Page 5: The challenge
It is not enough to have the technology and knowledge to create sustainable solutions. The company had to be able to translate these opportunities into a successful business. ICI, therefore decided to let a number of pioneer organisations use the new technology in North America and other key locations. It was essential to build up outstanding relationships with these pioneer organisations. After identifying the key organisations, objectives for the partnership were established and relationships built to lead to future sales. The first North American ECO-Binding Technology customers were all innovators in various phases of production:
- PrimeBoard of Wahpeton, North Dakota
- Phenix COMPOSITES of Mankato, Minnesota
- Agrifibre Industries Inc. in the Canadian province of Alberta
- Naturall Fibre Board, Minneapolis, Kansas
- Environmental Agriculture Technologies, New Iberia, Louisiana.
ICI worked with plants in Thailand and China and additional market exploration visits are continuing in Asia with new ventures developing in South and Central America. To win the confidence of these customers, ICI needed to:
- Demonstrate the successful industrial application of the new technology i.e. the creation of high value building products. For example, a Canadian customer is building a new plant in the province of Alberta which will make fibreboard from locally produced straw. The product looks like granite and can be used as hardwood.
- Encourage accelerated replication of the technology. Once the pioneers establish the benefits of the new processes, then others will follow very quickly.
- Promote customer loyalty by building strong relationships with customers.
- Promote value added selling strategies i.e. by creating the benefits which are most appropriate to meet customer requirements in terms of product development.
- Understand the complexities of the global market and the impact of local political, business and social philosophies. ICI recognises that quite different market expectations and values operate in different regions.
Expanding a current market is a science, creating a new market is an art. ICI sets out to create and develop its markets by a number of key measures:
- Building an appropriate marketing mix i.e. creating products which customers want, at a price which best meets their needs, in the right place at the right time, using the best possible promotional mix.
- Targeting marketing at the appropriate group of customers and using market research to find out how to meet customer requirements.
- Learning the rules of the international marketplace and identifying world markets.
- Building awareness through carefully organised sales and marketing activities.
- Launching new products successfully by taking advantage of market research techniques.
- Learning how best to use research information.
A seven-step approach to market leadership ICI has created a seven-step approach to market leadership in the agricultural by-products industry. These steps are:
- Consultation. ICI sets out to understand its customer’s business through a consultative focus process.
- Relationship selling. This involves establishing shared interest with its customers.
- Solution selling. The selling organisation develops products which meet customers’ needs. If a customer wants a strong and flexible building material then the only solution is the product which meets those criteria.
- Team selling. ICI recognises that its product meets a global need. It has, therefore, created an international team to meet customers’ requirements.
- Creating customer satisfaction. ICI competes on non-price factors. In particular, the company pinpoints the value added to individual products to meet customer requirements.
- Positioning. ICI has adopted the position in the market as a ‘can’t do it without us’ company. In other words, organisations wishing to develop ECO-Binding Technology feel that they cannot use and develop the technology without the support and partnership of ICI.
- Communication. ICI ensures potential customers are aware of what it has to offer through creative and up-front communication.
‘Green’ products are no longer a new trend or concept for the future. A recent Gallup Poll, covering 24 countries, showed that the majority of the people surveyed think environmental protection is more important than economic growth. Consumers will continue to support companies that produce ‘green’ products. From the building materials in the homes where they live, to the furniture they buy, informed consumers are choosing ‘green’ products.
Recycled and ‘green’ furniture manufacturers and retailers are emerging around the world. One furniture manufacturer stated, ‘More and more often, we are being asked to fill out surveys about what we’re doing environmentally, before customers will buy our furniture.’
From farmers to builders to end-users, boards made with agricultural by-products benefit everyone by:
- extending the world’s forest lands and the wider ecosystems they protect
- creating a use for agricultural by-products previously considered unusable
- reducing the impact of burning fields as a means of waste disposal
- leaving more trees to contribute to the oxygen supply
- providing a formaldehyde-free alternative to UF-based resins
- reducing the amount of energy required in the production of board products
- promoting sustainable development
- meeting consumer demand for environmentally responsible products.
In addition to converting low value by-products into performance boards and potentially increasing crop profits, this technology may also have an important role in reducing global warming. ECO-Binding Technology offers a tremendous opportunity for ICI to dominate a new market, whilst promoting sustainable development. For customers, this will provide a unique chance to make use of superior products, enhancing their reputations for quality and for contributing to sustainable growth.