What strategies have you found effective in marketing and growing the short-term rental business when your product offering is limited to straight-mast lift trucks and you’re competing against the major rental yards?
– Jeff Darling, Vice President
Washington Liftruck/Forklift Services of Oregon (Seattle, WA)
Dave Griffith: First, your industrial lift truck fleet mostly is going to go to your current customers. Take care of them. Second, rental yards have a different customer base than industrial. Third, you can add product as it makes sense given your capital budget. We do both, but our traditional forklift rental is one of our best-performing asset classes.
Richard Donnelly: In our territory, the rental yards are not calling on our major customers. We do not have the lowest rental rates. Our strategy is to develop a good relationship with the customer, make sure we understand their application and provide a lift truck that meets their requirements. We have a scheduled maintenance program on our fleet, and we respond quickly if the customer has a problem. In addition to forklifts, we have added other equipment to meet the customers’ rental demands.
Rex Mecham: We recognize that we have a different niche than the rental yards. Our people are working with businesses with material handling needs. We are servicing their lift trucks and selling them equipment. As such, we are in a position to know when there are unusual demands for equipment. We also have our care reps quoting rental equipment when lengthy repair jobs are needed. One of the key things in successfully growing the rental business is having available the type of equipment our customers use. By having the equipment available and knowing in advance what the needs are with our customers, we are able to approach our market differently than rental yards.
Fred Oram: Most of our short-term rental is driven by our service operations. As such, the customer isn’t really involved with the rental houses. Short-term rental is truly an aftermarket function. Additionally, we offer specialized attachments and a much broader range of specifications compared to rental houses, which tend to bring a limited offering of standard specifications. A distributor would be prudent to keep a portion of his rental fleet fully depreciated, debt-free and offer such units as “Economy Value Rentals” that are price-competitive with rental house rates.
Dave Reder: We have done targeted mailings on rental customers to raise awareness of our capabilities. In the end, we find the key is to have the equipment the customer needs and be able to deliver it quickly. Rental can be very much a commodity, so differentiate yourself in some way.
Duncan Murphy: Typically, the market overlap between lift truck dealers and rental yards remains somewhat limited. What the rental houses do well is look for business. You can do that using the phone and your inside staff. Pick an industry on which to focus and call all the businesses in that industry. Send follow-up literature, and then move on to another segment. While Yellow Pages ad effectiveness is questionable, featuring rental has had some positive impact for us.
Stan Sewell: The branches that have successfully grown their short-term rental business have invested in a full-time rental manager with bonus incentives for growing volume, utilization and profitability. We also have learned to invest in assets that the rental houses do not traditionally carry in their stores. Larger capacity IC lift trucks, electrics and specialty types of material handling equipment have been well-received by customers.
Jerry Weidmann: Our strategy for competing against the major rental yards is to target accounts that match up with our equipment rental offerings. We provide high quality equipment and responsive service. We seek to compete in accounts where our equipment availability meets the majority of the customer’s requirements. Identify the target accounts that need straight mast trucks with limited needs for other types of equipment. Identify how they want to be serviced and provide superior service and support in your product offering.