Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to Rich Meeusen of Badger Meter speak at the Milwaukee Rotary Club. Listening to Rich speak is always an experience. He is funny, energetic, and at one point or another probably managed to offend nearly everyone in the audience!
At the end of the presentation, Rich was asked why homes are not built with the same water-saving technology that is used in vehicles such as boats and campers. Rich responded that he believes it is probably because consumers are not demanding it. This is partially because consumers are charged the cost of delivery for water, not for the value of the water. That’s why water in Milwaukee is more expensive than water in Phoenix. In Milwaukee, water is plentiful and should be inexpensive, but the cold winters mean that pipes break and our system requires more maintenance. In Phoenix, the pipes are newer and require little maintenance. People generally don’t value things that are inexpensive. If water has little monetary value, there is no reason to conserve it. If there is no reason to conserve it, people won’t care about conserving it. We have other things to worry about.
Many of our clients deal with the same challenge. How can you get someone to value something they don’t understand? If someone doesn’t understand the value of your service, how can you compete without resorting to competing on price? If you’re marketing a cause (such as water conservation), how do you get people to care?
The answer is education and patience. For a cause, such as water conservation, the answer is a lot of education and a lot of patience. Rich shared a story in which his father threw a bag of trash from McDonald’s out the window of the car while he was driving down the road. His father thought it was his right to do such a thing. Rich, who grew up with Woodsy Owl and Smokey Bear, would never have dreamed of littering like that. Rich admitted that he runs the water while he brushes his teeth but his granddaughter shuts off the tap. Sometimes it can take a generation or more for the message to sink in. Of course, as an organization you may not have the time to wait for an entire generation of people to grow up so that your message can be heard. But some messages are big enough and important enough that it could take an entire generation for the message to sink in. Be patient (when you can). Remember that no matter what you do, some people may not be receptive to your message. Sometimes the best strategy is to simply focus on those who are.
Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.