January 17, 2012


Down the drainYou’ll find marketing ideas where none are intended.

This morning, I went to the Ivey Idea Forum for the first time. The topic was Water and Agri-Food Innovation: Does our future profitability depend on it? That means fresh water usage by food companies. That’s a rather narrow focus but I was curious about the issues.

We’ll skip the scary statistics and predictions. Instead, we’ll look at the marketing hurdles in the path to change.

Four Marketing Hurdles

Why aren’t food companies doing more? Kevin Jones (LinkedIn) gave four reasons. He’s the President and CEO of The Bloom Centre for Sustainability (website).
  1. The risk isn’t visible
  2. The financial benefits aren’t visible
  3. Ignorance abounds
  4. Current proven solutions aren’t known
You probably have similar issues with your own clients. Let’s explore what you can do.

Make The Risk Visible

Water: the risk isn't visible. If food companies see water as cheap and abundant, why would they bother with conservation?

If your clients don't see the real problem you solve, you've got a huge hurdle since they have many squeakier wheels to oil. You won't get far as a prophet of disaster if you get the rewards from being right. You can still educate, ideally using independent reports. Maybe they’ll then hire you to slay the now seen monster.

Show The Financial Benefits

Water: The financial benefits of conservation aren't seen. If there isn't a connection with profits, how do you motivate companies to spend?

Do your clients see you as an investment or an expense? Can you develop simple metrics? For instance, the equivalent of a hurdle rate or payback period. You probably have something already. How can you you make the benefits more compelling?

Do your clients trust what you're showing them? Too-good-to-be-true benefits or shaky assumptions are impair your credibility. Wait, there’s more!

Overcome Ignorance

Water: Ignorance. If companies don't know how or where they are using water, is change likely?

Even if your clients use the type of product or service you provide, do they know how or where? For instance, we take electricity for granted. Would automatic water faucets, soap dispensers and towel dispensers work during a power outage? Depending on the business, that might be important.

Show Proven Solutions

Water: Food companies are unaware of current, proven solutions. If they don't know what's available, they may not know they can do something today.

Few businesses want to bear the risks and costs of innovating in a noncore area. Do you show clients what's already adopted elsewhere? Relevant case studies help you use a powerful principle of influence: consensus.

Your Clients

How do you fault clients for inertia?

These four marketing hurdles are inter-related. Education is one solution. You can share content that's already available (like a parrot) or create your own (like a pundit). Since awareness takes time, staying in contact with valuable, timely information helps.


PS Please turn off the lights as you leave. Let’s conserve electricity too.

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