PERFORMER target groups and market routes – summary of the latest market watch activities
The PERFORMER project started in September 2013 and after nearly 48 months the team have developed an innovative concept that aims to close the energy gap by facilitating the identification and targeting of a range of energy management opportunities. Among the most important recent activities are those dedicated to replication and exploitation. Final market watch activities have been carried out to investigate PERFORMER target groups as well as the possible market routes for PERFORMER, including its potential communication and distribution channels. The last three articles published on PERFORMER watch blog discuss these issues in detail, while this text summarises the most important conclusions.
Who belongs to the most important PERFORMER target groups?
Project partners have been working together to identify the potential target industrial partner and end-user groups for the PERFORMER solution. Potential industrial partners are likely to be professionals involved in the fields of energy retrofitting, ICT and facility management. Also, standardisation organisations are in the PERFORMER area of interest, thus efforts have been made to interact with their members. All dissemination activities have been undertaken with the objective of establishing a collaborative framework between the ICT, the construction, and the energy sectors. Potential end users or clients for the PERFORMER solution may include schools, hotels, office buildings and others building types providing owners of these buildings with significant and promising savings. This means that the full scope of potential end-users for the PERFORMER solution could include:
- Public clients, such as local and regional authorities which are in charge of schools, hospitals, public office buildings, social housing, etc.
- Local Authority Energy Departments tasked with management of energy usage.
- Large private companies and managers, such as hotel chains, large developers, shopping centre management companies, companies with large office buildings, retail companies etc.
- Facilities (maintenance teams, M&E engineers) and facility managers
- Building Managers and private building owners (residential, commercial etc.)
- Energy Consultancies
- Editors of BMS or commissioning software tools
- Engineering companies providing consultancy in energy performance management
- BMS Contractors
Who can support cooperation with the most important target groups?
There are many secondary target groups for PERFORMER in Europe that could be useful to access the primary/ main target groups mentioned above, such as:
- Consulting firms and energy consumption management companies
- Institutions of Building Services Engineers
- The Smart Building Alliances
- Energy contracting companies
- Trade associations (e.g. USH for building owners in social housing)
- National and International regulatory bodies
- Regional councils and alliances
The most important advantage of services offered by the secondary groups is their strong cooperation with key industrial partners working in the built environment. Thus, they are able to undertake lobbing activities which may be very good opportunity for successful promotion of PERFORMER. Similarly, energy savings companies (ESCOs) and energy consultants could offer PERFORMER within their services portfolio.
Proposed market routes for PERFORMER – communication and distribution channels
Currently, several direct and indirect market routes are available for manufacturers of innovative products, including Building Energy Management Systems. The text below describes potential of selected communication channels, taking into account opinions of the project partners on the best options for creating relationships with potential users of PERFORMER solution.
The first group of the communication channels refers to direct selling of PERFORMER which is the most common form of sales at the start of any new business and in many cases this can be hyper-critical to obtaining a first round of financing. As the business grows, as the relevant markets emerge or mature, formalised sales models can be put in place to give more momentum to the sales process. Direct selling may continue to be appropriate, especially if the product is complex in nature making it challenging for 3rd parties to represent without continual direct assistance.
Indirect sales refer to the sale of goods or services by a third-party, such as a partner or affiliate, rather than a company’s personnel. Indirect sales may be used in conjunction with a company’s direct sales efforts or may be used in lieu of hiring additional staff. Indirect sales are often made through resellers, such as specialist stores and big box retailers. Indirect selling tends to become appropriate when the packaging of the product (including all the relevant go-to-market messaging) becomes simplistic enough that a 3rd party can adequately represent it to their customers in local geographic or specific industry market segments. Price points also play a key role in choosing a sales model — high priced products tend to be easier to sell directly due to extensive product expertise and sales resource requirements, whereas low priced products tend to move more fluidly through an indirect channel or mass-market model. Indirect sales can allow a company to increase sales quickly without having to hire more sales personnel. In some cases, however, indirect sales may lead to reduced control of the brand message and poorer customer service because the company cannot manage indirect sales teams easily. As there are many ways of selling it may take some analytical and intellectual effort to choose the primary model or models that fit the evolution of the business and its products or services.
When choosing a communication channel, there are multiple factors to keep in mind. Not only do we have to assess how our competitors are selling their products, but we should also consider the costs of these various methods in addition to customer preferences. To determine the appropriate communication channel, it is therefore necessary to identify the people we want to communicate with, research how they obtain information, consider the complexity of the message we want to communicate, decide whether we want the communication to be interactive, etc.
How to catch the client? PERFORMER and the direct communication with current and potential customers
Direct communication channels may include face-to-face meetings, website, social media, technical support, call center, phone, e-mail and SMS.
- Face-to-face meetings
Traditional ways of communication (commercials, press advertisements) might not be suitable due to the complex and innovative nature of the PERFORMER solution. Direct marketing, briefings and demonstrations at dedicated events for building stakeholders are likely to be more beneficial, particularly as it would provide an opportunity for PERFORMER to be introduced to the potential clients by an expert able to respond directly to any questions or doubts. This could be supported by good news stories and positive references from well-known and esteemed clients to attract more users.
- Face-to-face technical support
User-friendly technical support from individuals familiar with the technology would be able to troubleshoot most problems. Information on how to reach technical support could be provided, for example over the phone, through email, or with a live-chat interface.
While face-to-face communication is more conducive to certain businesses, even ecommerce companies and remote services can find opportunities to get in front of customers. Channels which could be used to maintain strong communication with potential PERFORMER customers include:
Websites can be used to provide information about the product and the manufacturer or supplier. It can also be used as a marketing tool aimed at promoting the product or service to a far greater number of customers.
- Social Media
The advantages of social media are well recognised by manufacturers of BEMS who often use these channels to communicate and disseminate information about their product and services. It is worth noting that all examined competitors of PERFORMER use more than one social media channel to establish direct interactions with their customers.
The most popular social media channels are: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+, but several competitors have also decided to promote their products and services through other services, such as RSS, Vimeo, Instagram and XING.
- Call Center and phone
While written forms of communication are useful and may be adequate in many circumstances, sometimes a more direct form of communication is needed. Communicating with customers over the phone is an effective strategy, particularly when bespoke advice is needed. Whilst phone calls from the company to the customer serve one purpose, having a call center through which customers can initiate contact themselves is also crucial.
Other communication channels are direct mail, SMS, push notifications, journals and newspapers – the way in which PERFORMER could make the most of these is described in detail in the last watch blog article.
We strongly encourage our valued readers to read our watch blog which includes a range of news articles published throughout the PERFORMER project on topics including innovations in technology, the market, competitors and standards developments.