At Maximum Outdoor Equipment & Service in Wichita, KS, the staff is continuously evaluating product mix. While the core brands have been the same for over 15 years, the Maximum team makes it a point to always be on the lookout for new products—to either fill holes in their existing product lineup, or branch into a completely different area.
“We try to attend GIE+EXPO in Louisville, KY, every other year, along with regional shows,” shares owner Carl Witte. “And we’re always listening to customer requests and inquiries for additional ideas.”
One of Maximum Outdoor’s more interesting ideas came about a few years ago at the state fair. “I was working the Grasshopper booth, talking with other dealers about how to get a customer back in after an equipment purchase. One of the guys told me about this grill,” explains Witte. “I came back and told my son Paul, and he said it was the dumbest idea I ever had. We now average about $80,000 a year in barbeque grills.”
Witte says customers who purchase the grills from Maximum Outdoor return to purchase pellets six or eight times a year. “They come back for the pellets but also buy other things, like trimmer line, parts and spices offered by the grill company,” Witte says. The dealership also offers grills for rent, not to mention free use at charity events.
Maximum Outdoor also decided to take on a shovel line and Ferris mowers. “I was a little hesitant about Ferris, fearing it was going to interfere with some of my other lines. But we found that the suspension system caters to a different clientele,” explains Witte. “Usually when we are taking on another line, it is to fill a void like this.”
Now offering several mower options, Witte stresses the importance of listening to customers to help them find the product that best suits their needs.
FACILITY FOR THE FUTURE
Tweaking their product offering and listening intently to meet customer needs has worked well for this Wichita dealership. To continue growing sales, though, something had to be done about the dealership’s facility itself. Badly in need of repairs, Witte decided to gut and rebuild the entire store last year.
“The building we were in was an old round top built in 1948, then remodeled in 1979,” Witte tells. “It was built to handle farm equipment but didn’t work for what we wanted. Now, our new building features Husqvarna displays, parts bins, pallet racking for blades, 6,000 square feet on the first floor and 4,500 square feet on the second floor, thanks to a new mezzanine.”
For Witte, updating the facility was not only a financial commitment on the dealership’s part, but also a show of commitment to the dealership’s customers. “Our existing customers can’t believe all that we have done for our business—and them,” says Witte. “But I think the main thing we gain is the attention of the new customer who comes in, due to the impact of the bright and well-lit showroom.”
Witte swears by the first impression, saying it helps you maintain a relationship with first-time buyers. “It has given new and existing customers a vote of confidence that we are in this thing for the long haul,” Witte adds.
MARKETING ON THE AIR
For customers who don’t just happen upon the newly remodeled dealership, there is plenty of advertising to pull them in. Roughly 4% of the annual revenue at Maximum Outdoor is spent on marketing. While a variety of media and tactics are used, most of the dealership’s advertising is done through one of the oldest media around: radio.
“We’ve been advertising on the same radio station for 10 years,” says Witte. “In the wintertime we run our service ad at 7:30 a.m., and always get half a dozen phone calls between 8 and 9 a.m. I think it depends on your market, but radio is what works in our area.”
Maximum Outdoor also sponsors radio coverage for the three major college sports teams in the state. Department managers are featured in ads to add that personal touch.