cranberry farmer, appos advisors

Two farmers are standing in a cranberry bog… While this sounds like the start of a joke, it describes an Ocean Spray marketing campaign that you’ve probably seen several times. After all, it has been running consistently since 2005. Ocean Spray hasn’t replaced it because it still produces sales, and even drives consumers to try new products, by reminding us of its’ long history of  cranberry farmers producing quality products.

Customers are more likely to trust you with their future if you can provide proof from your past that your people have the DNA, like Ocean Spray’s iconic farmers, to support them over the long-haul. This includes demonstrating staying power and a commitment to building and supporting quality products.

New Utility Buying Behaviors & Why You Should Care

With the pressure to evolve quickly or die on the proverbial vine, technology executives are often so focused on their company’s future innovations that they neglect to modify their go-to-market strategies and deliverables in response to new and emerging buying behaviors. This is an understandable misstep, but a misstep nonetheless.

Driven by the fast pace of innovation and consumer needs, utility companies are no longer procuring point-in-time products and services. They are looking for long-term partners—in the form of human beings—who are committed to driving and supporting their technology modernization journey.  They are likely to believe in the ability of your solutions to enable their journey if they believe in the people who build and support them.

When business threats are already highlike during the global, health pandemic of 2020 and the “evolving new normal” that will last well into the future—they will avoid taking on the additional risk of partnering with a provider that doesn’t have a track record that sparks immediate trust.

Communicating in Ways that Build Trust & Pipeline

Against future uncertainties and new and emerging buying behaviors, you should answer the following questions that relate to trust building:

  1. Do you provide proof that your team members are change leaders instead of the uninspired folks who get tangled up in “we’ve always done it this way” thinking? This is important because the utility business of today will look quite different in 10 years. You need to prove that your people know where the industry is going and how to be valuable over the course of the utility journey.
  2. From macro to micro insights, are you proving that you understand your customers’ gritty pain points? Are you communicating how you can uniquely solve them? Your customers aren’t shopping the nice-to-have isle. They are looking for solutions to raw and scary risks, threats, and all-out problems.
  3. Are you elevating your team by using “we” in conversations instead of its’ self-promoting cousin, “I”? If not, you should. Humility is a fan-favorite and important to building both trust in your team and you as a professional.
  4. Do you include information about your company’s history through powerful and relatable proof points? Past success is a solid indicator of future success, but you must go beyond one-dimensional history statements and timelines and bring your story to life through your people.
  5. Have you crafted and published a unique, heartfelt, and empathetic mission statement and set of company values? If yes, have you gone beyond lip service to make it real for your employees? Are you using it as a boilerplate for external content to make it real for your customers? If not, you should do all of the above. Your customers want to know that your people are passionate about what you do.
  6. Are you using marketing jargon like, “industry-leading” and, “best-in-class”? If yes, please stop immediately unless you have quantifiable data points to prove your claims. Without data, you’ll you sound like all of the other companies pulling messaging from the dictionary of meaningless business phrases.
  7. Are you leveraging customer brand advocates through customer testimonials, case studies, and co-presentations? If you act on only one suggestion in this list, this may be the most important. What others say about you is more believable than what you say about yourself and happy customers are your best opportunity to prove that you deliver on your promises.

Bringing the Point Home

Utility companies, faced with uncertainties, are more likely to trust you with their future if you, like Ocean Spray, humanize your past and use it to establish confidence in your ability be successful for them in the future (on an individual account basis). To do this, it’s worth considering the seven questions above, which touch on things that the “new utility buyer” wants to see from you.

It’s quite possible that this moment of introspection will uncover breakdowns in your current go-to-market value chain and missteps in your business development efforts and communications, but that’s not a bad place to be. Reevaluating and reimagining who you are, what you do, and how you do it—in the context of what utilities need to weather the changes ahead—is an extremely valuable exercise. If taken seriously, it will pave the way for increasing your relevancy and value to utilities and help you capture the market share that will cement your status as critical to the technology modernization journey ahead.

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