While I was recently packing up a couple of Goodwill-bound boxes, an old rotary phone caught the eye of my young son. After studying the relic for a moment, he asked the inevitable question — “Do a lot of people still use these?”

Growing up in an age of instant communication, I indulged him with the brief history lesson, but it also got me thinking about how rare telephone conversations have become.

For quick interactions, texts and instant messaging surely outnumber phone chats I have by a 10 to 1 margin. And let’s face it, I and others are far more likely to check a random text than answer a call from an unknown number.

While precision farming dealers still rely on those personal phone conversations when selling and supporting technology, some are taking advantage of texting to target customers with brief, but specific messages.

With an understanding that smart phones are probably in the pockets or tractor cabs of most farmers today, the time it takes to craft and send a 160-character message can outweigh the value of a mass mailing or marketing cold call.

Hoober Inc., our 2016 Most Valuable Dealership recipient, deployed a text message to nearly 1,000 customers promoting a 2-day precision hardware sale the day before Thanksgiving. The goal of the campaign was to sell about $250,000 in used inventory, but the promotion pulled in nearly $500,000 in sales.

Another precision-only dealership in Illinois is utilizing mass text software to contact customers with training event reminders or invitations to stop by their booth at a local farm show. The platform allows the dealer to send up to 500 messages per month for free, with a prorated charge for additional texts. 

The system is also customizable, which allows for salespeople to target their own customers with a specific offer, invitation or alert. Of course, to get value out of texting campaigns, dealers need to have a deep enough pool of customers’ cell phone numbers to make it worthwhile.