Q. How are you utilizing the Internet to build your dealership's revenues? What successes have you had? Are you using any social networking tools (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and how has that helped?

A.“We’ve used the Internet extensively to sell used equipment. Used Xpress has proven to be a valuable tool to broaden the customer base for nice used equipment, as well as some “mechanic’s specials” that we could not move locally. We also have a monthly e-mail blast that updates our customers on our specials and what we’re doing."

—Richard Miller, segment manager, Tri-Green Equipment, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

A.“The primary focus of our online activities is used equipment inventory. The dealership advertises all used inventory online, using its own web site as the primary online tool. To further its reach, Birkey’s also exports the used equipment data to a number of third-party providers, including TractorHouse, MachineryTrader, Fastline and IronSearch. From 2008 to 2009, the online leads that resulted in sales shot up 57%. Birkey’s has also tapped a few social media outlets to promote our web site, and as a way for search engines to get our name out. Besides direct traffic, the majority of our visitors are coming from search engines, so we’re trying to increase our page visibility and ranking on the search engines by using a blog, Facebook and Twitter.”

—Quint Campbell, marketing manager, Birkey’s Farm Store, Rantoul, Ill.

A.“We’ve hired a third party to manage our web site. They keep it up to date and make changes every couple of weeks to keep the site looking fresh. All of our programs are on the site and we put our web site in all of our ads. It’s been a good sales tool for us. We also have Twitter and Facebook accounts for our business and those links are on our web site. We have over 200 members.”

—Todd T. Chance, vice president, Fred Haar Co., Yankton, S.D.

A.“I post our used equipment on the Kubota-hosted site, as well as on our web site. I’ve sold used equipment into Washington state and northern British Columbia. These sales can be directly attributed to the Internet, and we’re doing business regularly with local buyers through e-mail. Digital pictures and ‘read it when you have time’ e-mail is superior to playing phone tag with a potential customer. I’m not using Twitter or Facebook — at least, not yet.”

—Russ Hawryluk, North Island Tractor Ltd., Courtenay, British Columbia

A.“I don’t think our local ag customers will ever use this technology. However, their kids, spouses and residential customers will use the Internet, so we must be available to reach them where they are. We’ve built a Facebook page and linked to Twitter, and we revamped the web site also to pull people into it. I’ve used craigslist, and I’m also looking at Yelp as a new site to draw customers. We’ve had limited success, but I believe we’ll grow in these areas. We’re only about 3 months into this networking effort and it will continue to evolve.”

—Mike Bibby, Fernbridge Tractor & Equipment, Fernbridge, Calif.

A.“We employed the help of Ag-Web Services about 8 months ago. Inquiries have been great. But the online shopping is not so great. The web educates the public as to which tractors they want, but the price shopping online is a killer. Apparently, some dealers either have aged inventory to give away or they’re giving away tractors. Either way, the traffic is nice, but the sales are almost non-existent. We sell parts with e-commerce, but equipment sales are always lost to the lowest bidder. Customers will drive out of state to purchase if the savings pays for the fuel. Then we’re left with only warranty and parts revenue on those customers. I personally don’t see anything in this scenario but possibly an increase in this behavior.”

—Allen Berry, president, ACM Tractor Sales, San Marcos, Texas

A.“We don’t yet Twitter or Facebook. I dislike them both in some ways, but we will probably have to use both in the future. We must be open-minded about such things. We use the Internet to our advantage by keeping an up-to-date web site, but our biggest advantage over competitors is that we typically respond to e-mail or web inquiries with a personal response within 1 hour during business hours. To some customers, that’s huge — especially if our competitors take days to respond or never respond. If a company has a web site and has a means of contact via the Internet, then they need to be prompt.”

—Dave Siemens, owner, Dave’s Tractor, Red Bluff, Calif.

A.“We have our own web site, which features all new and used equipment, as well as manufacturer finance specials. We also use Tractor House and Fastline. Tractor House is our most effective source for sales leads. We do not use social networking sites.”

—Tom Dunne, internet marketing and computer services, Portland Implement, Cashton, Wis.

A.“The Internet has proven a valuable asset in advertising used equipment. We seem to be servicing farms further from our location, and travel to look at used machines is becoming more expensive – in fuel as well as time. With the Internet, someone can look at a piece of machinery and call or e-mail us for further information before making the trip. Currently we don’t use Facebook or Twitter, but we’re considering social networking for the spring.”

—Gene Saville, Lamb & Webster, Springville, N.Y.

A.“Our dealership’s web site, www.azpromac.com, is a very positive marketing tool for all product lines. The web site is organized by product categories for both new and used equipment, and continually updated to be user friendly. The compact tractors and attachments targeted to the rural lifestyle customer are in a defined section of the web page. The web site is considered just as important as select print advertising, with equal response, and it’s expected to become even more meaningful to reach customers.”

—Jim Keller, manager, Arizona Production Machinery & Supply, Peoria, Ariz.

A.“We’re advertising our used tractors on 4 different web sites to get to customers looking for quality tractors. It’s been working and we’ve sold to customers in several states.”

—Tim Bishop, Somerset Farm Equipment, Somerset, Ky.

A.“Our web site, basically, is an A.“We use no social networks, but I do use craigslist a lot to sell new equipment with financing options locally, and to sell used equipment outside of our area in locations that don’t seem affected by the economy as much.”

—Mike Cravillion, Flagstaff Equipment and Bobcat of Yavapai, Prescott Valley, Ariz.

A.“We have a web site that serves all 3 stores. We receive numerous e-mail inquiries directly from the web site. Some are quality inquiries, but most are from too far away. The John Deere Parts Online service through deere.com is an excellent tool. It creates a tie between us and our customers. The customers really like the ability to look up their own parts without coming into the dealership. We’re on Facebook but have little experience, good or bad, with our commercial exposure."

—James L. Taylor, vice president, Hillsboro Equipment, Hillsboro, Wis.

A.“We post many of our machines on our web site and have sold a good number of things. With phone calls and e-mail, we’ve sold equipment anywhere from the next town over to destinations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and even Egypt. The down side is that your machine is competing with every other like item on the Internet. If yours is priced higher due to condition or hours, potential customers may pass you by.”

—Dick McCormac, sales, Elder Implement Co., Muscatine, Iowa

A.“We have a web site, www.comanchenewholland.com, and we list contact information and products for sale. We have not built a site for Facebook, but will in the future.”

—Carole Morgan, assistant manager, Comanche New Holland, Comanche, Texas

A.“I list equipment for sale and people are looking for used equipment. They are not buying new equipment.”

—Ed Pedrick, general manager, Pedrick Enterprises, Quitman, Ga.

A.“We only use John Deere’s site, Used Express. We never use anything else.”

—Harvey Serwe, president, Serwe Implement, Campbellsport, Wis.