Considerations When Marketing Disruptive Technologies in Construction and Manufacturing
by Michelle Laurey, guest blogger
The construction and manufacturing industries are enormous engines driving any economy.
For instance, in the U.S., the construction industry employs more than 7 million individuals and generates more than $1.3 trillion.
On the other hand, manufacturers in the U.S. are responsible for 11.39% of the economy’s total output. They employ 8.51% of the total available workforce, and their overall output exceeds $2.3 trillion.
As a result, any changes that occur in those two major industries have far-reaching consequences on the economy as a whole.
Therefore, there are certain things you need to consider when you market disruptive technologies in those fields.
The Evolution of These Industries
Any industry changes in one of four ways:
- Progressive change
- Intermediating change
- Creative change
- Radical change, which is also known as disruptive change.
The change you aim to bring about falls into the final category, but it helps to be aware of how your target industries have evolved in all four of the above categories.
The Evolution of the Construction Industry
The construction industry is relatively new to disruptive change.
Over the past few centuries, it has mostly witnessed minor progressive changes. Engineers in the early twentieth century were relatively similar to those from the preceding centuries.
They drew plans by hand, used analog surveying equipment, and planned out projects using physical files and dossiers.
It was only over the past two decades that radical changes have occurred.
Today, engineers use advanced programs like AutoCAD and Revit to produce computer-aided designs, and almost every construction company worth its salt uses construction management software.
What’s more, the construction industry is on the cusp of even more disruption.
For instance, BIM software is changing the game, providing engineers with clear 3D models.
Modular manufacturing and prefabrication construction enable engineers to build structures in a fraction of the time it normally took, while also reducing waste.
The Evolution of the Manufacturing Industry
Unlike the construction industry, the manufacturing industry is no stranger to radical change.
Manufacturing has its origins in artisanal work. From blacksmiths and coppersmiths to shoemakers, laboring for hours and days over the final product used to be the norm.
However, this all changed with the industrial revolution.
For one thing, when Adam Smith introduced the concept of the division of labor, artisanal workers had a much more difficult time competing with large-scale organizations.
It wasn’t long before machines took over the manufacturing process, introducing mass production and rendering people who work with their hands all but obsolete.
Ford’s assembly line then took efficiency to a whole new level — and this isn’t even the end of the story.
Over the past fifty years, computerization has disrupted the manufacturing industry.
It has allowed automation, which has been buoyed recently by the introduction of AI.
Additionally, the collection of data has given us the field of analytics.
Needless to say, it is impossible to imagine what other disruptions the future holds for manufacturers all over the world.
The Problem With Disruptive Technology
Whether we’re talking about a relatively stable industry like construction, or a fast-moving one like manufacturing, most companies are slow to adopt innovative technology.
In his seminal book “Crossing the Chasm,” Geoffrey Moore has explored why many disruptive entrepreneurs have a hard time reaching the mainstream market.
He realized that adopting new technologies involves a high degree of risk, especially when the technology in question is so novel that there is little data to make an informed decision.
The problem is not only that these technologies are unproven: there is also a lack of supporting infrastructure to justify the switch.
It is often difficult to distinguish between something that will radically change an industry from something that will prove to be nothing more than a passing fad.
With this in mind, he broke down companies into different categories:
- Innovators and early adopters: They are the people so enamored with technology that they are willing to try anything new and take the risk so long as it may give them a leg up over the competition. You will also find visionaries in this category.
- The mainstream market: This category can be broken down into an early and late majority. These groups entail pragmatists and people who appreciate the benefit of sticking with the herd.
- Laggards: Those are companies and individuals so conservative that they might not adopt new technology even when the entire market has already turned to it.
Your marketing efforts will have to take all four categories into account.
How to Market to the Construction and Manufacturing Industries
We have already seen the inherent difficulties in marketing disruptive tech, with the construction and the manufacturing industries representing extreme ends on a spectrum of change.
In spite of their differences, both these industries are facing radical change. How can marketers smoothen the transition?
For starters, any marketing message consists of three components:
- The message.
- The target of the message.
- The proof that verifies the message.
Let’s look at each element separately.
When it comes to the message, your main goal is to communicate the value of your offer.
To make your offer acceptable to wary prospects, draw comparisons between the disruptive elements and things that might be familiar to the audience. Also, make sure you address their concerns. Here’s how.
To begin with, you want to show your audience what they have to gain by adopting new, disruptive technology.
In fact, you need to offer such a compelling value proposition that it entices your customers to adopt it.
After all, change is hard, and adapting to a new piece of technology often takes effort.
However, if the value exceeds the costs of change, your customers will be happy to take the leap.
Additionally, you should shed light on the possible consequences of being too late to the party.
Show that failing to adopt these new technologies promptly puts the company at a disadvantage to its competitors.
For example, when it comes to the construction industry, you can point out how drones can save money in surveying or how 3D printing will finish a task that used to take days or even weeks in mere hours.
You can do this through webinars, case studies, or any other form of educational content.
Explain Through Analogies
One of the most efficient ways to market new products is through analogies.
This comes in handy when the customer struggles to see the potential value of the new technology.
Analogies help demonstrate how things will improve once the new technology has been adopted.
They also show how the new technology relates to older technologies, which makes people feel safer.
For example, if you are trying to convince a manufacturer of the value of using AR and VR technology in their factories, this is what your spiel might look like:
“Investing in AR and VR will cost you X amount of dollars, which is about twice the amount you invest annually to train your workers.
However, while a trainer’s fee is recurring every year, AR and VR will only require an initial investment, and the maintenance fees will be a fraction of your training costs.
In essence, it will be like having a trainer on your factory floor 24/7, increasing productivity and keeping your workers safe, and you only have to pay once.”
Analogies offer reference points, enabling customers to make better-informed decisions.
When marketing disruptive technologies, many potential customers will express skepticism and even fear of jumping into uncharted waters.
It’s the marketer’s job to address these concerns and assuage them.
Start with listening to your customers and learn how to respond to each individual objection.
For instance, one common concern that is bound to pop up time and again is that these new technologies aren’t widespread yet and that the switching costs may be too high to justify the shift.
You can reply by pointing out that this is always the case with innovation.
Show that while there may be switching costs, there are even higher costs to delaying the inevitable.
You can go one step further and explain that there are several innovative technologies already being adopted by visionaries, thanks in part to the rise of industry 4.0.
For instance, there are construction companies that use IoT to keep their workers safe, and there are manufacturers relying on AI-based analytics tools to give them an edge in the marketplace.
Your prospects can get that same competitive edge with a little audacity.
The Target of the Message
Apart from the message itself, you have to be mindful of who you’re communicating with.
If you choose the right target audience, you increase your chances of success.
Start With Innovators and Early Adopters
Remember the classification of buyers with regard to adopting disruptive technology?
Well, you want to begin with targeting the innovators and early adopters. These are the companies that will be most receptive to trying out new technologies.
After all, you will have a miserable time selling innovation to people who are frightened by change.
To identify these visionaries, seek out companies that have already begun digitally transforming their outfit.
You can also look for companies with a history of adopting new technology and embracing change rather than running away from it.
For instance, you might have a better chance of finding your target market if you reach out to young professionals unafraid to challenge the status quo.
Talk to the C-Suite
If you are going to create educational content, you should direct it to the decision-makers — the C-level executives.
They are the ones who will give the final go or no-go decision, and they will do so according to their perception of the disruptive technology’s value.
Conversely, directors and their underlings tend to make purchase decisions based on the features of the technologies, the functions offered, and the price.
Ergo, they don’t necessarily look at the larger picture and the associated value, which is why it is best to sell them commodities instead of disruptive tech.
The Proof That Verifies the Message
One of the strongest tools in any marketer’s arsenal is social proof, so the main issue with new and disruptive technologies is the lack of it.
Therefore, to spark interest and reach a wider audience, you might want to consider collaborating with influencers and thought-leaders in your field.
Their endorsement will give weight to your message and attract mainstream audiences.
For example, working with a construction influencer, such as Kim Bates or Jay Bowman, can help you explore how companies can benefit from the abundance of data in the construction industry.
Other decision-makers in your targeted fields will be more open to giving you a chance if you’re backed by thought leaders they trust.
Putting It All Together
At the end of the day, marketing is all about crafting the right message, targeting the right people, and providing the right evidence.
When it comes to disruptive technology, things can be a bit trickier due to people’s natural hesitancy to embrace change.
Nevertheless, with a little creativity and plenty of perseverance, you will not only capture the early adopters and innovators, but also find different ways to reach the mainstream market.
It might require building the right partnerships and offering the right value propositions, but with a little grit, anything is possible!
About our guest blogger: Michelle Laurey works as a VA for small businesses. She loves talking business, and productivity, and share her experience with others. Outside her keyboard, she spends time with her Kindle library or binge-watching Billions. Her superpower? Vinyasa flow! Talk to her on Twitter @michelle_laurey.