In previous articles, Richard Comely and Lee Kristensen of Ransomes Jacobsen have provided an insight into the concept, design and production of commercial mowing equipment at their manufacturing plant in Ipswich. In this concluding article, they show how the equipment is marketed, delivered and finally installed with the end user
Our new mower began its journey in the concept and initial design phases; we have followed it through our manfacturing plant, where we were cutting, bending and welding steel, machining components, painting and eventually running it down one of our production lines to produce a finished machine. Now we have a shiny new mower, but what happens now?
The launch process
Back in the first article, we discussed Gamma pre-production prototypes, the version of the machine that is almost the finished product and incorporating all the minor refinements resulting from our test programme with the Beta models. This will normally be 6-8 weeks ahead of the launch date and four months before production begins in earnest.
One of these Gamma models is given to the marketing department, and it is their responsibility to prepare all the marketing and advertising material that will accompany the launch of the new product. The first activity is to have the machine professionally photographed, from numerous angles and highlighting visually all the features and benefits of the mower.
These photographs will be used extensively throughout the launch of the machine. The creative campaign will be formulated, advertising copy prepared, space booked in selected magazines and artwork prepared. Marketing literature will be designed, highlighting again the features and benefits and also providing a detailed specification of the machine.
Concurrently, or even prior to this, a public relations campaign will be instigated. It might take the form of a teaser campaign, hinting at what might be coming and stimulating interest, or it will be a full campaign with a complete package of information including high resolution digital photography distributed to the relevant media.
The press conference
Whenever and wherever possible, we like to launch new products with a press conference and the best place to do this is at major exhibitions. Here in the UK, it will normally be either at Saltex (for municipal products) or BTME in Harrogate (for golf products). We may also plan major launches in Europe, USA and Asia depending on the target audience for our products.
Ahead of the show, we issue personal invitations to selected journalists and editors asking them to attend. We normally arrange this close to lunch and offer hospitality. Someone once said that the quickest way to a journalist's heart was through the stomach!
At the press conference, we have the opportunity for our Product Managers to provide a detailed overview of the new product and answer any questions from the media. Depending on the location, there will also be an opportunity to ride and drive the machine, which allows the media to get up close and personal with it.
We will also have senior staff from the company present so that they can continue conversations with the media over lunch. Every journalist attending the press conference will depart with a detailed press pack containing all the information about the product and all of the high resolution imagery.
The Distribution network
Hopefully, our marketing and advertising campaigns have created a 'pull' response to the new product - prospective customers are interested enough to want to see the machine and request demonstrations.
We will have encouraged our dealers to take demonstration machines so that they can respond efficiently to these requests. We will also use our own demonstration team to tour the country using a dedicated Roadshow format, stopping off at various locations across the UK (and Europe) to show the product to prospective purchasers. Similar activities will take place in the USA and Asia, if appropriate.
Within the four to eight week period after launch the orders begin to come in. The factory will have been building 'stock' machines in anticipation of sales, and machines will be despatched to our dealer network.
Like the other major manufacturers in our industry, we don't sell direct to the end-user. We sell through a network of dealers in the UK and through distributors in other parts of the world. Each dealer/distributor will have a designated territory or country, although in Europe under EU rules they are free to sell across the European trading area.
Once a sale has been agreed, the mower will be packaged for shipping in our warehouse, loaded onto a truck and delivered to the dealer/distributor. Here, it will undergo a stringent pre-delivery inspection before being delivered to the end-user. The sales representative from the dealer, and on some occasions a territory or regional manager from Ipswich, will install the machine, ensuring that every user is comfortable in its operation and complete all of the sales-related paperwork.
The delivery of equipment provides yet another marketing opportunity. When we have supplied high profile end-users, or a machine is going to be used for an unusual application, we have the opportunity for additional media coverage.
Our Public Relations Manager will visit the particular club or end-user to get the story behind the purchase, take photographs and then issue the information in the form of a press release to the relevant media. This is a further opportunity to build brand awareness in the marketplace.
So, we've brought a new machine to market; we've launched it, promoted it, sold it, delivered it and it's out there in the field doing the job it was designed to do. We support it using our dealer network and factory technicians throughout its lifecycle, ensuring that it continues to perform to its maximum.
However, there will be subtle changes made to the machine during this period. Our design team will be monitoring feedback from customers and, after evaluation, will incorporate improvements into the design, if required. So, whilst we endeavour to produce the optimum machine at launch, there will always be design changes over its lifecycle; it's the nature of what we do.
In conclusion, this final article has closed the circle on the design and production of a new mower. We hope it has provided an insight into all of the processes that go into the making a modern commercial mower. It takes a large team of design engineers, manufacturing personnel, a professional sales and marketing team, a committed management driving the business forward and a dedicated distribution network to bring new equipment to market, and we've been doing just that, in Ipswich, for over 180 years.