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Editor’s Note: As director of Vermeer’s ag division, Mark Core is responsible for all operations and sales worldwide. Core has been with Vermeer for five years and served as agricultural marketing director before assuming responsibility for the division. Vermeer is a privately held company founded by Gary Vermeer in 1948. Located in Pella, Iowa, Vermeer produces and markets more than 100 products, including agricultural, industrial and environmental equipment for customers around the world. Besides its well-known hay equipment, Vermeer has a strong presence with directional boring machines, track and rubber tire trenchers, brush chippers, stump cutters and tub grinders. The company is managed by CEO Robert Vermeer and President Mary Vermeer Andringa.

AM: Tell us about the marketing efforts to launch the Rebel baler.

When you’re a smaller company like Vermeer in a market with highly leveraged competitors, it’s critical to identify and develop niche markets that best fit your company’s core competencies. That’s why the Vermeer Rebel baler has been an exciting product launch for Vermeer Ag. It features basically the same proven design that has made Vermeer successful for many years. But now it’s priced and packaged to fit a new niche. The target: hobby/part-time farmers.

The Rebel was our first effort at branding a product. It was challenging to design a marketing program around a brand name (instead of the company name), particularly when you have the advantage of the Vermeer brand in the round baler market. But we felt this baler and the target were distinct enough to differentiate from our main line of balers.

Our primary marketing focus was to position the Rebel almost as a way of life for the small operator. In fact, we composed and custom-produced a Rebel song. Then we incorporated it into a video to be used as a dealer-training tool and a sales video. We knew it was important that Vermeer dealers identify and understand the target customer for Rebel Balers, so we spent a lot of time upfront in the launch process with our dealer organization. Then we supported dealer training with co-op ads, trade show displays, national media, the Progressive Farmer sweepstakes program, as well as increased dealer activity with end users.

AM: What marketing strategies, including financing, have you used to make buying Vermeer equipment easier?

We’re just starting to learn the process of providing retail financing. Today’s marketplace has conditioned all consumers to look for financing opportunities for whatever they are buying. With this in mind, we’ve put more focus on this tactic in our marketing plan. Plus, we’re utilizing extended-warranty programs to give customers the confidence and assurance that their first two years of out-of-pocket expense with Vermeer will be very minimal.

AM: Has confining yourself to the mowing and baling market helped or hindered your marketing efforts in this economy?

There are distinct advantages to being heavily focused on a niche market. It allows you to concentrate heavily in important areas such as product knowledge, industry knowledge, product design, dealer training and producer education. When customers approach someone within the Vermeer organization, or one of our key dealers, they quickly realize that Vermeer is an excellent resource of information on which they can rely to make solid decisions concerning their haying operation. Many companies, from the old established ones to the new start-ups, have proved that a selective and concentrated focus can be very successful within the ag market - Kinze in the row crop planter market, Vet-Life in the animal health business, as well as Vermeer in the hay and forage market.

The disadvantage, of course, is the fact that we’re not always able to bundle products for retail programs and advertising as are our major full-line competitors.

AM: Does being a family-owned business in agriculture today give you unique opportunities with customers?

MC: The fact that Vermeer is a family-owned business provides us a big advantage with our dealer organization. Generally, most dealers in the farm equipment business are concerned about consolidation. Many dealership owners have virtually their entire net worth wrapped up in the business. So any significant change in their equipment suppliers can be devastating. We believe that Vermeer dealers see tremendous value in the stability of a long-standing, financially sound family-owned company and the principles it stands for. AM

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