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Agri Marketing magazine created the Product of the Year Award program in 1997 to recognize one agricultural product each year for outstanding marketing impact in the marketplace. Judging criteria include sales and marketing goals, competitive pressure in the marketplace and effective use of marketing tools in the introduction of the product. Six candidates from diverse industry sectors were submitted to an independent group of judges.

Roz Buick, Ph.D., director of marketing
Despite growing adoption of agricultural GPS over the past decade, the AgGPS® EZ-Steer™ assisted steering system from Trimble is arguably the first product to truly take the global market by surprise -- and by storm.

"We first announced EZ-Steer to the market on Dec. 1, 2004," says Roz Buick, Ph.D., director of marketing at Trimble. "The response to our product introduction was astounding -- a flood of early orders, many from dealers and growers who had not even seen the product. We presented and demonstrated the product to our Trimble resellers in January 2005 and this generated further excitement and orders."

Adds Buick, "Well before mid-year, we had exceeded our 2005 sales goals."

Like many success stories, the development and fast market acceptance of EZ-Steer system is the result of keen insight, inspiration and brilliance. It's also a story of dogged determination, near-heroic stamina and flawless teamwork.

George Huber, global sales director
For some Agri Marketing readers, EZ-Steer may look a bit familiar. Its user interface, the AgGPS® EZ-Guide® Plus lightbar guidance system, was a runner-up in last year's Product of the Year competition. "I really look at this award as being presented to both of these products, because EZ-Steer is an addition to the EZ-Guide Plus system, and combining the two creates a new product category," says George Huber, global sales director for Trimble.

Huber says creating the assisted steering category made sense for Trimble for two reasons:

"First, we saw a need for a less expensive, easy-to-use, easy-to-install GPS steering product in the marketplace -- a product that delivered less accuracy than our high-end Autopilot system's 1-inch repeatable accuracy -- yet met the need for tillage, spraying, combining and similar machine operations," says Huber.

"In addition, we'd been thinking about developing accessories to our EZ-Guide Plus system because of the large customer base currently using this product," he adds. "At the same time, users of EZ-Guide Plus were starting to ask us whether that product could be used for autosteering purposes. So, because of this and other market factors, our overall new-product strategy focused more on developing a new, larger mass market for an autosteering product as opposed to simply offering a specialty add-on for an existing product."

Sid Siefken, Lightbar Guidance and GPS Sensor manager
Sid Siefken, Lightbar Guidance and GPS Sensor manager for Trimble, says the market has been sending other signals that the time was right for a product such asEZ-Steer system.

"Top producers are understanding the need for better machine utilization and improved efficiency. Whether they're tilling, spreading, seeding, spraying or harvesting, they need to get the best performance possible out of those machines," he notes. "That means eliminating gaps and overlaps, operating at maximum effective speed and running primary machines as many hours a day as you safely can during time-critical seasons. It also includes getting maximum performance from each gallon of fuel."

"And those," adds Siefken, "are the benefits that EZ-Steer delivers best -- at a price virtually any size of farming operation can afford." AM

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