Guillaume: Hello everyone. Guillaume Le Tual here, host of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast, where I feature leaders in business and e-commerce. Today’s guest is Brandon Taylor, CEO and board member of GreenTech Environmental. Today’s topic will be the difficulties of launching a new product in an emerging market when customers don’t know or don’t care about the differences in technology and just look at price. How do you educate? An emerging market is a very challenging topic and can also be key to launching new products or even transforming an industry or be some kind of disruptive technology. So a very interesting topic for today.
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All right, Brandon, thank you for being here today.
Brandon: Thank you for having me on.
Guillaume: Can you please give us a brief introduction about you and your background as an entrepreneur?
Brandon: Absolutely. So my background is, again, Brandon Taylor CEO of GreenTech. My background is on the corporate surface not as an entrepreneur.
Guillaume: Oh, sorry.
Brandon: That’s okay. But in small businesses you kind of transform that way. I’ve been with large companies in excess of billions in terms of the energy business and construction businesses as well. Most of those were focused on turnarounds. They were focused on really growing the business and transforming the business from where it was. That led me into bankruptcy and some private equity ventures. With that said, I came to GreenTech which was a founder-led business. I ultimately became the CEO of this company. It’s an extremely exciting organization and an extremely exciting company to be a part of. The reason being it’s an emerging opportunity. GreenTech plays in the IQ space and if you’re not aware of the IQ space, it’s the air purification.
So indoor air quality is the acronym in the industry and that industry has evolved and emerged particularly driven by the COVID pandemic. So with the COVID pandemic everyone’s aware of viruses and wiping surfaces, and cleaning beyond what they would normally clean in their homes. Air quality then became irrelevant as people were attracting COVID and getting sick due to air borne viruses and these things in the air. So where GreenTech is focused is on indoor air quality. We portray, develop and engineer a variety of products and solutions in order to attack the space in order to help you be safe and healthy.
Guillaume: Okay. It’s very interesting timing and positioning to have some kind of air filter. If you’re in the same building as someone else who’s sick, I guess, in an airplane you’re way less likely to catch it, at least from the air system. Because it’s not circling back some COVID to you or some other sickness that’s airborne because you’ll filter it in some way. Is that accurate?
Brandon: That’s correct. There are two types. There’s passive technology that we are all aware of, utilizing a HEPA filtration and a filter. There is also active technologies that exist and whether it’s bipolar ionization or photocatalytic oxidation, those are things where it’s taking a UV bulb and enacting with a certain honeycomb substrate, or something like that, where it’s actively going into the air and attacking the contaminant. That combined with filtration is an opportunity to combine technologies, to create a solution for the indoor air space. So what’s happening is these emerging technologies have come to the forefront of the industry, not just HEPA but other technologies associated with that.
What that has led to is consumers have rushed to the market coming out of COVID. Now that it’s over, there are companies that are really growing in this space and really carving out a name for themselves and creating different technologies with different patents and those kinds of things, whether they’re trade secrets associated with that product. It’s confusing the customer to some degree because what they understand is filtration. So there are barriers that you have to come over in terms of an emerging industry. With the confusion, emerging industries present themselves with a multitude of opportunities. And that’s where we find ourselves today.
Guillaume: Okay yeah, it does sound confusing. So let’s just recap a little bit here because we’re talking about difficulties of launching a new product in an emerging market and educating consumers and not to turn this into an infomercial for your brand but just so we have a little bit more detail as a real concrete example. For example, what’s the issue that the company is facing right now? What does the market know about filtering? But you have to sort of position that new approach, that new technology, where is the challenge precisely, so we have it as an example for the rest of the conversation?
Brandon: Yeah, I think that’s a great way to start. I think the first thing is starting with the ‘why’. I think that’s where we as consumers and running businesses need to start there. Sometimes we jump to a conclusion versus starting with the ‘why?’. Why am I doing this as a CEO of a business or an entrepreneur? It’s more of why are we launching this product? Why are we doing this? What is the effort that we are behind? And then as the consumer it’s why do I need this product? It’s more than just about price point and it’s more than just about generating revenue. It’s more about what are we delivering to that consumer or that end user or why does that customer need that?
So it’s really a couple of things and one is picking the right market and picking the right customer for the product. There are different verticals, whether it’s a consumer, an e-com retail consumer, or a commercial consumer we have a lot of cross pollinated products across those verticals. So the message could be different depending upon the audience. What we want to make sure is that outside of price and outside of the need and the demand is that we clearly articulate the value proposition associated with the product. That is absolute number one, being able to clearly articulate the ‘why,’ why you need the product and the difference that we can make for you in your need. Everyone has needs. So air purification is more than just keeping you healthy. It’s all about odor removal, it’s about attacking VOCs which are volatile organic compounds. Those kinds of things people don’t really think about them every day. The thing that we do think about is odor.
GreenTech has partnered with a proprietary technology on an exclusive level in air purification that attacks over like nothing else and we’re very excited about that. That’s a paradigm shift to some degree as we’re explaining the value proposition to the consumer. What we’re really thinking about is understanding our customer, understanding the vertical and understanding why they want the product. Why would they want to buy this product? Is that a product we have in our air current product suite or is that a product that we will launch at some point down the road? Understanding the customer first is absolutely critical particularly in an emerging market or in any new market or new product launch.
Guillaume: Okay, perfect. So you understand your customer well, why they want it and then you articulate and communicate clearly the value proposition. Let’s say you’ve got this step nailed down. It took some work or some effort and sweat and brainstorming and you got it nailed down. Now you have a clear value proposition and you understand your market, how do you go about communicating that to that market?
Brandon: Yeah, that’s the challenge. You’ve got a great product, there’s a lot of great products that have existed and they failed to some degree. I think about it in a three pronged approach. It’s all about A, the market, B, the right message, there you just discuss the value proposition. Then the third one is about the channel partner. In some cases you may or may not have those already set up or you may have to build that out. In some cases, the third or the latter is much more difficult and it takes time. It’s all about having partners in the company whether it’s a board, or whether there is an active investor, really understanding what the company is trying to do. Again, it’s back to the ‘why’, why are we doing this? Why are we trying to do this? We’re trying to make a difference in the venture that you, whatever company you’re associated with, wants to attain. So it’s all about the market, the message, and then the channel partner. And that’s the most difficult part.
You’ve got the right product and now you’ve clearly identified your message and the value proposition, now it’s about executing upon that strategy. So it’s about finding the right partner, having the right avenues whether that’s at a corporate relationship to help you drive the product through the appropriate channel, or whether it’s through a distributor route. You know those things take some time to figure out whether you’re launching at trade shows, and those kinds of things. What I found most successful for me is really learning on the fly as probably any CEO will tell you is really getting out and understanding the space.
You know, it’s easy to do the research and Google and a lot of market analytics and spend all kinds of money on marketing intel and those kinds of things and market studies from the consulting firms. But the reality is, once you’ve picked the market and you feel like there’s a need and there’s a great market opportunity, you need to go see that and really go to a trade show and understand who the players are, who the partners are, who knows that partner and getting associated with that. That is really the step to making that dream come true and making that happen. We’re doing that in real time in terms of we’ve got some product and some partners but the path that we want to go is growing a much bigger business, and really working through that direction as well.
Guillaume: Okay and just for the benefit of conversation here, do you sell B2B only business to business or do you sell direct to consumers B2C or?
Brandon: We do both. We do B2C as well as B2B and we do e-commerce as well. We do the Amazon play, whether it’s off our direct website, and those kinds of things. Originally I talked about the messaging being different. What we found out is yes, they may care about different things but to some degree, it’s very similar between the B2C and B2B side.
Guillaume: Right, still it’s a person making the purchase for people. So it’s not that different but it’s true you may approach it differently. Consumers are often a lot more price sensitive sometimes than businesses but in both cases you need to nail the value prop, otherwise, you’re not going to sell.
Brandon: Really, the business has to nail the message right. If you’re on e-com that’s your partner in terms of going as your go-to market strategy behind that, once you’ve identified that, it’s just being able to execute it and clearly make that message come across in the most humanized way.
Guillaume: Have you noticed any kind of difference in the tactics or strategy you’ll use to try to outreach or connect with like B2B people or B2C people or to educate that kind of crowd?
Brandon: To your point, you know, on the B2C side it’s totally different from what we do. Air purification is something that, you know, on the B2B side, they want you to come test the product. We’ve spent millions of dollars on testing the product not just at the EPA laboratories but also in rural settings. For instance, if you’re interested in installing our product whether it’s an end up product, a mountable product or portable product, we actually will come out and test that product on the front end and show you ‘the before and the after’ results. In some cases the consumer is not going to go to those kinds of labs, in terms of, I’ve got an issue, I want air purification. Whether it’s a mold situation, you have an odor, you’ve got multiple dogs or cats or you do a lot of seafood cooking in your home, you are going to go to Amazon or the internet and do your research. So the message could be the same but the ability to get it across is a little bit different. So the sales are, from a consumer to a B2B, are going to be much longer on the B2B side in some cases.
Guillaume: And the average ticket price of purchase on the B2B side can be way bigger so then you can have that kind of approach of hands on live demo. Let’s go to your place of business and let me show you the result of what you get after ‘the before and after air quality laboratory tests’. So that’s the live demo approach, which is a lot more human capital intensive on the sales side. I guess on the B2C side there is a lot more self service and education through e-commerce and Amazon videos or?
Brandon: Yeah, it’s a multitude. Those test results that we do on the B2B side resonate with B2C.
Guillaume: Yeah, a case study for the B2C people then after?
Brandon: Exactly, but they resonate to that. Because, you know, the situation is if we’ve tested in a very unclean environment and we can show the results, the reality is, we can do the same thing in your home. And we’ve got products that do the same whether they’re on a B2B side or they’re focused on B2C. So the results are the same and we can do the same level of impact.
Guillaume: And if we come back to your ABC, the C here or the channel partner, what’s your experience with this? Like, if you’re selling to another of your true retail store distributors, how do you educate a consumer who can only see a box on the shelf? You know that you’ve got like a pamphlet or some kind of sign on a stand. What’s your approach, because we’re talking about emerging markets and educating a customer who doesn’t have a clue about the differences of these products?
Brandon: That’s right and a lot of video content. What we have found is that keeping it simple is much better. It’s much better keeping it quick and simple and it just depends on your industry and your product. What we have found is keeping it simple and really displaying the message of what we do in a clear, concise way and giving the consumer what’s real. What we have never wanted to do is mislead anyone. We try to be forthcoming in every aspect, so showing the video, showing the test results both in a laboratory setting and then in a real world setting. This should give the consumer the comfort, from our testing, to our product and protocols, all the way down to the marketing launch. We try to be very forthcoming and work through that in a much humanized way. Again, I go back to the humanized way with them because that’s what they care about. We want to make sure our message is at a very human level versus this very high level science technology level, where it’s very difficult to make good decisions.
Guillaume: I’ve seen once in a while in stores that they sometimes have some kind of a flat screen TV next to it showcasing the product demo, like a two minute spiel. I don’t know how efficient that is but it sounds like an interesting avenue and I don’t know how much the store will charge you for that. Is that an avenue that you’ve explored?
Brandon: Yeah, we have, we do a lot. We’ve done a lot of trade shows. GreenTech particularly does a lot of business in-store, retail is mostly digital and online. So the video content and the reviews are very helpful as well.
Guillaume: It makes sense because you see right away there’s a strategy and a trend is happening. With digital online, you have a lot of virtual real estate space there to educate people, lots of texts, article links to PDF, links to test results, case studies. You have all kinds of videos you can have, and so on. So it’s a great place to educate online that’s for sure. Then you have trade shows which sort of give you similar things. They have interactions with customers longer via a rep or a product specialist, and maybe videos and pamphlets and booklets. It’s to support and educate. So it all comes back to, is it a good medium to educate the customer? It sort of shows that it naturally ends up going more towards the retail store side. Because it’s just a box on the shelf unless you pay extra to have a video next to it to educate the customer about that new technology he doesn’t know about.
Brandon: Exactly, it goes back to the message. So when we think about the B2C side, you know that’s our job as a corporate entity to get that value proposition across directly towards the consumer. When you think about the B2B side, then you think about trade shows. We love the trade show because we get to have the interaction directly with the consumer and the business owner or the corporation. You know, in a lot of cases we’re educating both. We’re educating the consumer, we’re also educating the channel partner. If you’re down the distribution route you have to educate the consumer, I mean, the distributor of the product from a sales perspective. So that’s another challenge, we invest heavily in testing, we invest heavily in those areas, but we also invest in training. We have a corporate trainer, he’s got 10 years with the company’s own staff and he does a lot of training with the distributors, with the B2B side, to really help them understand how to sell the technology. Because it’s not just selling a watch or a phone, you know, this is an emerging product to some degree. You know, while air purification has been around for a while, it’s not been mainstream or it hasn’t been top of mind to the consumer. So it’s very important that we help them in their path to purchase.
Guillaume: Right. In a business like yours, for everybody there’s only three buckets, if you wish, for marketing and sales. So you have one that is inbound stuff to generate like the marketing material online that people can consume and get to your store or advertising, you know, just inbound marketing. Then you have the outbound marketing, if you have any kind of salesforce doing like cold calls, cold emails, LinkedIn outreach or whatever. Then you have the last bucket, which is like partnerships and referrals, like word of mouth marketing and all that stuff goes into that last bucket. So in a company like yours here, are you doing the outreach? What kind of outreach are you trying to do? I’m guessing you’re going at maybe more after the B2B side, like to solicit big companies, like do some kind of pitch about the air quality and I don’t know what’s the hook for this? I’m kind of curious what’s going on for the outreach?
Brandon: Yeah, all the outreach you really use digital both ways. We’re utilizing a lot of trade shows to launch new products and utilizing the digital space. Whether it’s just email blasts campaigns or targeted emails around an approach, we utilize the B2C side to give us the data on the B2B side. So digital is an effort for us because that’s an opportunity for you to learn. And one of the big takeaways when you’re launching a product in an emerging market is learning. And again, you can pick the right market, you can pick the right message but you’re going to learn a lot along the way. It’s, do you have the right market? Do you have the right partner in that market? You may have the right market, you may have the right product and the right message, but you don’t have the right partner. Those are the things that while you may get frustrated, you have to stay the course.
You have to be patient as you work through those because the organization will go through a lot of learning associated with that. That’s the exciting thing about it. But to your point, yeah, we’re breaking it down between what we learn in the B2C which also rolls over to the B2B. So we’re working with channel partners who we’re trying to target, whether it’s top 10 corporate accounts, top 10 purchase groups, and those kinds of things. We really targeted that level and when we develop KPIs off of that then we develop the marketing plan, whether it’s an outreach or whether we have partners that know someone by just word of mouth and approaching it that way.
Guillaume: So you mentioned KPIs, key performance indicators here that you identify a top 10 potential partner list and you sort of outreach to them, try to educate them, and then track how much business you can actually do with that person. Did you educate them, did you on-board them, and is that some kind of systematic tracking?
Brandon: Yeah, let’s say for instance we’re focused on corporate accounts. So let’s say that we’ve picked a vertical, and we want this product specifically in this vertical. Then we’ve identified the top 10 accounts that are associated with that. Well, here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to attack all 10 of these accounts. But we know that there’s only so many of these that we can chase and execute at one time, whether that’s 3, 4, 5, 6, or maybe 7, 8, or 9, 10, depending on how quickly they each ramp. But just because you have a corporate account, in some cases, does not mean that there’s an automatic path to purchase for all of their facilities or all of their network. Typically, that’s a hunting license that enables you then as an organization, you the corporate buy in and you’re now an approved vendor for X or Y, IQ or whatever, all the solution, of course, that would be our a metric. It’s all about lead generation at that point and then we go okay, now we’ve got corporate buy in now let’s go get the regional guys.
In most cases and what we have seen or what we do that’s how that process works. Once you have the corporate buy-in that’s the enchilada that you want in order to then go and have the license available to then go what I call a hunting license to go chase other new opportunities within their group. So within that, you have that mostly across all of these chances. That’s just one very small example.
Guillaume: Okay, so corporate bias. You want sea level or as high as you can get. Basically buy into your product, you as a partner or as a product to distributor for them and then you can just work your way down the organization, educate people, and so on. Any tips or advice that you found in terms of like, how to connect with those kinds of distributors, like, do you find them in a directory, call them up and hope for the best or is there anything else?
Brandon: Again, I got to talk about marketing, message, and partner. Once the organization has developed a product and in cohesion with that you’re working on your go-to market strategy, and you’ve determined that there’s a viable market here for you to go into, the next step is to get the resources available to help you do that. So what I like to do and what we’ve done is really work with, can you find that salesperson or that direct sales lead or that channel, or whatever you want to call those people? The channel owner that has experience pushing like minded or similar products into that similar space. Because they come with, here’s the approach and here’s the people that we know, whether it’s a distributor, whether it’s a corporate account, they can really help you be much quicker there. Now if not, it’s having the will, you have to have the drive and you have to really just put your head down and chase these things and work really hard. At some point you’ll see some success as you work through those.
Guillaume: Okay, so as a shortcut, you can have a sales rep that has the relevant industry experience to connect you to the right person. Otherwise, you will start from scratch like everybody else.
Brandon: I mean, it’s not starting from scratch but it’s again, I go back to the front end on these types of situations, it’s good to have a lot of good investors or board partners to really help you kind of get those leads, it’s all about lead generation. And if you’ve got people that have relationships, those are great places to start. But ultimately, it’s got to be on the company to execute. So having the right assets and the right people to clearly articulate what you’re trying to do is very critical.
Guillaume: Okay. So then the major B2C distributors like Walmart or Costco, that’s probably way, way down the road, one day once we have actually a more mature, a more educated market at large, right?
Brandon: It could be. That in itself is very similar because you have to have a guy or a girl, or whoever that knows the space and knows how you get there and most of them go through a broker relationship. We’ve had success there and we’ve got similar newer products. But we’ve had success there primarily because we have personnel and staff that know the space who can plug you in directly. Those people exist out there and they can really help you be much quicker to market than what you would be. So I’m all about aligning the organization with people that know how to execute the strategy that you’ve put for them. And that’s very helpful to accelerate growth.
Guillaume: Obviously the first problem is that we have an uneducated market about the difference between the new technology and your product, it’s an emerging market and we need to educate them. So pretty much everything that allows us to educate them, you guys need to work really hard, generate lots of PDFs, videos, webpages of whatever, make noise. You need to generate a ton of education material basically and then once you have good sales channel they allow you to educate that potential customer or distributor, then you use whatever connection you can have whether it’s investors, board members, the sales staff who are highly experienced to connect you in the right places to speed up channel partners and distributors to push your product there.
Of course, trade shows are very interesting and a good one with the direct ability to educate customers in addition, of course, to e-commerce. It is probably the top one since people can soon get interested in the product and as soon as you’ve driven traffic to that website, that’s relevant traffic or relevant leads, they can educate themselves as much as they want with all the content you’re generating. So it seems to be, overall, the big picture that I’m getting from this so far. Is there any aspect that we sort of missed or have not covered that you’d like to share with the audience?
Brandon: Yeah. You know, just be excited when you are in these situations and these opportunities, they are exciting ones to grab a hold of and work through. You will do a lot of learning along the way and you are always going to accrue to some degree a life-long learning, that’s what we found out. Then we continue to find out as we are doing the same thing in real time here is continuing to learn about the space and trade shows are a great way to do that. But it comes back to the three things I talked about, it’s the market, it’s the message, and then it’s the right partner to really help you do that. So those are a multitude of different ways to go about that depending upon your business and depending upon the structures that you have and the resources available. But it really comes down to those three things. If you can clearly articulate your value proposition and you’ve got it with the right partner, I feel like you’ll have success.
Guillaume: Right. You’re touching on an interesting point here, that for any business or business leaders, they have to be sort of excited about the journey, because it’s the journey that is challenging. Each time you’re sort of pushing the frontier onto something, you’re leading a new industry, you need to educate customers or consumers and it can be a bit scary for the business and the leadership team if we’re to be open and honest about it. You can have setbacks because it’s a sort of an uncharted territory, you have to trailblaze that thing. So anything that you sort of have in mind regarding this topic, it’s a bit more mushy as a topic, but facing sort of maybe the anxiety can give a light fear, can give us, ‘oh, this is challenging’, or ‘we’re trying that thing and it’s not working’. What do we need to pivot or adjust here? How do I handle this perhaps, emotionally as a business leader to keep going through it?
Brandon: Yeah, that’s a good point because we’ve done that. Back last year, we started down one path and then as we did learning we realized that’s not the right path to go. And that’s being honest with yourself about where you are. I think that’s always the right way to go by being honest with not just the business but as a CEO, being honest with the board about where your company is or where that product is, that’s very important to do. I think that that’s what we had to do and we pivoted quickly. We pivoted quickly, we focused in on, okay, this isn’t working out so what are we going to focus on? We focus on one, what is our competitive advantage? Number one, we want to think about what is our competitive advantage? That’s the number one priority. The second piece is, where is that competitive advantage? If you look at it in an old school Venn diagram and think about what does the customer care about and if you hit that and you get it right then that will nail down where you need to go and where you possibly may need to look in terms of the vertical approach.
So nailing down your competitive advantage is number one and it’s very difficult to do that. And then the final thing is, once you figure that out, is aligning the organization. Because, again, it’s been executing one way for the past six or nine months and now you’re quickly going to turn and say, we’re going to have a sense of urgency. And this is leading change by the way, that’s the number one approach that we should take is to create a sense of urgency on why we’re going to make this change. In my mind it’s, know where to lean and create a viable, sustainable, long term growth business and that’s where we were. It’s all about pivoting quickly and understanding what the competitive advantage is and where we want to go and where we want to play.
Then finally, it’s executing the agenda. So you develop the operating agenda and align all the resources in the business to go execute that. The most challenging and the most exhausting part when you’re in the business day to day is execution and making sure that you’ve got daily operating meetings, go through the agenda to make sure that the team is focused on the right initiative and if they’re not, you take them off that initiative. And really putting what I call steel behind the target, to make sure that you got assets focused in the right direction for the company.
Guillaume: This is a great insight. Thanks for sharing this. I like the idea of change management and leading change, having a sense of urgency and let’s win together, I really like that one definitely. So I think we had fairly good coverage of the topic. So a last sort of shotgun question, is there anything else that you’d like to share on this topic?
Brandon: Perseverance, perseverance. It’s a winning attitude. You can’t do it alone, if you’re the CEO of a business, you can’t do this alone. You’ve got to have people locked in with you. Because you guys are on the front or, whoever. You are on the front lines of growing a business and really creating something awesome and exciting that can drive value for everyone. And again, starting with the ‘why’, and understanding why you’re doing things and persevering to success.
Guillaume: Awesome. Well, thank you Brandon for sharing your wisdom with us today. If people want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way?
Brandon: Yeah, great. My email is [email protected]. I’m also on LinkedIn, under Brandon Taylor, associated with GreenTech Environmental. That’s pretty much the easiest way to get in touch with me.
Guillaume: All right. Well, thanks for being here today.
Brandon: All right. Thank you.