From The Editor | October 31, 2017

What Does Smart Water Mean?

By Bill King

What Does Smart Water Mean?

Are you one of the many equipment manufacturers in the water and wastewater industry positioning your products and services under the “smart water” umbrella? At the recent WEFTEC exhibit in Chicago, I had the honor of interviewing many of the industry’s leading executives, product managers and sales engineers. Unless our conversation was firmly rooted in disinfection and treatment, chances are it touched on what can loosely be described as “smart water.”

A lot of buzzwords have arrived in our lexicon over the past couple of years. Examples include Smart Water Management, Internet of Things (IoT), LoRaWAN, Big Data, and Cloud-based Reporting to name but a few. A lot of these words are being used by a lot of manufacturers a lot of the time. But what does it all mean for your customers?

Just over a year ago, I attended an event in Washington DC as part of Water Week. The event was a collaboration of some of the leading associations in our industry including AWWA, NACWA, WEF, WERF and WWEMA. We broke into discussion groups and I joined the table discussing “innovation.” Somebody dropped the term “IoT.”

For giggles, I played dumb (it comes naturally to me) and asked if somebody could explain what that meant. Clearly most if not all of the operators at the table had no idea. It fell to a consultant from one of the major engineering firms to provide a definition that still felt disconnected from the daily concerns of his audience.

As your technology gets smarter and smarter, it’s important to remember that terminology alone is not going to make it more attractive to your customer base. Your marketing strategy should always have been centered on relating to your audience and that shouldn’t change in these days of intense content marketing. As I read in a related post today, the two central questions for brand publishers should be “Who are you as a Company?” and “Why do you matter?”

Why do you matter? It’s not because you can say the same words and offer the same technology as your competitors. You matter because you can relate the new technology to your customers’ most pressing needs. Instead of the soundbite “cloud-based data storage,” explain how remote data storage is more secure and avoids the utility having to invest in server banks, IT labor and on-site security of information. Explain the benefits of smart water to your audience in the language that they understand.

Maybe the smartest way to market your smart water technology is to drop the word smart altogether.

Image credit: "Urban Flux Tower "Vancouver-Sunset"," UBC Micrometeorology 2016, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: