Utilities Develop Smart Meters:Missing “Marketing 101”

Utilities are developing new monitoring and energy management technologies but are missing ‘Marketing 101’ basics. I posted following comments on Fast Company article http://www.fastcoexist.com/1678981/smart-meters-not-just-for-electricity-anymore#comments

Agree we need to educate the public about smart infrastructure, but we need to refocus our strategy and message here.

Today we take a ‘silo’ approach driven by utilities and what technology driven services they can deliver to the market. Water supply companies describe capabilities from managing real time supply and demand metrics, and creating new features to improve cost performance. Same for electric  utilities.

To secure  public support and  replicate the benefits many other countries have realized, I recommend a “Marketing 101″ approach to policymaking here, starting with the public consumer. First, define benefits we want to deliver, then define the functions and features needed to deliver these benefits. In my ‘Marketing 101’ model, technology is a enabler, a means to the end, to deliver benefits to end users. Remote meter reading and energy management are technical features, not benefits.

I am leading a new health care which will empower users to more effectively manage and track medications, vital signs and wellness using proprietary technology. While it is seductive to start with what I call real,  ‘gee-whiz’ technology, our winning strategy focuses 100% on what users need, want and how we use technology to create benefits to build a sustainable business. Lots of exciting and proprietary technology here, but need to always keep in mind technology is an enabler for the real business.

So going back to our meter reading/energy  technology enabler, following ‘Marketing 101’ thinking, a good starting point in the policy discussion is to develop proposed applications which target sectors and deliver real definable benefits to users. Some
suggestions, and I am sure readers will have many more ideas:

1.Senior Utility Management Program: Integrated program to manage all utilities targeting seniors – integrated billing, management, budgeting service with appliance management and maintenance – turnkey service. While I do not expect utilities to
necessarily offer these services, utilities can take the lead defining these new capabilities, making data available to third party providers, and  create an exciting new market segment which will attract  new ventures. Note utilities can be the driver here, pursuing an ‘open platform’ strategy, setting standards, following the model in other sectors.

2. Home Management Services: Expand the model, leverage M2M (machine to machine) technologies, and offer users a comprehensive utility and home management/monitoring  system, status updates and other features. These applications are emerging in various forms – what I am suggesting is utilities  can be
‘entrepreneurial partners’ here to help jumpstart the process. The M2M market ,  is exploding, and these applications deliver real benefits to users

‘Marketing 101’ thinking works in the commercial sector to develop and drive new business. Given technology advances in the utility sector, I see opportunity for Marketing 101” thinking there also to improve utility cost performance and deliver  real benefits (not just new technology) to users.

Paul B. Silverman

Author: Worm on a Chopstick : Understanding Today’s Entrepreneurial Age: Directions, Strategies, Management Perspectives http://paulbsilverman.com/books/

Email:      paul@paulbsilverman.com
blogs:       http://paulbsilverman.com/blog/
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