Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meetings. They met in Reykjavik, Iceland in October 1986 for a big Summit that blew apart at the end but led to a series of meetings that eventually got us through the Cold War, mutually assured destruction, Star Wars missile defense systems and more.
“We have an opportunity to change our businesses fundamentally. The marketing leader in a dealership has a unique role in driving that change…”
When I say the stakes are high, in all seriousness, we have an opportunity to change our businesses fundamentally. The marketing leader in a dealership has a unique role in driving that change and we need to start that dialog to challenge ourselves to think differently about marketing’s role and the changes we need to make.
I’m going to walk through 7 key areas that need to change in how marketing performs in most dealerships. We in marketing and in leadership must guide our dealerships to understand these first. Then, working closely with the rest of the dealership, we need to make these key changes to drive new levels of business. And, just to be clear, we're not through this journey at Titan Machinery. Like most of you, we'e making steady progress each day.