Getting the Message to the Manufacturer

Different industries manage their businesses differently. This could depend on how many middlemen an industry uses since manufacturers might be unaware of what users really want. It might depend on the importance of marketing in an industry where engineering has always been the primary contributor. It could depend on the power of brand names that are promoted as persuasive umbrellas over a company’s complete product line (parts of which may or may not always match what users want).

Lots of security companies now have advisory councils consisting of dealers, integrators and even users to discuss product needs. And new management conferences bring end users and integrators together to share thoughts with manufacturers. In the meantime, a troubled world is generating long-term growth for the security industry where each acquisition changes the way a merged business is managed. New people, ideas and processes are put in place to alter the modus operandi.

And through it all, the principle remains that a company has to know what the user wants because an accurate picture of ultimate demand makes all the difference between profitable leadership and a single-digit market share. But is it really that easy?

Sharing Network Concerns All
It generally is in the consumer products industry. When I was at GE, you could present a series of countertop kitchen appliances to consumers and get fairly clear reactions that could be converted into strong marketing and sales programs. But when a supplier is engaged in a business with a fair degree of complexity, users don’t always have answers. They may lack full product information or have a meeting with another department that changes the corporate viewpoint or be uncertain about things such as the best way to mix guard services with electronic systems.

As an example of opinion differences between manufacturers and users, we asked both groups the same questions about key business issues concerning IP video. The table shows the results. Both manufacturers and users agree the biggest issue is the sharing of the IT network, although users think a little (8 percent) less of that issue. IP cameras are in second place with the same 8-percent difference — not really a big deal between the groups since agreement is fairly high.

But with respect to DVRs, users see a bigger difference with 14-percent more importance than manufacturers. The same type of double-digit difference applies to large video storage. On the other hand, there is solid agreement on the matter of video distribution via the Internet.

So the idea is to find the bigger differences, determine how much increased intensity users place on them, and then get to work converting that area of concern to new products and services, bearing in mind the level of user knowledge that exists.

Manufacturers Must Mind the User
So the moral of the story for manufacturers and their advisors is to always stay in touch with the user. But beware of incomplete information and mixed motives — such as “Users don’t know what they want, so we have to lead them.”

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