In the long run, there are only two sustainable positions–you sell less for less or you sell more for more.
It’s tempting to think that you can pull a Wal-mart and appear to deliver more for less, but that’s far more rare than it appears. And the market is smart (and getting smarter) so delivering less for more, while apparently a great gig, doesn’t last. Seth Goodin
You can push a product to the big box store without complete and thorough testing but with today’s social media any assembly issues, defects in the product or the supply chain will bite you hard. You can go from the “hottest new thing” to zero sales in weeks. And the internet has a long, long, long memory especially in the snow blower, lawn tractor, and ZTR areas. Problems with a product, either real or perceived will haunt you forever. Back in the 90’s, you could push a product to market and then let the customers do the prove-design – sort out the problems. That time is long gone.
Problems with service and support last even longer. You can no longer afford to “farm” out your online/phone support to a vendor. You can no longer afford to let the advertising department answer questions on your social media pages. EVERY person your customer comes in contact with must either be an expert or will personally take on the responsibility of finding the answer and making sure the problem is fixed. (The companies that are killing it on Amazon have figured this out)
Today you have to teach the customer how you are different and then prove it over time. They want to know how a product is better and why. A one-paragraph sales pitch no longer works. What ‘s most interesting is people will pay more if you can teach them how it’s better. Unless you are just going for today’s profit – there are no shortcuts through advertising or “as seen on TV”
Customers in the Lawn & Garden industry are very slow to change. If they liked their last mower, they want a new one just like it. If your new product looks to radical it will take years for it to catch on. Just look at standon mowers as an example. We (the industry) knew it was the wave of the future back in 1996 but it is just now catching on. Be prepared to stick with the product for the long haul. A customer for life is more important than a large dividend this quarter for the current shareholders.
Robotic mowers won’t catch on in the U.S. until they will mow at the correct height for our grasses and they don’t look like “cheap plastic Chinese junk.” (Our landscaping is also much different than the “English Garden” so popular in Europe.)
Customers want a better ride, a better driving product and convenience features that actually improve their mowing experience. Look at Toro’s MyRide as the current example. LED lights that only shine in the front and “Smart Apps” just are not what they want.
Safety is a major incremental step for the industry to survive. The auto industry fixed seat belt use with front and side airbags. It’s time for the entire industry to work together on safety. We either need to find a way to keep the customer and their children safe around these products or come up with a new way to cut grass. Eliminating the ability to mow in reverse was not the answer because it is too easy to bypass. Adding backup alarms, flashing lights, bumpers that shut off the mower, mirrors and other safety items we don’t yet know about is what’s required. Some larger ZTR’s could even benefit from a backup camera. Something a simple as a working brake instead of a pedal that disconnects the power from the engine to the transmission could work for L&G.
People are going to figure out what’s best for them. If we educate them they’re going to seek out real value. If we spend more time educating them they will find the best product for them and become a customer for life. And the education starts with the first person they come in contact with at your dealership, retail store, chat window or phone conversation.
It’s time to choose. Are you here for the long run or just the next shareholder meeting?