For the first time in the 40 years I’ve been in this business, there isn’t a lot of new technology coming out.
A major reason is that there’s a supply chain shortage, so manufacturers are unable to ship what they would like to sell. I’ve also observed a lack of innovation. Recently, I haven’t been involved in conversations about how companies need to have such-and-such great new features to set themselves apart from the competition.
But that doesn’t mean my clients aren’t still excited about new gear. Many companies feel they’ve got equipment that’s tired, that’s been in service too long, that isn’t sexy or fun or full-featured anymore.
And I agree. New equipment is better. But my clients are much more excited about their new equipment than their customers are.
How do I know? When the topic of new equipment comes up, I ask, “What are your customers saying?”
The usual answer? “They’re not saying anything.”
My clients aren’t wrong. When they tell me their equipment is out of date, I believe them. But their customers aren’t saying anything about it. How do you balance both sides of that equation?
When it all boils down, we’re talking about tools. New tools may look better, but a 50-year-old hammer will pound in nails just like a brand-new one. Customers care more about the house getting built than the look of the hammer.
That analogy isn’t perfect, since we aren’t just talking about hammers. Nevertheless, the hammer analogy works if the problem is still hammering nails. The adage “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” comes to mind.
It’s About Emotion
The question that really needs to be asked is, “What problem are you trying to solve?”
It’s an excellent question. When I really drill in and ask clients this question four or five times, we both realize the problem they’re trying to solve is emotional. It’s not that an owner can’t find equipment to rent. It’s not that my clients’ equipment doesn’t get the job done. They just want to feel better about the equipment they have.
Say you want to buy a new suit, and I ask, “Well, what’s wrong with the suit you have?” If you’re being honest, you’ll probably say something like, “It doesn’t make me feel good anymore.”
Buying new equipment is like buying a new suit. It helps people feel better about themselves. I can’t argue with that. But let’s be clear: If that’s why you’re buying new equipment, there are probably better approaches that would have a more emotional impact on your customers than going out and buying shiny new widgets.
It’s Important to You — What About Your Clients?
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make when contemplating buying new equipment is assuming their customers care.
Too often, when I watch my clients introduce new technology to their customers, my client says, “Oh, isn’t this nice?” The customer repeats, “Yes, that’s nice.”
Since the company is obviously excited about the new equipment, the customer is going to smile and nod. They’re not being patronizing. They’re genuinely trying to understand why the upgrade is important to them because, clearly, it’s important to you.
The question is, can you show your customer why it’s important to them? That’s where the biggest mistakes happen. The company forgets who it’s showing new equipment to and why they’re showing it.
What’s in it for the customer? How is the new equipment going to help them? How is it going to enhance their experience? How is it going to reduce their cost?
Simply stated: Don’t put your eagerness to have something new over the customer’s needs.
Testing: A Better Approach
In a recent peer group call, one of our members brought up that he wanted to buy LED. The group, as they should have, challenged him.
They asked all the right questions. “Why do you need LED?” “How often are you using LED now?”
He answered, “I want better customers, and better customers want LED. Therefore, if I have LED, I’ll find better customers.”
The logic wasn’t wrong, but it was an emotional buy. The peer group sensed this and suggested a much better approach than going out and spending $250,000 on an LED wall: “Why don’t you rent it first?”
If you rent an LED wall for a month, you can demo it and put it to use on some jobs. It’s like buying a new car based on a single test drive versus buying a new car you’ve driven around for three weeks.
Find ways to borrow, rent, or demo the equipment and treat it like your own. If you owned it, what would you do with it? If it turns out you could benefit, your logic is confirmed. If you realize you can’t justify the expenditure, you save a ton of money.
By testing new equipment before buying it, you’ll learn how to use it. Document what you learn. Use this knowledge to develop marketing tools like videos and tutorials. This way, you can more effectively introduce new equipment to your customers. You can’t sell something if you don’t know how to use it.
Rather than approaching customers by saying, “Hey, I have this new equipment, let’s use it,” you can share what the customer actually needs to know about the new technology. What are its capabilities (i.e. does this hammer work with small or large nails)? Limitations? What does it replace? Is it cool and fun? How does it improve the audience experience?
All this came directly from the peer group. The bottom line was, “We don’t want to see you spend a huge amount of money until you’ve tried the product yourself.” The peer group really added value here.
Technology isn’t changing too fast and the market isn’t moving so quickly that you can’t afford a couple months of fun and thoughtful consideration. Not to mention, the supply chain crisis is going to force you to engage in some thoughtful consideration about whether you want to purchase new equipment or not. In today’s economy, you have the rare opportunity to learn how to be an owner before you actually become one.
Make a small investment and do some research about your decision before rushing in to a major investment and hoping it was the right one.
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