By Travis Kennedy
“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”
Is your product or technology truly different from the other options that currently exist for water utilities? Most would say “yes” but the reality is that most manufacturers are very similar in the eyes of potential buyers. A feature here or a benefit there are simply not enough to separate your technology from those other companies who you compete with for attention and revenue in the eyes of operators and engineers.
This issue is especially acute in the municipal water market where water authorities don’t compete for their customers (residents). Couple this with a risk-averse user base that’s unwilling to tinker with what works for fear of causing a public health crisis, and there’s little incentive to change technology based on limited perceived upside. Status quo is your most insidious competition.
At one point in my career I was working for a B2B long term care publication and attended an industry trade show in order to get closer to the market. There must have been at least twenty companies that manufactured walking canes and sold them to retail outlets, hospitals or long term care facilities. As I met with each one of them it became clear that they ALL believed their canes were better for one reason or another. I actually had more than one of them try and convince me that the color of the rubber tips on the end of each cane was where the meaningful difference existed. In truth they ALL appeared to function EXACTLY the same to me and their buyers. Their sales pitches and brochures were nothing but noise to me and the people they were pitching their product to. I was getting paid to listen, so I had to pay attention, I couldn’t imagine how their potential buyers felt when fielding calls, brochures and messaging from all of these companies. I’m sure it resulted in a deafening level of noise.
The same case can be made in the water market. Maybe you’re a metering company trying to brand yourself as the market leader in water loss, water conservation or drought awareness. Perhaps you are a screening company claiming that your system uses much less energy than other competing brands. In truth, your target audience doesn’t see much of a difference between you and all of the other companies out there that claim to do what you do. What adds to the challenge is that very few operators or engineers will take time out of their day to research the actual differences between the brands.
So if you are truly unique, how can you get potential buyers to sit up and notice? First, don’t be afraid to blaze your own trail. Think about what you could do that would be of real value to your prospects and give it away for free. Sharing things like insights, research, and relevant experiences are extremely valuable to the geographically-isolated municipal operators and engineers you are trying to influence. Stop chasing revenue by following an outdated strategy simply because it’s how you’ve done business for over 100 years. Most of the marketing that worked in 1950, doesn’t work today so why are we still doing it? Second, stop assuming your competition won’t change their approach as well. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 45% of all companies will utilize some form of custom content and brand publishing in 2015. It’s time to dare to be different
Image credit: "Matches," © 2013 MiloszB, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0