If farmers' lives revolve mostly around the weather, tire dealers' promotions trying to sell tires are no different.
Darcy McGuigan, manager of Anderson Tire Co. in Pierre, S.D., said the three-outlet Firestone dealership has held ``farm days'' as a promotion aimed at getting farmers in the showroom. The events include dinner and an informational talk by a Firestone representative. Rainy days bring the customers into the store in droves; sunshine keeps them working, she said.
Still, many dealers told Tire Business that farmers respond well to special promotions. Some dealers held promotions similar to Anderson Tire's ``farm day.'' McAtee Tire & Service Inc. in Jefferson, Iowa, has an annual steak and pork chop sale where customers pick out meat for each tire they buy.
Graham Tire Co. in Spencer, Iowa, also has ``farm days,'' inviting customers to pancake breakfasts or beef or pork lunches.
But the dealers said all the creative promotions come down to one main ingredient: Price.
``When you deal with a farmer, pricing is the No. 1 key,'' said Frank Kozal, manager of McAtee Tire.
Kelly Monthei, general manager of Graham Tire, said the 25-outlet Goodyear dealership still employs special promotions because they draw people in. He said one ``farm day'' event can draw 300 to 750 people.
``Price is always important to the farmers, but the promotions help close the sale or at least give us a shot at them,'' Mr. Monthei said.
To prepare for the promotions, the dealership sets up displays for its newest products, including wheels and tires. Someone is generally on hand to talk to farmers about equipment or tire issues, and associates sometimes make house calls to farmers to examine their tires for free. The dealership also sometimes schedules its events to coincide with similar promotions from local implement dealers.
Mr. Monthei said the events usually include food and socializing to keep it from being a knockdown sales pitch that many customers may avoid.
``You've got to have a reason (for farmers) to come,'' Mr. Monthei said.
Graham Tire usually promotes its events with flyers sent direct to farmers. Events almost always include rebates on tires, but Mr. Monthei said the company works with Goodyear on pricing.
Mike Miller, co-owner of Miller Tire of Mexico, Mo., said he often uses prepared promotions from Firestone's Agriculture Tire Division. Those promotions, usually held in the spring, involve rebates or giveaways and, he said, are most useful for getting potential customers in the door. But they don't automatically close a sale. Some of the rebates or giveaways apply only to limited types of tires, and many farmers don't have much choice.
``It at least gets them in the door, and we can try to sell them,'' Mr. Miller said.
Mark Pillow, director of farm tires for Goodyear, said some dealers have teamed up with local equipment dealers to supply their tires.
``It's a way for dealers to hedge against the downturn in the market, to get some of this OE business,'' he said.
John Golden, owner of Warren Tire Service in Warren, Minn., said about 50 percent of his business comes through ties with local implement dealers. His Goodyear dealership is part of the Tires Only Inc. group.
``You want to make an implement dealer your best friend,'' he said.
Mr. Golden said the business is so strong because farmers visit the implement dealers more frequently than the tire dealer. Extra business comes both from referrals and supplying the implement dealer directly.
The relationships weren't too hard to build since the implement dealers also wanted an ally in the tire business.
``We're just an asset to them,'' he said. ``It's one thing they don't have to deal with.''
Still, Dean Chapin, sales and purchasing manager of co-op dealership Nebraska Tire, said the best promotions for farm tires don't involve trips to Hawaii or other exotic events.
``We're just putting the best price out there that we can,'' he said.