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As the Trimble marketing communications team in the United States and New Zealand prepared to launch EZ-Steer, they realized that the target market for the bold new product is the entire lightbar guidance market and the lower three-quarters of the assisted steering market, which requires 3- to 12-inch accuracy, explains Morag Greenberg, communications manager at Trimble.

"Because Trimble already had a high-end automated steering product in the market with our AgGPS Autopilot, it was essential to help customers differentiate the markets, benefits and applications best suited to EZ-Steer versus Autopilot," she says.

"In addition, Trimble had designed EZ-Steer to overcome several potential barriers to growers' acceptance of assisted steering products. These included perceived high cost, concerns about limited portability within 'multi-color' tractor fleets, uncertainty about real benefits, low understanding of accuracy criteria, concerns with possibly complex installation and possible lack of dealer support. So we needed to address all those issues in an interesting, effective manner."

With that in mind, Trimble prepared an aggressive launch campaign for EZ-Steer. Working with experienced ag marketing specialists at Nicholson Kovac Integrated Marketing Communications in Kansas City, Mo., Greenberg developed a print and radio-based launch campaign targeting various market segments in major U.S. and Canadian growing regions.

Marketing tools included print advertisements and radio spots, EZ-Steer video, portable demonstration models for dealership use and trade shows and a dedicated Web site for EZ-Steer,

"It was a fully integrated launch campaign," explains Greenberg. "First, the materials we developed were based on thoughtful input from both the Trimble sales team and the Trimble marketing team. Sales helped ensure that correct markets and messages were addressed, and marketing helped make sure that the launch materials we developed were created and produced to a high quality standard and were delivered effectively."

In addition, Nicholson Kovac's public relations group worked closely with Trimble marketing and sales staffs to obtain customer satisfaction stories from early purchasers of EZ-Steer systems. "We ran such success stories in each issue of our quarterly newsletter, STRAIGHT TALK, distributed through our dealers to top customers and prospects," notes Greenberg. "These satisfied customers -- and we soon had thousands of them -- also made great leads for ag editors looking for timely story ideas. We maintain a vigorous media relations program that we feel is mutually beneficial to Trimble and to our friends in the ag media -- including print, broadcast and the Web."

Beyond doubt, the product launch of EZ-Steer has been an outstanding success. Consider these facts:
  • Trimble exceeded its 2005 sales goals for EZ-Steer well before mid-year 2005.
  • Based on industry data, Trimble now enjoys a leadership position in the assisted steering and automated steering markets.
  • Trimble expects continued acceptance and growth potential of the EZ-Steer system because of its highly affordable price of US$6,500.
  • Trimble sees the EZ-Steer system -- as an assisted steering upgrade for just US$3,495 -- as a popular step up for growers who purchased EZ-Guide Plus lightbar systems in 2004 and 2005.

"As I see it, the AgriMarketing Product of the Year Award is much more than an award for a product," says Erik Arvesen, general manager of the agricultural division at Trimble. "It's a lasting tribute to a team of wonderful men and women who have what I believe is the strongest 'can do' spirit in any company, in any industry."

Arvesen concludes, "As I look down the road at the endless possibilities in tomorrow's global food and fiber production industry, I wonder what this amazing group of people is going to come up with next." AM

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