We all have a good idea of who our customers are and most businesses are already spending money to learn more about them, how they use our products, and how we fit in their world view.
Next, we work off of these models and refine our targets as we gain or lose business, find new niches, and move through the year. However, many of us don’t challenge those initial assumptions about who our core customer is, which can lead to a variety of missed opportunities.
Sometimes, we’re wrong about who we need to target and convince to use our service, even when we’re right about the industry at large.
Setting Initial Sights
LiquiGlide is one of my favorite examples for discussing the need to have an “always looking” approach. The brand has made several large companies extremely excited about their product but they don't all fall into that initial demographic.
LiquiGlide makes a coating that can be applied to containers of all shapes, sizes and materials to keep the contents from sticking to the inside. Essentially it would allow the end-consumer to get 100% of the glue, detergent, or toothpaste out of a bottle. It gives consumer package goods (CPG) brands a great reason to invest in the tech, with a clear message that customers can get all of what they pay for, with no more waste.
That’s an amazing pitch in the growing Earth-conscious and budget-conscious consumer market. LiquiGlide was right to approach the CPG market with its technology.
It first demonstrated its capabilities with a sample ketchup bottle allowing all of the contents to be poured out easily. Surprisingly, ketchup makers aren't that interested because they feel that ketchup's low viscosity and glass bottle allow people to get most of the product out easily enough.
So, LiquiGlide shifted gears to mayonnaise and has secured $7 million in funding for a venture that will include a stick-proof mayonnaise jar.
But What About Ketchup?
That shift in customer targets is something most of us go through quickly as we hope to find a new market opportunity to replace what we view as lost. But, sometimes there are angles that we didn't consider.
One of my clients who represents a wide range of recycling companies and glass manufacturers in the U.S. and parts of the EU said these groups would've been willing to match or exceed that funding, even for ketchup bottles.
The market here isn't the end-consumer who is grabbing a bottle off the grocer’s shelf, it’s the recycler who loses out on glass and other materials because they’re too contaminated. With food and particles hard to clean out, a significant amount of glass and plastics people try to recycle finds its way to landfills. Sending products to landfills increases costs and the carbon footprint of the brands who make those containers.
With the rising cost of carbon credits – plus the gains for increasing offsets – this coating could mean saving millions of dollars for multiple industries. While the mayonnaise jar and a new deal with Elmer’s glue are a strong start, we potentially could have seen a much larger deal across a wider range of initial products if the brand has considered a different angle on who its biggest customers could be.
It’s hard to see that silver lining when we feel like a door has been shut. But, if you take a few moments to consider the individual parts of the industry you want to serve, you may just find a new avenue to pursue.