Dealership marketing managers at farm equipment dealerships have been pushing digital tools for sales and lead management for years, but the adoption of such tools has been slow. The current coronavirus crisis forced the adoption of such tools for Koenig Equipment, a 15 store John Deere dealership group in Indiana and Ohio, says vice president of marketing Marguerite Kleinedler.

Social distancing because of COVID-19 means the dealership has evolved its methods of doing business, including more increased emphasis on digital options. But, Kleinedler points out many of the tools had been available, but just not highly used by customers.

 “We have been designing and offering digital tools for years, but now there’s a renewed focus on digital business platforms,” she says. These include the MyDealer customer portal and Build Your Own app on the Koenig Equipment website.

The marketing department, which includes Kleinedler and two others (Roseann Robinson, senior marketing coordinator, and Amy Wagner, marketing coordinator), made sure that customers and employees alike were educated on using the tools.

The Build Your Own app was launched in December and lets customers spec out their own compact utility tractor, gator or riding lawn equipment. While the tool had initially gotten limited use by customers, now Koenig is seeing two or three leads per through the Build Your Own app. Online service and parts requests have seen significant increases too, Kleinedler says.

Internet Sales

In November, at the start of its fiscal year, Koenig added an internet sales position, which provides centralized lead management. When created, it was a dual role that a turf salesperson Sarah Cross filled. 

“When we saw the Covid-19 impact on Customers’ use of online quoting tools, we quickly designated it a full-time position and provided the necessary software to manage leads efficiently. It's made a significant difference,” says Kleinedler, adding that two weekends ago Koenig received over 60 online equipment requests.

As a turf salesperson by training, Cross sees many of the equipment inquiries through to the end of the sale. Any Inquiries for ag or construction equipment are passed on to the appropriate salesperson.

Currently, if financing is needed, the inquiry gets passed along, too. However, Kleinedler says the dealership is planning to turn on a button on the website for financing through John Deere Financial that would provide both the customer and Koenig with financing results within 2-30 minutes.

As a result of the success, Koenig Equipment is adding an internet ag sales position within the next few weeks. Kleinedler says her goal is to generate enough business to add two additional internet sales positions to provide quick customer response.

Mobile Response Team

Another Koenig initiative for the year that was kicked into high gear in response to COVID-19 was the creation of a mobile response team focused on providing on location service. The mobile response team operates similar to a central dispatch, Kleinedler says. They take calls for service requests and then based on technician availability dispatch the service jobs.

“This put a sense of urgency on getting it right because we were piloting it in a couple areas and growing it a little at a time because we didn’t want to rush it,” she says. “This gave us the urgency to really do things right.”

Marketing Strategy

Overall, Koenig Equipment’s marketing strategy hasn’t changed, but some of the messaging has. “With the Covid-19 restrictions, We had to quickly review all ad content for appropriate messaging. For example, we changed  ‘Stop in and see us,’ to ‘Call us,’” Kleinedler says. At Koenig, we felt it important that Customers knew we were always available to handle their needs.

While the agency she works with said many companies were putting marketing on hold, that is not the case for Koenig. “We did not do that. We have modified the media mix and moved radio out a week, but we picked it up at the tail end of our plan. We  did not reduce any spending mainly because we wanted our Customers to feel we could be reached anytime, anywhere, either online, by phone, or in the store,” she says.

“I didn’t want to stop any type of customer messaging. I wanted to make sure they knew we were here. With all the other things they were unsure of, whether it was their property or their business, I wanted to make sure we were available and they knew it.”