A long-term commitment to selling GPS technology pays off for this single-store Kubota dealer.
Full-line farm equipment dealerships and precision-only companies largely populate the competitive market for selling and servicing precision farming technology.
While there are some shortline dealers carving out a profitable precision niche, it’s particularly rare to see a dealership targeting rural lifestyle farmers commit to precision farming as a part of its business.
But Armstrong Implements, a single store Kubota dealership in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, is thriving as one of the top North American dealers for Outback Guidance equipment.
“There are not many like us in the rural lifestyle equipment market,” says Brandon Talaga, who heads up the dealership’s precision operations. “Most dealers in the precision business are selling larger equipment, but we’ve been able to establish ourselves as a go-to GPS dealer in our area.”
The dealership sold its first Outback guidance system 13 years ago, and at the time was involved with sales and service of some larger equipment lines including Massey Ferguson and Gleaner. After the first field demo, they immediately saw the potential in the GPS market. In 2006, Armstrong refocused its product lines solely on the rural lifestyle farmer, but continued to carry Outback systems because of ongoing success selling the technology.
The dealership’s overall sales of nearly $5 million rank them near the top North American performers for Outback, and Talaga estimates that the at one time Armstrong had as much as 75% market share of GPS business in the region.
So what is the key to their success? One is establishing the dealership as a specialized service and support leader, says Talaga.
“A big advantage for us over larger precision dealers is that we specialize in GPS, so customers know when they have a question, they’re not going to get passed on to another person,” he says. “I’m available anytime, and there’s a comfort and appeal that goes along with that for customers.”
Talaga handles sales, service calls and updates, while long time mechanic Mike Mutlow does installations, and also troubleshoots. Armstrong also puts on an annual GPS precision farming field day for customers and friends to demonstrate the systems.
“Demonstrations are big for us because we rely on customers of all different colors of farm equipment and our aftermarket systems are highly compatible with multiple brands,” Talaga says. “We’re able to plug into different systems for auto-steer on tractors or yield mapping in combines, and it can be a lot more cost efficient for customers.”
But Talaga acknowledges that the precision market today is a lot more challenging than it was 13 years ago. There is stiffer competition and a wider array of products for farmers to choose from, and more farm equipment is coming factory installed with guidance and auto-steer systems.
“It’s definitely something that we’re watching, but we feel what separates us is the focus on the customer. We have developed a loyal customer base,” Talaga says. “However, I think it would be more challenging today for a dealer like us to pick up a GPS line in today's crowded market.”
For those rural lifestyle dealers considering adding a precision brand to their product line, Talaga has this advice; “Know and research your market. There are opportunities out there, but make sure you have a dedicated person for precision and focus in an area where you have the most potential to succeed.”