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When COVID-19 began to shut down the agricultural sector and auction space, ag equipment suppliers — and well as its customers — had to adapt.
The biggest change was in the use of internet resources, particularly when it came to communicating with older customers, said Kyle McMahon, founder and CEO of Urbandale-based Tractor Zoom.
Tractor Zoom, begun in 2017, lists farm machinery auctions from more than 450 companies in North America so potential buyers can browse through inventory listings.
“Auto Trader and Kelly Blue Book but for farm equipment would be an apt comparison,” said McMahon, who himself farms in southeast Iowa.
With the pandemic, auction spaces shut down, taking away the bigger markets in which Tractor Zoom normally operates. Direct sales and the limited interaction his team of 20-plus employees could have with customers slowed down — but it never stopped.
The biggest change came in the use of internet resources, particularly in communicating with older customers. McMahon said that before COVID-19, it wasn’t ideal to force technology onto potential customers.
“What we noticed is that in most cases it’s the ‘dad’ who has the buying-capital, but the son in high school or college and would go, ‘Hey, dad, look at the equipment online and we can do x, y and z,’ which changed the rate of those conversations,” McMahon said in an interview this past week.
The average farmer is 57 years old according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture. With the average age increasing, McMahon said it's important to bring more customers into a modern approach to the equipment-buying process.
The 55 and older age group has seen a faster growth rate on Tractor Zoom than the 18-to-35 demographic.
With changes to the company’s website, McMahon said Tractor Zoom will be able to target potential customers easier and provide them a simpler approach. McMahon said it made Tractor Zoom more efficient, all while bringing many new customers into the new space of online farm auctioning.
“Five years of technology adoption was forced onto farmers and the industry, and it was a great benefit for us and our partners,” McMahon said.
McMahon will speak about starting his company and issues it has faced with the pandemic on April 21 as part of the 1 Million Cups Founder Fireside series. The Gazette is a media sponsor.
How to watch
What: Kyle McMahon, Tractor Zoom founder and CPO, will be interviewed at the Founder Fireside presentation, part of the 1 Million Cups series
When: 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 21
How to watch: Go to NewBoCo’s events calendar at https://newbo.co/calendar
Admission: The event is free.