Spotlight Q&A with… RS Components’ EMEA President
We caught up with RS Components’ President of EMEA for the second of our B2B Spotlight interviews.
Q: Describe your role at Calor
A: I’ve been in the business for over two years, and my role is threefold; one, I'm responsible for growing the business, two, it's all about finding new ways to create easier experiences for our existing customers and third, and probably most importantly, it’s ensuring that people and our customers are safe.
Q: What marketing challenges do you feel are unique to the LPG sector?
A: First of all, our customers tend to be off-grid, so inevitably, they're harder to reach. So we need to be very targeted with our approach, and that for us is an exciting challenge.
The second challenge/opportunity is that LPG, in general, has low awareness. A lot of people know LPG in a gas cylinder, but actually, the product we sell is hugely diverse. And when we do then bring on customers, we really have a unique relationship with them because it's really personal. Typically, the driver that delivers their gas has a personal relationship with our customer base, creating a unique experience for our customers.
“Typically, the driver that delivers gas has a personal relationship with our customer-base. That creates a unique experience for our customers.”
Q: What’s been the biggest change in your industry in the last few years?
A: The biggest change is the focus on energy transition. This is a global transition, and working in an energy business, we are right at the heart of that transition.
The great news for Calor is that, in 2018, we launched a product called Bio LPG. Bio LPG is chemically identical to regular LPG but its carbon neutral. So, not only do we have an immediate solution that we can take to market to address that transition, we can also provide a solution that is plug and play. So people don’t actually need to change their appliances to utilise that product. From that point of view, we really do see ourselves one step ahead of our competition and the rest of the utility industry.
“The biggest change in the energy industry is the global focus on energy transition.”
Q: What attracted you to work in the energy industry?
A: It’s always important to be authentic in any role that you take on. Therefore, to be authentic, you need to identify with the brand, the people, or ultimately, the product that you might be selling. And for me, being part of a company providing a solution during the energy transition is an amazing opportunity. I can probably stand in front of my son in a few years time and say I was part of that and I helped, and for me, that's hugely fulfilling.
“Being a part of providing a solution during the energy transition is an amazing opportunity.”
Q: What are the most effective communication channels for your business, when it comes to connecting with your audiences?
A: Social networks, like Facebook, still remain really important to us. Facebook allows us to communicate directly with our customers and lets us tell stories. We believe that by telling stories, you can build rapport and relationships, which I think is really important. A good example of how we do that is, on an annual basis, we run an Initiative called the Calor Community Fund. The whole point of it is us authentically investing in community projects; a great initiative that we can really bring to life on social.
“We believe that by telling stories, you can build rapport and relationships, which I think is really important.”
I think the second area is more the professional network of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is key for us to speak directly to different industry segments. What I always like to see - and I really don't need to encourage it - is when our employees then share posts based on the segments that they are working on, which again I think gives real credibility in terms of our understanding of these industries, and also the quality of our people that work in these segments.
Q: How do you see these channels changing over the next 2-5 years?
A: I think both the social networks and professional networks will thrive on them being trusted. There's a lot of scrutiny around the role that they are playing, to ensure that fake news, for example, is being managed. Therefore, customers and consumers will continue to migrate towards channels that they trust. So our role as a business within that environment is to make sure that we are part of the different networks that promote that level of trust. That then creates a level of transparency that our future customers and consumers will expect of any business in the future.
Q: How does your channel mix vary between the B2C and B2B operations at Calor?
A: We see B2B probably as more complex, because you have to add the additional layer of industry segments, and that for us is an area where we believe we excel. We invest heavily in ensuring that we have industry experts and we have a dedicated team of these experts that gives us absolute credibility when we are speaking to the different industry segments. Because like most businesses, we know that if we understand what they do, then we're credible. And when it comes to presenting our value proposition, the customer knows that the value proposition that we're putting in front of them is absolutely linked to what they need from us.
“When it comes to B2B ops, we invest heavily in industry expertise and we have a dedicated team that gives us absolute credibility across sectors.”
Q: How are you using digital to improve the customer experience at Calor?
A: We recognise that digital creates an easy experience for our customers, both new and existing ones. For example, prospective or new customers can pretty much begin their journey online, right through to them receiving a quote from us. But it's important to note that at the point of quote, we would then introduce some sort of human intervention. This is necessary because of the nature of our business. There are technical questions and safety questions that need to be done by a human. That makes that initial step in the buying process really seamless.
The second area is around our existing customers - We’re really passionate about creating an easy experience for them. Interestingly, when you break down the demographics of our customer base, what you find is that there are still a number of customers that will only want to have a human contact with us, and that typically is done over the phone.
We are conscious that there are still a number of examples where we might have some elderly customers who would only want to experience a human intervention, and that's important in terms of how we show up in the market, right through to customers that just want self-serve. Again, we need to make sure that we’re catering for all of these needs. I think what’s fundamental to our digital proposition is really understanding when it's the right thing to implement and when you might actually need to use more traditional methods.
“I think what’s fundamental to our digital proposition is really understanding when it's the right thing to implement and when you might actually need to use more traditional methods.”
Q: Can you share an example of when you’ve taken a different approach to promote a ‘non-sexy’ service or product?
A: The profile of sustainability on the agenda of our commercial customers is higher than it's ever been, and that's fantastic news for us because that allows us to directly talk about our new product, Bio LPG. And if sustainability is a key need for our commercial customers, then being able to directly talk about that, as part of our overall value proposition, is really exciting. I think it really turns quite traditional commercial conversations into something really dynamic and interesting for our customers.
Q: Which brands do you look to for inspiration in the B2B space?
A: B2C is less complex. We're typically dealing with one persona and that persona is typically a domestic customer, so by its nature it's less complex.
A: I previously worked for Guinness and I can't help but go back to what Guinness do from a B2B point of view. Guinness is typically famous for what they do around their above-the-line marketing and how they attract consumers to the brand. But typically, what goes unrecognised, is the work that they do, to support the B2B channel.
The example I'll give here is around how they support public houses or bars. Their focus is all about quality - quality of the beer for instance. What they do is ensure that all their communication, how they speak commercially to these customers, is all about driving that quality message. If pubs or bars are serving great quality Guinness, then it’s quite simple, they'll sell more. And for me, that is always a great example of being clear on your insight and how you then utilise that insight to drive commercial business.
“I always think Freestyle have this insane ability to quickly get to grips with a business.”
Q: How would you describe the working relationship between Calor and Freestyle?
A: I always think Freestyle have this insane ability to quickly get to grips with a business. So far, I've used Freestyle in two businesses, and what always impresses me is their ability to get to grips with what the business is all about, who the customers are, how we interact with them.
For me, that has to be one of the key assets. Proof of that always comes in when we start to interact and discuss any work. I genuinely feel like I'm speaking to somebody that's worked in this business for a number of years.
That's credit to the quality of the people and credit to the methodology and the approach that they use to really get to that level of understanding. Because quite simply, if the agency that you're working with doesn't have that intimate understanding of the business they're dealing with, then the work that we’re going to receive from them is probably not going to be to the level that we need it to be.
A big thanks to Paul for providing his invaluable insight and sharing some food for thought! Stay tuned for our next industry Q&A - thanks for reading!