It’s one thing to rest on your laurels. It’s entirely another thing to remember how they got to be laurels in the first place.
All of us know there’s little time for rest in business these days. But a mistake many of us make is to not sit back from time to time and recall what we’ve done right. Often, it seems, we take success for granted, as if it just happens.
We’re not going to do this with this issue of Farm Equipment’s SHOWCASE because it represents the 40th consecutive year that the SHOWCASE has been published. While I wasn’t here for the first 35, I know one thing for sure: a good idea is a good idea. And a great idea is one that lasts for four decades.
Jim Rank was there at the beginning when the idea for the SHOWCASE was conceived. He’s still with us today working as hard on the 40th anniversary issue as he did on the first one published in 1971.
“In 1970, we determined that Farm Equipment needed to publish an annual shopping guide for our dealer readers and shortline manufacturers, but it had to be different from the other buyers’ guides and directories out there,” says Rank.
The content would follow the style of the J.C. Penney and Sears & Roebuck catalogs where each product was illustrated with a photo and a short bit of copy. Products would be organized in categories to make them easy to find. Each one would also have an individual reader inquiry number that could be used for a full 12 months.
“We mailed it in January when dealers had more time to read it and so it was available all year long,” Rank says.
“We called it SHOWCASE because that is what it is — a showcase of the latest and greatest of products available from the shortline manufacturers. At the time, this approach was revolutionary for an industry publication,” Rank recalls. “Not only was it different from anything our equipment dealers had seen before, but it was effective. Even today, it garners 6 times more dealer inquiries than regular issues.”
Jim Rank recalls 40 years of Farm Equipment’s SHOWCASE success.
As a result of the SHOWCASE’s success, many other magazines launched similar product guides, but Farm Equipment’s original is still the “granddaddy” of them all.
Like all successful products, Farm Equipment identified a customer need — in this case, both the dealer’s need to know what was new out there and the shorliner’s need to get their message to the dealers — and developed a product around it.
And rather than resting on past successes, Farm Equipment continues to invest to keep SHOWCASE as fresh and useful as it was 40 years ago. Last year alone, staff editors logged 21,000 miles traveling to farm equipment shows uncovering the newest products on the market.
“In addition to improving our coverage of the newest equipment coming on the market each year, the biggest change with SHOWCASE came about when Lessiter Publications acquired Farm Equipment 5 years ago,” Rank says. “That’s when we began including an in-depth — and sometimes controversial — special report in each SHOWCASE issue. This made it even more valuable for dealers, and gave them another reason to hang on to it all year.”
The success of SHOWCASE over the past four decades hasn’t been an accident. It’s been the result of vision and hard work by a lot of people. But more than this, it has succeeded because it stemmed from the genuine desire to serve you, our readers. And toward this end, you’ll never see us resting on anything — let alone our laurels.