What Business Are You Really In? Ask Your End Users

As Theodore Levitt pointed out in 1960, railroads stopped growing because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. Which poses the question: What Business Are You Really In?

This is a question that every industrial manufacturer should be asking. Like the railroads, industrial manufacturers tend to be product/corporate-centric.

For instance, at a recent global trade show for industrial manufacturers we attended, we were hard-pressed to find anything that spoke to what the product does for the person buying or using it beyond the generic claims of ‘precision’, ‘quality’ and ‘performance’. Very rarely was a person featured actually using or benefitting from the product. Nearly all of the manufacturers saw themselves through their own corporate mirror.

All this leads to one critical success factor: market-back business intelligence. This makes it possible to achieve growth by identifying and communicating the right value proposition. It also provides a clear roadmap to end-user engagement and value creation.

Achieving growth through end-user research

Portacool, a category leader in portable evaporative cooling, thought they were in the portable evaporative cooling business. Through extensive end-user research and business intelligence, they learned that they were really in the business of providing protection against losses in productivity, performance and quality— as well as increased liability. In many ways, it was more about risk mitigation than product performance – which was excellent.

End-User interviews with business owners and managers (via phone calls, surveys, trade show intercepts, etc…) found that when the heat reaches a crisis level employees would not show up for work, refuse over time, make more mistakes, get sick or simply work slower. Furthermore, the risk of getting sued for not remedying a heat-related incident and/or the increase in insurance premiums along with the potential loss in productivity more than justified the investment in a Portacool unit.

Portacool found their biggest competition was ‘nothing‘. End-users were often not aware Portacool provided immediate and affordable solutions that could guard against issues related to excessive heat conditions. More so, misters and fans proved to be inadequate when dealing with the aforementioned conditions.

In the end, Portacool was able to create a consumer-centric business strategy, align sales and marketing based on end-user business intelligence and insights and achieve record-breaking growth.

In summary,

  • Dig deep to learn the real reason why end-users buy (or, don’t buy) your products
  • Use market-backed business intelligence and insights to develop consumer-centric value pillars
  • Use business intelligence and insights to develop a growth strategy based on serving consumer needs.
  • Align product, sales & marketing with an integrated consumer-centric plan