It’s been 26 years since the World Wide Web became publicly accessible and the Information Age was born. Over that time, we’ve seen more and more information become instantly available to the point where many would argue, we now have too much of it. “Fake News” has become the leading political accusation of the day, suggesting that we might now be extending ourselves beyond information into the Disinformation Age.
At ACE 2017 last month in Philadelphia I had the opportunity to join many market leaders on air as part of Water Talk (formerly the world famous Water Online Radio). It was revealing to see how the water utility market has evolved when you compare the topics discussed at ACE 2013 with those discussed at ACE 2017. Four years ago, conversations centered on the virtues of specific product features, in an attempt to differentiate offerings from similar products. This year’s dialog had little to do with tangible products themselves. Instead, it was heavily focused on the concept of “Big Data”. Interviewees not only discussed what Big Data is but more importantly, how it can be interpreted and what it means for water utilities.
I recently reviewed a Water Online interview with George Hawkins, General Manager of DC Water. The discussion had a lot to do with how DC Water has become a market leader in many things but none more important than brand value and innovation.
As sales and marketing professionals, we all want our words to be persuasive. But how do you craft content that truly persuades? Persuasion isn’t about winning an argument. If you’re in an argument and you win, you’ve likely achieved concession. But rarely are you going to hold on to that hollow victory. Your customer will easily concede to your competitor if they are as good at winning arguments as you are. Or they’ll use the loss of Round 1 to come roaring back at you with a more refined defense in Round 2.
Over the past few months I’ve been following, very intently, the story about the fall of what was once a mighty American brand. Last week Uber fired almost two dozen employees and this past week, its CEO resigned following allegations of harassment, discrimination and inappropriate behavior. As a result, the ride-hailing company is struggling and deservedly so, to save whatever Brand Value they have left after such toxic revelations about its workplace were made public.
This is an exciting time in the business-to-business world. Never before has a manufacturer in the water and wastewater market had the opportunity to control their own destiny to the extent it does right now.
Once a week I receive a cartoon about marketing from Tom Fishburne (The Marketoonist). This past week’s email contained a cartoon of five sales and marketing-types sitting around the boardroom with the Company President exclaiming “What do we know about Generation Z so we can get them to buy stuff?”
The tie between politics and the water and wastewater industry goes back nearly a century. When regulations play a large role in the flow (no pun intended) of the market, it’s impossible to separate the two entities. During the election season last year, I received the strongest reactions and the most feedback on those articles that touched on the political debate.
The first step in the process is about as simple as it sounds. Understand your market. This industry knows its target audience. With this being a legacy industry, there are decades of knowledge and experience that is at the fingertips of most established manufacturers. Use that knowledge to create target audience profiles and buying personas. Your content should speak directly to those professionals.
Trade shows are a rich hunting ground for insight and content for your marketing program, putting contacts, context and content in one place.