Want to Be Successful? First Things First: You are Not Your Customer

Many companies and sales teams are shooting blindfolded – over and over again, just hoping for an accidental bullseye from time to time. This method of selling is so common across industry that it not only makes it hard as hell to forecast revenue, but luck can happen to anyone and give the impression of success- but listen to me when I say that you will not win consistently.

What if there was a way to improve your hit rate?

What if you and your sales team could really focus your time on qualified leads, and stop wasting time on the markets and people that are less likely to see the value in your products? What kind of impact would that have on your sales & distribution expenses knowing that many manufacturers /suppliers cost of selling are growing exponentially year after year?

One thing is clear. You are not your customer. So who is?

Some water & wastewater businesses choose to focus their efforts in the municipal markets, while others focus more attention in the industrial markets- and many mistakenly try to sell in all markets to anyone looking at a treatment expansion. As a result, they struggle to be successful in any specific area.

This statement is simple yet says so much. “If you don’t define your market then you have no market”. This idea has become the foundation of my strategic marketing decisions and it seems to become more and more obvious as I witness companies chasing whomever has money instead of putting their efforts into offering a product that has value in the eyes of the target customer.

“If you don’t define your market, you have no market.”

To chase all projects is like trying to fit a round peg into what may be a square hole 90% of the time- leaving only 10% of the opportunities out there as a possible fit. What a colossal waste of time and money this would be, and I can tell you that if you are operating this way as a company, you are exhausting your sales team right out the door.

Defining a target market is more than choosing an industry like municipal or pulp & paper or food & beverage. If you are starting with product, it means looking at what sectors, applications, and customers value your product and determining what services you can wrap up into that product to add the most value. 

For example, maybe you have had some luck with small craft breweries. What is it about your product that those existing customers value? What would they like to see improve with your product? Maybe they love your compact 316 stainless steel system and the efficiencies it delivers, but they aren’t too keen on the overall look of the controls touch screen because it doesn’t show them any historic data. Or maybe it’s the fact that your equipment processes in batch when the rest of their production is continuous, creating a bottleneck and lost revenue.

In the municipal world, this product scenario may look like a headworks screen that has a superior capture efficiency but requires a strict routine of time-consuming monthly maintenance. This just isn’t feasible to ask of a facility that has a remote, unmanned headworks. You want to target this area of the market? Make it low maintenance and operator friendly, highly automated, and easy to monitor via SCADA or over an app that can be utilized via smartphone. While this is a simple example, it demonstrates how looking at the market from the customer’s viewpoint can lead you down a path of creating real value with your product development. How you market and understanding who you market to, can mean all the difference between success and failure of your product. This elementary school lesson of “know your audience” may seem simple, but it is imperative for product success.

“This elementary school lesson of “know your audience” may seem simple,

but it is imperative for product success.”

So, you have selected a targeted industry. You have some brochures that show that you are involved in that market, and you even have a couple of case studies. Cool. Have you taken a close look at not only what specific applications are a good fit, but what processes does your product or service really add value to?

What size and type facility is your sweet spot?

Have you taken into consideration the flowrates, influent characteristics, seasonal changes, climate, temperature, manpower limitations, affinity to technology vs a burning need for a high level of automation, politics and decision making power, budget freedom, level risk aversion, . . .

Value = Cost – Benefits. Where are you most likely to be successful? Success will be strongly tied to the product value . . . . . the result of the cost – benefits.

Value = Cost – Benefits

If you want your sales team to spend their days on qualified leads vs. generic leads that make your pipeline look amazing but don’t do much more than inflate the forecast, this deep dive analysis is absolutely critical.

Not sure where to get started? I invite you to chat over coffee, commitment free. Simply book an opening in my calendar– all you need to bring is an open mind and your favorite cup of brew.

The Dirty Marketing Lies That Can Stop Growth in its Tracks

“Many people equate marketing with sleight of hand activity designed to con people into paying good money for more than they actually receive” – Barnes, Blake & Pinder, 2009

Marketing is not a department. It is not a foo-foo artsy grey area in the black & white world that is engineering and science. Marketing is not advertising or your company logo or the font and color code you are forced to use in your email signature. Marketing is not what you say you are.

And although this shouldn’t need to be said. . . well, let’s be honest, some of us need a reminder from time to time.

You are not your customer.

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But how many times do we focus on our own product or service features and benefits without asking the question, “are these the benefits that my customers value?”

There was a time in the early years of my career that I would have snubbed marketing as the exact opposite of science. The anti-science? Science fiction, perhaps?. Or possibly the blurry, smudged and bling’d-out version of the truth- or even worse, a fairy tale used to sell a product when it isn’t actually a fit for the application or customer. (Gasp!) Sure, there are some brands who use marketing for something less than the greater good, but those tactics are not sustainable and it’s only a matter of time before the market learns the truth and rejects these here today, gone tomorrow brands.

Many people in technical roles hold negative beliefs when it comes to marketing. I was that person who  had absolutely zero respect for marketers. As a scientist, how could I respect those who weren’t in the trenches with us technical people? Those marketing people didn’t really understand what makes the water & wastewater industry tic-  or how to sell performance based equipment in a highly competitive, risk averse, technology based industry. Then again, most of the marketers I had met did truly know nothing at all of our industry. After all, they used words like “the water treatment space”. . . . .

[*Cue a look of pure horror on any technical sales or application specialist’s face.*]

This definition by Hubspot is pretty-well spot-on.

“Marketing is the process of getting people interested in your company’s product or service. This happens through market research, analysis, and understanding your ideal customer’s interests. Marketing pertains to all aspects of a business, including product development, distribution methods, sales, and advertising.”

There you have it. Marketing is based in science. But what about all that graphic design stuff, and layouts and fonts, and the foo foo artsy stuff?

Philip Kotler, the father of modern marketing defined marketing as the “science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.

Marketing is science. And art. Needless to say when I began to really understand this, my mind was nothing short of experiencing a massive implosion something like the 2010 demolition of Texas Stadium after the new 80,000 seat football mecca of “Jerry World”/ AT&T Stadium was completed.

In a slow adopting, risk averse market, innovation which can solve some of our biggest problems is too many times both deeply desired and quickly stifled. Often the technology exists, it simply needs to be better communicated to the decision-makers and influencers so that they aren’t blinded by risk, but instead see opportunity.

This is where the art and science of marketing comes in.

Marketing is knowing your target customer, understanding your decision makers and influencers, and using that information to guide your sales and advertising, and to a large extent, your product development. After all, you cannot sell a product for which there is no demand. Your product must solve a problem- and you must know that problem from the inside in order to provide a real solution. Without marketing, a company may have an offering which may be a great product in the eyes of the inventor or developer, but doesn’t offer a solution to a real problem the customer faces. Anyone can throw a dart. And luck happens on occasion, even to the unskilled and uncoordinated. Marketing is preparing your game so that you hit the bullseye consistently.

If your product excels in multiple metrics when compared to the competition, then it wins, right? The numbers either are or are not (where they need to be). What else is there to do? R&D is complete and you now have a superior product- all of the features are measurable and clear, right?

Knowing what features your product offers is one thing, but to understand not only the advantages of those features but more importantly, how they will specifically benefit your target customer, that is marketing. Furthermore, features and benefits are often mistaken for one and the same – a serious detriment to the sales team tasked with meeting those big hairy audacious goals and the company aiming to hit ever-growing revenue targets.

There are many incredibly innovative engineered products within our water treatment industries, with a number of new inventive products coming out every year. For someone on the outside looking in, it is exciting to see these amazing innovations being created to solve some of the biggest clean water problems our world faces today.  As someone standing front-and-center, it pains me to see innovative start-ups kick and fight to become accepted, only to fail to become recognized as a solution provider. There must be a better way. There is a better way.

Marketing is not a department.

Marketing is not who you say you are.

You are not your customer.

It’s about time we integrate strategic marketing into our innovative products. In this highly regulated and risk-averse water and wastewater industry, these engineered products and their “features” won’t sell themselves. We must stop trying to shove our product into every application just to meet quarterly sales targets, and start asking our customers about their pain points and what they identify as valuable. When we put our customers first and demonstrate that we have a true solution to our customer’s burning problem, that is where we will find sustainable growth. 

Want to get going with your strategic marketing plan, but not sure where to start? Download a free Brand Audit Worksheet courtesy of Watermark Pro Solutions today to get started with taking your business to the next level.

REFERENCES

Barnes, C., Blake, H., Pinder, D. (2009). Creating & Delivering Your Value Proposition- Managing Customer Experience for Profit. London, UK. Kogan Page Limited. 

So You Think You are Ready for Product Launch?

Rocketlaunch4

One of the most common mistakes in the area of #watertreatment technologies is the assumption that EQUIPMENT = PRODUCT

A PRODUCT is much more than equipment. To sell your technology to a point of #businessviability, we have to look at all the pieces. It doesn’t matter that you have multiple patents on your highly engineered technology. No one will care that your engineering department geeks out on the features to the point of it keeping them up at night. And believe me when I say that it matters to you and your team ONLY that you have tons of data proving your equipment is awesome.

That’s right. I said it. None of these things matter.

None of these things matter without a true, #marketableproduct. Because all of the things mentioned above are about YOU. What about the #targetmarket? What about your customers?

True #productdevelopment is often overlooked in engineering based companies. Besides the physical product/service- we must consider function, appearance, packaging, service/support, and warranty, just to name a few. And we can’t forget #productdifferentiation.

Developing a marketable product takes research, strategy and creative thinking. Design and prototype completion may feel like a big win, but in my opinion, it’s only the 13 mile marker of the #productlaunch marathon.

Originally posted Jan 10, 2019 on Linkedin

 

Endangered Species Alert: The Professional Salesman

http://Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Sales people. You either know one, are one, or despise at least one. Without them, companies wouldn’t be able to survive, much less thrive. Even non-profit organizations need to sell something in order to stay in business. . . . . a product, idea, or a cause. Teenagers, retirees, stay-at-home parents, and in general, those who are not in the workforce either by choice or due to circumstance- this group of people sells things too. Even if that simply means selling themselves or persuading someone else to buy into their idea. In a roundabout way, “sales” makes the world go ‘round.

So, if Sales is just part of every day life, dare we say almost human nature, why do sales people get such a bad rap? Why do we dread sitting through another. freaking. presentation, and toss those brochures in the trash as soon as we can manage to get the latest traveling sales person out of our office?

Because the sales profession is all but dead.

Did you catch that? Yes, I said Sales Profession.

–          “Wait, did you just say that Sales is a profession?”

Yes, yes I did.

–          “But the term Sales Profession implies that Sales Professionals actually exist. Ha, ha, ha”.

(Crickets. . . . sound of a pin drop)

–          “Well then, why all the negativity toward sales people?”

How many of you, when you hear the word sales, conjure up visions of a man/woman going door-to-door selling cable tv? Or windows? How about religion? If you are a fellow water and wastewater professional, you may think about the “peddlers” that seem to come out of the woodwork when you are in the midst of developing a sizable project, perhaps the last expansion or upgrade you were involved with.

It’s no wonder that we so often think of sales as a painful encounter where someone tries to sell us something that we not only absolutely have zero interest in, but we wouldn’t buy it even if we had $10million burning a hole in our bank account.

SALES does not have to be this way.

A SALE is defined as a transaction in which one party gets a desired good or service in exchange for money. Are you following? The key here is DESIRED good or service. “No means yes” logic has no place in a sales transaction done right.

A good sales person doesn’t’ try to sell whatever they have in their coat pockets to everyone that passes by just to make a buck.  A good sales person doesn’t constantly try to fit a square peg in a round hole to meet his/her quarterly numbers. A GREAT sales person gets to know a potential customer, listens to their needs and wants, and only then offers a product or service that is a genuine fit.

And here is the part where a great sales person becomes a true Professional Salesperson. Does he/she:

–          Nurture the relationship with respect, even during crunch time like

end of quarter/year?

–          Focus on what the prospect wants/needs, not just on their own needs?

–          Work to help the prospect by being a resource and solution provider . . .

even if it means referring the prospect to another provider who is better

suited to meet their current needs?

A Sales Professional will value these principles, and they will shine through during all stages of the sales cycle. Even if the lead stays in the top of the funnel for a longer than average time period. Period.

A Sales Professional creates relationships, not customers- and those relationships will carry through time no matter what products they sell or who they sell them for.

Because those relationships were founded on respect, 2-way communication, and trust.

I have met thousands of sales people during my 17 year career in water and wastewater, and I can say with all honesty that only 2-3% of them have been true Sales Professionals. We have got to set our bars higher. Fellow sales people, we have got to stop placing product pitch on repeat- hitting play on Monday only to pause when the clock strikes happy hour on Friday evening.

Salesmen and saleswomen, let’s challenge each other to step up, to reset our bar, to be a part of a collective movement to change the way our industry views sales people. My challenge to you: put in the work. Continue to educate yourself. Show up each and every day and turn off that autopilot. Only then can you become a true Sales Professional.

WEFTEC ’18 Wrap Up

Ah WEFTEC. The once a year shebang where we see most of our industry associates all in one place, and catch up on the latest technologies, case studies, and projects. It’s hectic. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It’s necessary. For many of us, it’s part of the job requirement.

For me it has always been fun. But for the last 10 years, my WEFTEC has consisted of me being tied to a booth for three full days, with little time to do otherwise. For the past hand full of years, it has required me to arrive a few days before the show so that I can help set-up the booth- or in more recent years, manage the entire booth set-up for my employer. Oddly enough I do consider that fun. Not in a “I just spent 10 days in Italy riding a motorcycle through Tuscany and seeing the beautiful Amalfi coast” kind of way. . . but. . . “fun”.

2018 was different. In a truly amazing way. . . Being able to step onto the exhibit floor and simply focus on people was so different than past years for me. To really and truly focus on every single person that I ran into, and be present—- it allowed me to listen without background noise, to be attentive without a nagging feeling of having somewhere I “had to be” or someone I “had to fill in for”. I was able to engage, wholeheartedly, with my associates, old colleagues, new acquaintances, and so many that I genuinely call “friend”. I was able to seek out people who I wanted to see and learn about, and catch up with- and take a close look at companies with interesting technologies just because I want to know…. I spoke to media outlets to learn more about how best to support my growing client base. And I had meaningful conversations. One. After. Another.

And you know what else. . . I couldn’t wipe that smile off my face, even after coming back home at the end of a long week at WEFTEC. To say it was a success is an understatement. Success isn’t measured in the number of business cards you take home at the end of the show- but the number of meaningful conversations you have had- and all the times you really connected with another human.

P.S. It was also pretty amazing to see 36 people running around the showroom floor on Tuesday, wearing turquoise polo shirts that I had the pleasure of designing for the Ops Challenge Judges. 🙂

 

Hello!

 

After 15+ years of working in water and wastewater, and as my passion continues to grow year by year for our industry, I am ecstatic to announce the launch of an exciting new venture, Watermark Pro Solutions. Watermark Pro Solutions was born of the idea that even in a highly technical industry there is always room for creativity. In fact, it is that same creativity which gives way to true innovation, and blazes a new path for growth and evolution.

 

As WEFTEC quickly approaches, I look forward to seeing friends and catching up with so many wonderful people in New Orleans.  If you see me running around the exhibit floor or out on Bourbon Street, please come over and say hello, and if you have time, let’s grab lunch or a drink. And I hope WEFTEC 2018 is your best yet.

 

Cheers,

Tanya