Diversification has been a key strategy for Heavy Machines since it was founded in 1971 as a specialty equipment dealer in the forest products industry. Over the years, they have added and dropped product lines, opened and closed branch locations from Maine to Nevada, and expanded their customer base into mining, construction, waste / landfill, scrap/recycling, and inland ports. Today, they operate nine branches in five states, in the southeast and northeast. In 2015, even though their business was doing well, they decided to take a look at a new program Link-Belt was sponsoring through Winsby, to help gain insight into their business.
"Because we had diversified, we were running in many different directions. We wanted to make sure we weren't losing control over our customers," says Steve Northcross, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Heavy Machines. The dealership represents Link-Belt Excavators, Hitachi, and Liebherr, as well as other specialized brands. Steve Clegg, managing director at Winsby, helped them overcome their initial skepticism.
"Steve is a business owner, and he knows what we need to look at," says Northcross. "He recognized what we were not paying attention to, and that started to change the game for us. There was a warehouse of information about what was going on, but we didn't have the keys to the door. Steve fashioned a key to the door and let us walk in and take a look."
Winsby analytics revealed that the dealership was doing quite well. But Heavy Machines knew there was a huge potential for growth and wanted to take advantage of that. They followed Winsby's recommended course of action and began reviewing key business metrics on a monthly basis, including customer retention, the number of new customers and transactions.
Northcross considers customer retention to be critical to their success and tracks it closely. "When you lose a customer, it is hard to get them back," he explains. "We want to make sure that the number of new customers added is always higher than the number of customers exiting." Winsby also manages monthly customer satisfaction research which helps the dealer identify issues and "tamp out any small fires."
"We see our customer retention graph on a monthly basis with details on who we lost, and who we added. We can dig down and focus on those people," adds Northcross. "Before working with Winsby, we weren't doing that. We didn't have anyone looking at it."
The analytics also revealed that the number of transactions was increasing while the dollar amount of the transactions was decreasing because of the new lines they had added. "We were able to recognize that those branches doing more paperwork needed more support," notes Northcross. Now, instead of following a set formula of staffing for every branch, we can pay attention to new efficiencies or staff up according to need.
"The analytics from Winsby gave us comfort in our five-year strategic plan and in one or two instances caused us to adjust things. We might have done it ourselves, but it would have taken dedicated staff and a lot more time for us to figure it out."
Winsby also distributes emails for Heavy Machines. "We used to try to do it ourselves, and it took an inordinate amount of time," remembers Northcross. "What we were doing before was too conventional." Winsby keeps things on track with weekly calls to review issues and receive approvals. Northcross volunteered that the emails have driven more traffic to the website and even some purchases. "People don't realize that the reinforcement of your company in the marketplace is just as important as someone buying something from you. The emails remind our markets that we're active and ready to help them and give us a way to communicate new offerings and specials to our customers and prospects. They have definitely contributed to the increase in how often people buy.
"Winsby has also expanded our customer base by identifying new potential customers and adding them to our email list. They keep the list updated, too, by calling to confirm employees' emails. Without that effort, the list slowly goes bad. It's a constant process," he explains.
Times have been good since Heavy Machines started working with Winsby. Revenues have doubled to $100 million. Northcross is confident the value of the relationship will only increase during leaner times. "Don't make the mistake of thinking you can hire them for six months or a year to straighten things out and then stop," cautions Northcross. "It's important to know where you are now, and then let them continue to monitor your business. That is where their value starts."