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Editor's Note: Bob Crain is vice president, New Holland Agricultural Business, North America. He previously served as vice president, Agricultural Marketing, North America, for the Case IH and New Holland brands. Crain has been with the company 23 years, joining the former Ford Tractor Operations in 1981. During his years with the company, he has held various commercial positions including field sales, service, parts distribution and market representation, working directly with New Holland dealers and customers.

AM: In your current position, what are the top priorities for 2004?

BC: Our top priorities for 2004 are to increase brand loyalty among our dealers and customers and to make New Holland even more responsive than it already is in dealing with dealers and customers. These two priorities really dovetail, since making it easier and more satisfying to do business with New Holland will result in greater dealer and customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. I'll add that this is not simply a goal or target, but rather it is something that needs to be reassessed continuously as we strive to stay in tune with a constantly changing agriculture industry.

Another priority is to increase New Holland's brand recognition and market share in the growing non-traditional ag markets, such as the equine, rural lifestyle and landscape/turf markets. We have a very dynamic, modern and innovative customer base in these markets as well as the more traditional markets we serve.

AM: As consolidation in agriculture continues, what marketing efforts are you using to retain a loyal customer base?

BC: Today's customers have become more sophisticated and demand higher levels of customer service than ever before. They expect that from us, and that is why meeting their expectations is a continuing process rather than a single goal. They want someone they can trust who understands their wants and needs.

We put a great deal of emphasis on understanding our dealers and customers and their requirements. It involves talking with dealers and customers - discovering what they want, what they need, and how New Holland can be of help. We put a lot of effort into conducting customer focus groups and have regular meetings with our Dealer Council, a group of dealer delegates who are elected by their peers.

Knowing our customers' needs and listening to their concerns helps in finding solutions for them that are exactly in tune with their needs. We believe if our products truly meet the needs of the buyer, everyone - New Holland, the dealer and the customer - will benefit as a result of the sale.

We are all part of this agricultural industry, from the farmers and ranchers to the agribusinesses and the information providers such as Agri Marketing and others in the publications and broadcasting industry. Working together, we can keep this entire agricultural machine running at peak performance.

AM: How do New Holland dealers play a role in building and maintaining customer relationships?

BC: I can't begin to explain the critical role dealers play in building and maintaining customer relationships. To our customers, their local dealer is the day-to-day "face" and personality of New Holland. The initial sales support as well as the "service after the sale" New Holland dealers provide to their customers is a vital part of the buying experience. It would be an understatement to simply say we value our dealers. In reality, we consider them to be one of our greatest and most important assets.

AM: Does New Holland market to the small farmer or rural lifestyle customer? In what way does your marketing strategies differ in this segment?

BC: As I indicated earlier, part-time farmers and rural lifestyle customers are increasing in number, so they are an important part of our marketing efforts. In fact, they're the fastest-growing segment of the tractor market. Our valued heritage of Ford tractors and New Holland hay tools has historically had a strong appeal to this market segment, and we plan to build on that legacy with innovative, modern equipment that meets the desires of these customers.

We've just introduced a newly expanded line of Boomer™ subcompact, compact and utility tractors with a lot of appeal to this market segment.

We'll be spending more of our marketing resources in pursuing these customers, by advertising in rural lifestyle publications and creating financing and other promotional programs that appeal to this important customer segment. AM

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