GregEmbury.png"The low-hanging fruit's gone and it's time to do serious marketing."

— Greg Embury, vice president sales and marketing

The Year Ahead.

Nonetheless, we're looking forward to a tough year. Recently we counted the number of tractor brands we compete against and came up with 20 brands with Bobcat and Yanmar now entering the American market.

We serve the smaller tractor market extensively and it's down 2% this year. We see that continuing. In 2008, we all need to grab the reins and take charge of our marketing activity. This includes manufacturers as well as dealers. The low-hanging fruit's gone and it's time to do serious marketing.

Planning for the Next 5 Years. The first thing I would do is take a hard look at who is going to be working and living on the land in your local marketplace. A lot of changes are taking place around your dealerships as the landscape changes from traditional, commercial ag operations to lifestyle farmers.

In that kind of environment, the brand is vitally important and you need to invest in growing and marketing your brand as opposed to your products. I'd spend a lot more time building the awareness and respect from the community for your brand as a dealership.

We all need to become real marketing wizards. I'd make sure my salespeople are making strong marketing and prospecting efforts. We need to become aggressive advertisers and promoters and get involved in our communities. We'll also need to be very good at recruiting and retaining qualified people. There's too much turnover in our industry. We need the type of place where people want to stay.

Margins Under Pressure. With 20 brands of tractors out there competing for the same customers, the only differentiating factor is your ability to add value to the product through service and support — and brand image. This is why the look of your place and the enthusiasm of your people are critical in differentiating yourself. Go look at other dealerships. What do they look like when you walk in the door?

Margins will be under pressure. Back in the early 2000s, when small tractor sales were taking off like a rocket, we were having a great time and now we're slow. Now it's time for the big tractors. You're going to need to hold margins and can do it by offering service and support and the confidence that your salespeople won't give away products.

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