I had the chance to be a fly on the wall, and listen in to a roundtable discussion at the 2024 Precision Farming Dealer Summit in Indianapolis, as dealers discussed some of their best practices and biggest challenges when it comes to hosting customer clinics. Here are some interesting nuggets I jotted down in my notes app. 

The question of charging for clinics came up, to which one precision specialist responded, "When we do free events, if they're not paying anything, then they don't have skin in the game, and they don't participate as much in the clinic. That's one benefit of a perceived cost. They might walk away with a higher appreciation of the clinic." Another dealer said they don't charge for clinics because their customers have already made a big investment by being there. 

How big should clinics be? There were differing opinions on that question.

"We have time slots," one manager said. "That way customers can sign up, and it keeps the sessions smaller and more personal." 

"There was a point when our clinics got too big," another person chimed in. "It was a mess. So, we put our sales guys in charge of contacting customers to attend clinics." 

The room unanimously agreed that clinics, sales and customer appreciation events need to be kept separate. The key is pre-defining each event ahead of time. One dealership held a product meeting that was a smash hit in its first year. Over 150 people attended, including "the right guys," the big producers who want to know what's going on. 

There was a debate about the length of clinics. One person was struggling with keeping customers to stay for their day-long clinics that include a morning session, lunch and an afternoon session. "Some people do stick around, and I know they benefit by sticking around. But many leave after lunch. How do you keep everyone there all day?" he asked. 

"You don't, you keep it short and sweet," someone responded. "When you go to church, do you want the 1-hour service or the 4-hour service?" 

Do customers prefer shorter or longer clinics? It depends on how far they're traveling from, one person pointed out. "If they're coming from far away, they expect a day-long experience," he said. 

Here are some other comments from the session:

"Free food is always a big draw."

"Clinics are essentially preventative maintenance."

"Clinics become sales pitches too often. It should be more about how the customers get the most out of what they already have." 

"We're all driving sales, even at customer appreciation events with ice cream in the summer."

"It's important to have a set agenda for every clinic."

"Planter clinics are helpful — just going over nuts and bolts of equipment, what to monitor, data management, etc." 

Click here to relieve the "best of the best" ideas from the Precision Farming Dealer Summit through replays of the 2024 conference presentations, made possible with the support of Susterre.