Friday, August 15, 2008

Farm Show Season Is Under Way!

FARMFEST

(Redwood Falls, MN) As the marketing manager for the company, I usually have the opportunity to represent All States Ag Parts at 2 or 3 farm shows each year. August 4-7, I attended Farmfest in southwest Minnesota.

Farmfest is a typical outdoor farmshow, a temporary tent city that pops up over night and disappears just as quickly. In a matter of three days, 35,000 people pass through the gates with the hope of learning how to make their farming operation more successful.

Dirk Pearson, store manager at Hendricks, MN, and I took in the sites and sounds at the 27th annual Farmfest this year, starting each of the 3 mornings at the mom & pop vendor peddling mini donuts. On day one, Dirk bought a bag of these delicious morsels and generously shared some with me, but for the next two days we both had to have our own bags of these cinnamon and sugar coated delicacies. Speaking of food, I also have to mention the Minnesota Beef Producer’s tent where I took in a wonderful barbeque beef sandwich on day three and was served by the Minnesota Beef Queen (more on this later).

Thanks to Jeff Griggs being in attendance on day two and giving us some lengthier breaks, I was able to listen to Governor Pawlenty speak about the future of wind power and ethanol as part of Minnesota’s role in providing solutions to the country’s energy problems. He seemed extremely knowledgeable on these topics and I was quite impressed with his presentation. On the day before, I listened (extremely briefly) to the candidates for Minnesota’s senate race debate various farm issues including incumbent Norm Coleman, comedian Al Franken and a couple of independents. While 5 minutes is barely enough time to make a judgement, I’m not sure Minnesotans have many good choices in this race.

Outside the political arena and the delicious food, the primary reason for most people to attend farmfest is to see the 500 plus farm-related companies displaying everything from automatic electrical wire strippers to the biggest, most expensive combines you’ve ever seen. There are also countless forums presented by government agencies, farm organizations and others covering a range of topics from the new federal farm bill to “fuel vs. food”. Field demonstrations for plows, planters and harvesting are highlights of each day.

But the real reason Dirk and I were at Farmfest was to present All States Ag Parts to customers and potential customers. We upgraded this years display to 20’, as at all of our shows, and have added a selection of parts to go along with our graphic presentation and catalog distribution. With three great days of weather, we were able to increase our catalog distribution at Farmfest by 30% over last year and have doubled it from two years ago.

I was at Farmfest a couple of years ago and found this year’s experience to be quite different. Two years ago, I think the people of southwestern Minnesota thought they had two choices for used tractor parts – Salem Tractor Parts and one of our competitors with a salvage yard in the area. This year, most of the people were not only aware of Hendricks Tractor Parts, but many reported positive “parts shopping” experiences in Hendricks. The number of customers that stopped by to say hello to Dirk had to be at least 10 times what it was two years ago. Dirk knew many of these previous customers by name and could even recall what they had purchased in many cases. There were some customers from the Pipestone area that have found Greg Klein at our Hendricks store and are happy to be doing business with Greg again. Greg’s family ran a salvage yard in the Pipestone area for a number of years.

We still have our Minnesota customers that are loyal followers of Dave, Ben and Willie from our Salem store and several customers from eastern Minnesota that mention they do business with Doc at Downing Tractor Parts, but I guess what I took away from these discussions with our customers was the great experience they all had with All States Ag Parts. Everyone I talked with was satisfied because we not only had the parts, but also the knowledge to answer their questions.

I know it all sounds simple, but sometimes the difference between “good” customer service and “memorable” customer service is something that we aren’t even aware that we do. For example, remember earlier when I mentioned that I ate at the Minnesota Beef Producer’s tent and was served by the Minnesota Beef Queen. The food wasn’t any better than the other days, but I chose to mention this meal because during the 30 seconds that I was in line, the Beef Queen called me by name and asked what my company did. She showed an interest in me as a customer beyond serving my food and sending me on my way. Sure, she read my name from my name tag and I’m certain has long forgotten what All States Ag Parts does, but the next time I’m at Farmfest, I’ll make sure and eat at the Beef Producer’s tent because I felt like I was welcome in their tent. All of this made me think – “What can I do today to make my customers feel welcome at our company?”

EMPIRE FARM DAYS
(Seneca Falls, NY) Pete Lauer, , and Dennis Berends, Downing Tractor Parts represented All States Ag Parts at the from August 5-7. This show has attendance of 60,000 to 70,000 with over 600 exhibitors covering 75 acres.

Pete and Dennis set up shop in the main tent in the the northwest corner of the show. The 20’ x 10’ booth featured demonstration parts, catalog distribution and our 10’ wide graphics board. The show started off a little slow on Tuesday, but picked up rapidly with an outstanding day on Thursday with well over 1000 catalogs distributed in one day.

WISCONSIN FARM TECH

(Brown County, WI) Ben Van Vleet, Wisconsin Tractor Parts, and Larry Amble, Downing Tractor Parts represented All States Ag Parts at the Wisconsin Farm Tech show on July 15-16. The show was scheduled for three days, but lightning, wind and heavy rain cut the event down to a day and a half. Obviously our expectations for this show were not met, but certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort.

Ben and Larry set up the 20’ display in the varied industries tent and had passed out numerous catalogs before the show was closed for weather reasons.

UPCOMING SHOWS & SCHEDULED EXHIBITORS

Aug. 19-21, 2008, DakotaFest in Mitchell, SD. We will be in booth 2204.
Exhibitors: Greg Klein, Hendricks Tractor Parts and a rotating staff from Salem Tractor Parts.

Aug. 26-28, 2008, Farm Progress in Boone, IA.
Exhibitors: Doc, Downing Tractor Parts and a rotating staff from Urbandale Tractor Parts

Sep. 9-11, 2008, Husker Harvest Days in Grand Island, NE
Exhibitors: George Lunniss and Rodger Berry, both from Bridgeport Tractor Parts

Sep. 16-18, 2008, Ohio Farm Science Review in London, OH
Exhibitors: Jerry Patterson, Missouri Tractor Parts and Larry Amble, Downing Tractor Parts

Oct. 14-16, 2008, Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, GA
Exhibitors: Terry Burkart, Urbandale Tractor Parts and Brad Eftink, Missouri Tractor Parts