Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Navman Wireless’s Vice President, Renaat Ver Eecke.  What Renaat said about how he led his company to success sounded very similar to Adrian Slywotzky’s hassle map.  Below, Renaat describes how market research led to big success for Navman Wireless.

Curt: I’m always fascinated by people who are working to solve the same kinds of problems that I’m working to solve as the CEO of a software company in Austin, Texas.  One of those problems is how to introduce a new product in a recession to an industry with lots of problems.  Did you know that the construction industry was headed for destruction while you were developing this product?

Renaat: Yes, I did.  Navman Wireless has endured a lot of change in the past ten years, going from private to public and back to private again.  We really examined a couple of avenues of growth.  One way was to expand our business in the United States.  We were doing well in Europe, the United Kingdom, and our home base of Australia and New Zealand.  We focused in on how to accelerate our growth even more.

When I researched the United States, it made more sense to concentrate on specific vertical markets.  I analyzed many different segments and the one that stood out was construction.  We conducted market research, meaning we had an outside firm called customers and talk to them about their pain points.  My team analyzed those pain points and then generated information on what our advantages in the market could be.  Our research showed us that we could be really successful in the construction market.  This market research helped us to really understand why the market hadn’t taken off. The potential growth and value to the client were certainly there.  The disconnect lied in the product delivery.

Though we knew that the market was in a massive decline, we saw many interesting dynamics that could be used to our advantage.  One of the biggest market players was leaving and the other key players were not successfully executing a strategy to gain penetration.  We understood our competitive advantage and we based the product around that advantage.

 Curt: What were the pain points?

Renaat: One was that customers owned many different telematics products from many different brands, such as Caterpillar, Komatsu and John Deere.  This makes gathering information very difficult for a customer because they’re working with three different products with three different platforms.  One of our key differences is that our telematics solution is one platform for every single piece of equipment the customer owns.  Our product works with all makes and models, all the time, in one place. 

Another pain point was contractors wanting to track their entire fleet.  They wanted a product that could go on-road and off-road all in one platform.

Curt: Just to clarify, the purpose of telematics is to provide a central station for all the information regarding where a particular piece of equipment is, correct?

Renaat: Yes.  Telematics has a lot to do with the engine hours that the piece of equipment is going through.  Managing engine hours helps with maintenance, which is a huge cost.  These big pieces of equipment have to be on the right maintenance cycles and downtime must be reduced as much as possible.

Curt: So in your line of work, it’s all about the productivity of the million dollar piece of equipment.  And to sum up what your company did to achieve this, you understood the pain points of different customers in the construction industry with regards to equipment maintenance and billing.

Renaat: Yes.  We investigated the vertical markets.  Once we saw that construction was the vertical market to target, we researched end-market customers and conducted a double blind survey, which means that customers didn’t know who we were and we didn’t know the individual customers, preventing any bias.  We wanted true, real pain points.  We then developed a product that addressed those pain points and our marketing team went to the market with messaging that reflected the customers’ pain points.  That messaging resonated really well with customers.

The research we conducted on pain points made our marketing efforts much easier.  That’s been the real differentiator in our success.  The research ensured we brought the product that customers wanted and now we’ve exceeded even our own sales expectations.  We’re successful because we provide a product that delivers what the customers want.

Curt: Would you say that the product is responsible for the sales (in other words, a magnetic offer) or do you have a fantastic sales team?

Renaat: You need both.  Our sales team is a group of veterans who know the industry very well.  The speech, language and acronyms of construction are massively different than other verticals our company is involved in.  You need to have people who really understand how to talk to specific customers.  If a sales person doesn’t come across as someone who understands the customer, the customer is less receptive.

But if you don’t have a product that meets those pain points, then even the best sales person in the world can’t sell the product.  Navman Wireless as a company has a nice balance between really good sales forces globally and a products that are on mark with customer needs

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx.  Read more expert advice on his PM Blog.