Superintendent magazine recently spoke with Ren Wilkes, who was promoted to tactical marketing manager at John Deere Golf. After working in sales for the organization for several years, Wilkes has developed strong relationships with golf course superintendents, which has given him valuable insight about what superintendents are really looking for when searching for new equipment.
Q: After working in sales for John Deere Golf for several years, what will you bring to the table as the new marketing director?
A: I think it’s mostly the field experience with the customers and the dealers. We need to make sure we understand what the customer wants and bring that back as a manufacturer to deliver what they are looking for and what our dealers are looking for, and the message that we are partners with our customers instead of a vendor.
Q: You know plenty of golf course superintendents. What are you hearing from them in terms of their needs in regards to mowing technology?
A: There’s a push for commonality in machines as superintendents’ budgets get smaller and crews get smaller. People need to operate several different machines. Also, the commonality of parts on machines makes the technician’s job easier. If you’ve got machines with the same engines and control panels, then the technician can really become efficient.
Q: What are your short- and long-term goals as marketing manager?
A: Short term is just to keep the momentum John Deere has going. We’ve had some good momentum over the past 10-12 years so really to just come in and not rock the boat. I think long term the goal is to make sure the customer understands that through our ag division, our construction and forestry, our golf divisions, we are truly a partner in what we do and we want people to feel that John Deere as a manufacturer and our dealers as independent businesses are really there to help listen and make sure they can perform the way they need to.
Q: What is your take on the long-term correction the golf course industry been undergoing with 150+ golf courses closing a year for the last nine years?
A: I think every industry corrects. If you take golf as a whole, it’s probably the right thing for the golf economy right now to right size. I also think that as we start to right size the demand will get a little higher interest in the game from kids growing up. So, as sad as it is to see some of the business go out of business, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the entire golf course economy.
Q: It doesn’t seem like golf course maintenance budgets have been going up much the last few years. How does John Deere Golf approach this situation?
A: That ties back into the golf economy piece of it. Having our own finance company, we’re able to go into a golf course and understand not just what’s happening that year … but put together a long-term plan so the customer is able to free up capital to put into other areas of his golf course while being able to maintain it the way he wants to. For us, that’s really the key — one course at a time, instead of one size-fits all.