Vice President of Marketing: Matt Poeltler

Years with Organization: 9

Role: "Analyze the markets, build the Precision Equipment brand and set pricing strategies. Help with asset turnover and build favorable customer

Defining success for a farm equipment dealership boils down to building customer trust and satisfaction, says Matt Poeltler.

The vice president of marketing at Precision Equipment says developing these two key areas is essential in building effective value-added packages for customers, prospects and employees.

In developing an extensive marketing program for the eight locations, Poeltler says nothing is more critical than creating programs that increase trust for all your key audiences.

“This is a huge concern for the customer — they’ve got to trust you,” he says. “It takes trust to build a lifelong partnership with customers. It’s all about relationships and the value you can bring to their operation.

“All Deere dealers have the same price book and we sell the same wholegoods. But how we sell the products and how we deliver that value is where I see my role in building an exciting new brand with the merged companies.”

After college, Poeltler worked in the Reno, Nev., for a pharmaceutical company. After Tom and Chuck Poeltler, who co-owned Elder Implement and are now co-owners of Precision Equipment, bought two more Iowa stores in Winfield and Mediapolis, his dad suggested there was an opportunity in the farm machinery business and Matt came home in 2003.

Poeltler eventually worked his way up to general sales manager while Pat McCrabb served as aftermarket manager. In 2010, the company rearranged the corporate structure to get all departments working to provide additional customer value.

That’s when Poeltler became vice president of marketing and McCrabb was named vice president of operations. While Poeltler handles the pricing and marketing strategies, McCrabb concentrates on the operational side of the business.

Working together, Poeltler and McCrabb establish the yearly marketing and sales plan for the eight locations. Budgets and sales forecasts are set with the help of location managers.

“The location managers have monthly scorecards that show how their forecasted numbers compare with the actual numbers,” says Poeltler. “Pat and I look at this data on a regular basis.”

The Marketing Puzzle

Poeltler has found marketing can be complicated as there are dozens of pieces to the puzzle, and every day can bring new concerns and opportunities.

“I do a lot of branding with advertising to make sure the company image is what we want to portray, handle market analysis, develop customer strategies and implement the marketing plan,” he says.

Building the brand means driving additional value to the customer. The goal is to avoid making deals based only on price.

“I cringe when we’ve lost a deal only on price,” he says. “Offering added value to the customer is something we really strive to provide.”

Poeltler’s job performance is measured on a set of metrics the senior leadership team has developed. This includes looking at market analysis, market share, used equipment turnover, labor percentage to total sales and the return on assets, return on sales and customer experiences.

Early in 2011, the corporate team decided to concentrate on improving customer confidence in the dealerships.

“As we got closer to the merger, we asked what we could do immediately for our customers,” says Poeltler. “The merger allowed us to give customers more service technicians, more sales professionals, more locations, more new and used equipment options and a $3.6 million parts inventory.

“Those were the things we wanted to let customers know would add value to them. As we get further into the merger, we’ll get a better understanding of what we can, and need to, provide.”

Same Locations, Same Folks

As the merger was taking place, Poeltler visited each location and analyzed the differences in culture. The goal was to determine how to effectively bring the varying cultures together so customers could see the added value and new brand image the company wanted to portray in the marketplace.

Even with a new company name, Poeltler wanted customers to know they would still be dealing with the same employees at the eight locations.

“There wasn’t any employee turnover with the merger and we wanted customers to understand this was important for them,” he says.

A web site was created to explain the merger’s benefits to customers. The owners starred in a 4-minute video that cited the benefits of the merger and how customers would be dealing with the same ownership and employees as before. The video stressed how the new company would be expanding its customer support efforts.

Next, a personal letter was mailed to customers explaining the merger. It encouraged customers to go to the web site for more information and to view the video.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the number who went to the web site and watched the video,” says Poeltler. “We highlighted the ‘Join Team Precision’ slogan and provided an aftermarket catalog on the site. We received good feedback from customers.”

Another promotion was a cap exchange on the day the merger was officially announced. Customers were invited to bring in an old Elder Implement, Farmers Implement or competitive brand cap and exchange it for a new one bearing the Precision Equipment name. Several hundred caps were handed out to visitors.

A week later, a mailer was sent to 20,000 customers encouraging them to stop by their local store and pick up an ice scraper or coffee mug. The goal was to attract 10% of the customer base with this promotion.

Stepping Up Events

Poeltler has an advertising and events coordinator on his staff and also works with an outside ad agency. In addition, he hopes to hire an integrated solutions brand manager to develop new electronic technologies and other value-added services for customers.

Like many farm equipment dealerships, the two dealer groups routinely held planter, combine, AMS and tractor clinics each year. They also offered special events, such as a Ladies Night at the Muscatine and Mediapolis locations. Each drew about 20 attendees.

“We had good feedback from the women who placed orders from the catalog for holiday shopping,” says Poeltler. “They told us what they’d like to see us do in the future. There were numerous comments regarding the fact that they didn’t know we carried some products.”

For 2012, the group is planning a mid-winter Precision Equipment Expo at a centralized location within the company’s 15-county market area.

“The idea is to bring in our top customers to see the new equipment, provide dinner and attend a few classes on several new products,” says Poeltler.

“We’ll also use this as a opportunity for hosting a company dinner and party and offer employees and their families dinner and a hotel room for the night if needed.”

Focus on Customer Education

During the coming year, Poeltler expects to hold several focus groups to learn what customers want and need from the company in the future.

“We’re trying to target customers under 40 who are the up and coming farmers,” says Poeltler. “These young farmers may not have as much brand loyalty and are looking for ideas to improve their operations.

“We’re trying to figure out the best way to interact with them, whether it’s social media, on-farm visits, making them aware of new products or outlining coming changes in farming practices.”

Poeltler says the staff takes great pride in evaluating customer satisfaction surveys. “We look at every one that comes in and it’s really nice to see the positive feedback,” he says. “A couple of years ago, we had slipped a little in our customer satisfaction rankings, so we took steps to drive those numbers back up.

“It’s not just parts and service, but the entire dealership supporting the customer that counts. It’s nice to see all departments supporting each other and working toward giving the customer a great experience each and every time.

“We want to know what our customer base is expecting from us and how to best deliver it. We’ve made quite a few positive changes and it’s reflected in our customer experience scores.”

Favorable Employee Response

The merger was announced to employees as soon as the papers were signed and the reaction was positive.

“Everyone on the corporate staff was pleased,” says Poeltler. “There were a few concerns with sales territories, but those will get worked out over time.

“In fact, there were two different viewpoints among the salesmen. Some said it was going to be nice to work with the entire group and not have to beat each other up. Others were motivated by the competition.”

Poeltler sees no limit to what effective marketing can bring to a farm equipment dealership.

“My goal is to meet customer expectations, as they’re becoming more demanding all the time,” he says. “Technology is driving a lot of what customers want from us.

“We want to partner with them and help them understand the value-added solutions we can provide to benefit their operations. Maybe it’s mobile service, new support agreements, technology support, call centers or other items they can trust us to deliver in a total package to help them avoid downtime and add value to their operations.”

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