When the industrial age began, the core mission of a manufacturer was to create a product that would satisfy a need in the marketplace or provide a modern convenience. At the time, the product itself may have been considered new and revolutionary. As manufacturing evolved in the 20th century, competition forced successful companies to invest in product quality and innovation.
To set itself apart from competition in 1936, A. O. Smith patented the process for glass-lining a steel-tank residential water heater. Due to its exceptional ability to resist corrosion, glass-lined water heaters quickly became the gold-standard of the industry and remains so to this day.
For more than 70 years, A. O. Smith has differentiated itself in the marketplace through its commitment to building high-quality, innovative water-heating products. While we are proud of our diverse portfolio of water-heating technology for homes and business, we recognize that in today’s marketplace, reliable, high-performance products are only the cost of entry.
Product as a service
If your customers are only buying a water heater, price will almost always prevail.
So what should a manufacturer in the plumbing-heating-cooling industry sell to contractors to stand out? For A. O. Smith, it’s a water heater, of course, but in the 21st century, we’re also “selling” our decades of water-heating expertise and easy-to-use tools that are designed to help contractors boost their bottom line.
A. O. Smith now looks at the sales funnel holistically to help contractors better answer the needs of their customers and to help wholesalers create a better sales experience for contracting firms. Heather Ashton, a research manager for market intelligence firm International Data Corporation, calls this trend “product as a service.”
“By 2018, 40% of the top 100 discrete manufacturers and 20% of top 100 process manufacturers will provide product-as-a-service platforms… As manufacturers apply service innovation to their efforts, the product becomes a platform to deliver business outcomes and tangible value.”
Creating business demand
For A. O. Smith, creating a platform to deliver positive business outcomes and tangible value for contractors and wholesalers has been a collaborative effort and years in the making. Today, we offer a variety of programs with the intent of increasing demand for our products, which ultimately results in more wholesale purchases.
Our investment in partnership provides contracting business owners a variety of tools, for instance:
- Xpert® Product Selector Tool, a consumer-facing widget that drives purchases to our loyal contractors;
- A conversion kit, tools that help a contractor close a deal, such as product financing;
- Lead Connect™, a lead-generation tool that shares the contact information of professional, allied installers; and
- A utility rebate program, an initiative that’s generating demand for high-value A. O. Smith products.
We developed these programs, in part, by engaging with our partner contractors and wholesalers and by utilizing actionable research and intelligence from organizations like the American Supply Association, of which A. O. Smith is a proud corporate member.
More than any other time in our company’s history, A. O. Smith’s success is tied to the ability of our partners to do their job as efficiently and effectively as possible. These program enhancements illustrate A. O. Smith’s commitment to building a stronger industry through meaningful support designed to help contractor and wholesale partners grow their business.
In short, manufacturers, wholesalers and contractors are invested in one future together.
That’s is precisely why industry associations like ASA are so important today; they serve to connect manufacturers to the industry in a real way that provides business insights, to educate decision-makers about must-know trends and to advocate for our growth top to bottom.
As we all work together to write the next chapter of the future plumbing-heating-cooling industry, manufacturers like A. O. Smith will continue to compete fiercely, but we’ll also be collaborating, engaging and sharing to ensure a mutually beneficial future for us all.