Editor's note: we invited represen-tatives of leading organizations who have achieved high levels of success in the rural lifestyle market to share their thoughts about this growing segment.
by Greg Embury, VP Sls & Mktg
Kubota Tractor Corporation (KTC) was built by providing tractors and equipment that are intentionally designed to meet the unique needs of people in rural areas. This includes tractors up to 103 PTO horsepower, lawncare equipment, utility vehicles, and performance-matched implements for lawn, garden and farming needs.
Kubota is the only tractor manufacturer to design and build diesel engines, and all major components for its products, which translates into added quality, innovation and value.
KTC was formed in 1972, three years after introducing the Kubota 21-hp L200 tractor to fill a void in the American market.
Product innovation, easy operation and safety are important in country-living settings where there are often a variety of terrains and many tasks to complete. In our culture of continuous improvement, this has driven Kubota product and service innovations.
Country-living and other enthusiasts responded by making Kubota the U.S. market leader in the under-40-hp tractor class, and a preferred product in many categories.
While these family-oriented people live in the country, they are "in touch." They turn to the Internet, print media, radio and television when researching products, and attend trade shows and visit local, trusted dealerships.
That's why Kubota's U.S. network of more than 1,000 authorized dealers invests in local cooperative advertising (print, billboards, radio and television), sponsorships and Web sites. Our national multi-media communications initiatives target this audience's specific interests — gardening, horse/livestock ownership, landscaping and do-it-yourself.
KTC may be the only tractor company created to serve the U.S. country-living segment, rather than adding a division to grow into this market.
We've focused on gaining feedback from Kubota users that helps us set new standards for equipment operation and comfort. For example, Kubota's system of dealer-advisory boards regularly channels customer feedback that results in new products and new ways of conducting business. And, our engineers work directly with customers while developing product enhancements.
At the heart of everything we do are four corporate goals that remain unchanged at Kubota Corporation since 1922: high performance, energy efficiency, labor saving and respect for humanity. These fit remarkably well with what's important to the country-living segment, and position KTC to provide equipment and service to truly help meet these homeowners' needs.
by Daryl Oldvader, CEO
Jefferson City, MO
Through our FCS Financial Land & Home sub brand, we reach out to customers seeking loans, insurance and financial guidance for real estate, investment property and land.
Buying land or homes in the country is different than buying or building a home in the city. We understand those differences and have the experience to help people make the adjustment. Our brand says, "Come to us, we know the neighborhood and would be glad to show you around."
More than 90 years ago, FCS Financial was built on serving Missouri agriculture and, today, remains committed to delivering meaningful ideas and solutions that provide value to our customers. In 2006, FCS Financial realigned our brand to better serve the needs of our customers on the basis of three areas: the changing rural marketplace, the competition, and the future of the industry.
We recognized the changes taking place in these areas and are expanding our services to reach this quickly growing segment, while remaining focused on rural Missouri. The 2002 Census of Agriculture showed a decrease in the number of traditional, full-time farmers.
Unlike that group, non-traditional, part-time farmers or "rural lifestylists" are on the rise. Given this shift in the rural landscape and the corresponding change in customer needs, FCS Financial realized the need to change itself in order to stay relevant in the marketplace. FCS Financial is now positioned to serve all those who want to enjoy the lifestyle that rural Missouri offers.
Currently we use a print, radio and direct mail media mix along with targeted promotions, direct sales, third-party relationships and community involvement to make this group aware of our services. With our advertising agency, Osborn & Barr, we continuously review options to reach the Land & Home segment through advertising and public relations. We also plan to commission additional research to better understand this key group.
FCS Financial created two new sub-brands: Ag & Business and Land & Home. The Ag & Business sub-brand continues to focus on customers whose needs involve agriculture and agribusiness, including real estate, operating expenses, equipment, machinery, livestock and risk management tools.
The Land & Home sub-brand reaches out to customers seeking loans, insurance and financial guidance for real estate, investment property and land. Additional financial products round out the offerings along with an acute knowledge of the rural marketplace held by FCS Financial employees.
by Joe Fahey, VP Mktg,
Lake Zurich, IL
Just about all our products can add value to those choosing to live in rural areas. We have been providing the best handheld outdoor power equipment for industry professionals and discerning landowners for more than 30 years. ECHO provides high performance products for maintaining trees, brush and lawns. This includes a complete line of chain saws, pole saws, grass trimmers, brush cutters, hedge clippers and more.
ECHO products are certified to the highest level of useful life to ensure maximum value from the consumer's investment. Since our products are developed to meet the reliability, durability and efficiency requirements of the demanding commercial customers, ECHO products lead the industry with a proven standard of performance that people in rural communities can depend on.
As a testament to our quality design and manufacturing, ECHO is the only company to offer a five-year consumer warranty on all its engine-driven products.
A mainstay of our marketing efforts involves classic marketing vehicles such as print/electronic advertising, cable television, radio, store merchandising tools, and industry trade shows. We are currently running many of these campaigns under the theme "Tough Guys Need Tough Tools" to reinforce through strong visuals the ruggedness and durability of our equipment.
In addition, we also use grassroots programs and sponsorships to help build brand awareness. For example, a cornerstone of our commitment to environmental conservation is our corporate sponsorship of Ducks Unlimited (DU). In addition to supporting DU's Wetlands for Tomorrow Foundation, our vast distributor/dealer network supports many of the local chapters' fundraising efforts.
We also are big supporters of venues demonstrating the versatility of our products. ECHO sponsors a five man pro-chain saw carving team that appears collectively and individually at carving and special events around the world demonstrating their form of art using chain saws. We also sponsor the ECHO Carving Series that involves pro-carver competitions through the year leading to a championship event.
by Blake Fohl, VP Mktg,
Tractor Supply Company (TSC) is the leading retail farm and ranch supply store chain in the U.S.
Stores supply unique products to support our customers' rural lifestyle. Those products range from welders, generators and air compressors to animal care products, from men's and women's work clothing to truck/hauling equipment and accessories. Stores carry tools and hardware, home repair products, equine and pet supplies, animal feed, riding mowers, lawn and garden products and more.
Each store team includes a welder, a farmer or rancher and a horse owner, who collectively provide an exceptional depth of knowledge and resources.
Stores carry specific seasonal and regional products designed to meet customers' particular needs at every time of year and in all parts of the country.
TSC is a leading retailer for nationally respected brands such as Cub Cadet lawn tractors and Carhartt work clothing, among others. In addition, TSC has developed popular private label brands, such as Retriever dog food, Royal Wing birdseed, Huskee lawn tractors and C.E. Schmidt work clothing.
The company was founded in 1938 as a mail order catalog offering tractor parts to small farmers. Over the years, as agriculture changed and the number of people moving outside the cities increased, the company adapted to meet the needs of the new rural lifestyle. We use a variety of research tools to stay close to our customers and understand their needs.
Our customers describe TSC as "a store you can trust."
Our marketing programs are targeted at the people with the most potential to shop in our stores. We produce millions of newspaper inserts every year to showcase the depth and breadth of our products. We have a national advertising campaign around "The Stuff You Need Out Here." We have a large direct mail database of customers and their shopping categories, so we can communicate with them in a very personal way. And of course, we use events, sponsorships, public relations and other initiatives to round out our awareness.
As a retail company, the results that matter most are sales. We are focused on sales achieved in a manner that produces customers for life, sales that repeat and sales that produce customer referrals. We will be successful so long as we continue to earn our customers' trust.