Case CE adopts unpretentious market approach
Franco Invernizzi explains how Case is putting customers at ease
When I sat down to talk to Franco Invernizzi at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014, I was almost fooled into thinking I’d been transported to a traditional Midwestern log cabin. Whilst many of the other top manufacturers’ booths sported busy, high-tech aesthetics, Case Construction Equipment decided to adopt an altogether more laid-back approach.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas show, Case – part of CNH Industrial – created a haven of tranquillity inspired by its Tomahawk Customer Center in the North Woods of Wisconsin.
With wooden tables, comfortable seating, and open space, Case’s back-to-basics booth design certainly stood out at the event. Attendees were given plenty of room to look around the machines on display, and the manufacturer went to great lengths to provide some of its famed Tomahawk hospitality to prospective customers.
“What we wanted to do was not to put so many machines on the stand, but to include some space between our machines,” explained Invernizzi, CNH’s senior director for sales in Africa and the Middle East.
“We wanted to be a little bit different from the other exhibitors. Many of our competitors have arranged their machines very close to one another, with busy displays and sound effects. We wanted to create an area that very much resembled our Tomahawk Customer Center.
“Tomahawk is a place that we have up in Wisconsin – a cabin in the middle of nowhere. It’s located in the North Woods and its closest neighbour is approximately 17km away. We use this facility to get together with our customers – to enable them to try out our latest machines. It’s also a place for them to relax and have fun; very comfortable and very quiet.
“The Tomahawk facility allows us to transmit the feeling that we are a sort of family, and we’ve tried to recreate that atmosphere here. As such, we decided not to include any fences on our booth, there is plenty of seating, and there is free coffee so that people can stop by and have a chat,” he added.
CONEXPO is one of the world’s largest construction shows, but in terms of sheer footfall, it is unable to compete with its German counterpart bauma – an event that draws approximately three times more visitors.
Even so, to concentrate solely on the numbers would be to miss the point. Trade shows are about quality as well as quantity, and Invernizzi was pleased with the calibre of visitors he and his colleagues had entertained.
“CONEXPO and bauma are probably the two major trade shows within the construction sector. bauma is totally different from CONEXPO. It’s much bigger in terms of both size and the number of visitors. I was told that in 2013, bauma attracted in the region of 600,000 attendees. Here in Las Vegas, the organisers are expecting approximately 125,000,” he explained.
“It’s been a good show, not so much in terms of numbers but in terms of the quality of attendees. We’ve spoken with lots of dealers and lots of customers; people who are directly connected to the industry. That’s another difference between CONEXPO and bauma.
A huge number of people attend the German event, but not all of them are working at the core of the construction equipment industry. This show, on the other hand, is extremely specialised.”
Of course, for manufacturer’s such as Case, trade shows play a vital role in maintaining the strength of the brand. As Invernizzi explained, events like CONEXPO offer the opportunity to make a clear statement to the market.
“It’s important for Case to have a strong presence at these shows; to be in the hall alongside John Deere, Caterpillar, Volvo CE, and the other big manufacturers. We need to maintain our position as one of the big guys and let the market know what we’ve being doing. When you look around this hall, I think it’s quite clear that we’ve made our point. Case is one of the biggest brands in the industry,” he commented.
Shows such as CONEXPO are ideal from a marketing perspective. However, Invernizzi does not view the Las Vegas trade show as a platform for business per se; rather a stage to showcase machinery and to build relationships. With this in mind, he believes that Case’s laid-back, low-pressure approach is particularly well suited to the event.
“I’ll be very frank with you; I don’t believe that construction equipment manufacturers are here to sell machines,” Invernizzi told PMV.
“Any sales that are made here in Las Vegas probably constitute the formal signing of a deal that has been negotiated previously. Selling machines at this show is very difficult. It’s different than in other regions,” he explained.
“In the Middle East, for example, you have genuine trade shows. You go there with machines and you close deals. CONEXPO is more of a display. It’s an opportunity to communicate what you can offer in terms of products, in terms of people, and in terms of value for your customers.”
As you might imagine, the North American market was Case’s primary focus at CONEXPO. The manufacturer used the show as a platform to launch its Tier 4 Final engines; technology that will not be available in unregulated markets such as the Middle East for some time.
However, as Invernizzi explained, the Middle East remains a strategically important market for Case, and he is pleased with the way that the construction equipment sector is progressing across the territory.
“Last year, the number of machines shipped to the Middle East went down. However, according to the information that we have, retail across the region rose. Case has also made significant progress in terms of its dealer network, and this is ongoing.
I honestly think that 2014 will be even better than 2013. I’m confident that the industry is going to continue with its recovery, and that it will keep growing during the next few years,” he said.
“In 2012, Case changed some of its historical dealers in the Middle East in a bid to strengthen its network. We now have a combination of new dealers, such as Roots Group Arabia in KSA, and strong historical dealers, such as Al Shirawi Enterprises in the UAE.
Saudi Arabia remains by far the biggest market, both in terms of size and sales. However, there are lots of bright spots. Case recently teamed up with Carasso Motors in Israel, and things are going very well.
In the past, we’ve struggled in Israel. We had difficulties in finding strong, local partners, and we suffered from a weak market position as a result. Now, with Carasso, we are really making a comeback.”
Today, Invernizzi is generally happy with Case’s dealer network across the Middle East, but he and his colleagues will remain vigilant for opportunities to strengthen their position in the future. For example, the manufacturer is on the look-out for a partner in Oman.
“I think that for most of the countries, we are happy. Of course, you never stop honing your dealer network. Every year, you have to set the bar a little bit higher in order to improve and develop your business. It is also vital for Case to constantly reinforce relationships with its partners – especially the most recent additions.
With Roots and Carasso, for example, we’re still at the beginning of the story. Case is committed to getting to know its dealers better, and to supporting them in any way possible,” he said.
“Of course, some countries will require more attention than others. In Oman, for example, we must re-establish our presence and return to the old days when Case enjoyed a very good market share. In the majority of instances, however, I am extremely happy with my partners in the Middle East.”
Case’s CONEXPO offering was predominantly focused on the North American market. However, Invernezzi told PMV that many of the models displayed at the show are also due to be launched in the Middle East – albeit without Tier 4 technology.
“We are going to introduce Case’s latest M Series line of dozers to the Middle East, but with engines that are compatible with fuel in the region,” he explained.
“Then – not in the US but in the Middle East – we plan to launch a fresh range of skid-steer loaders, offering more power, updated engines, and additional displacement. This will be a very important launch for Case because the skid-steer loader represents one of the company’s core product lines,” he added.
“Later in the year, we will launch a new backhoe loader in the Middle East. It will be called the 570T, and it will complement our existing 580 model. The 570T will be an entry-level machine without some of the features offered by the 580.
This backhoe has been designed for a different segment of the market; it’s aimed at customers looking for a competitively priced, no-frills machine that can be deployed anywhere,” Invernizzi concluded.