Offshore wind turbine installation contractor A2SEA stands as a great example of a company that grew from a commoditized, generic position to dominate its industry through the constant application of knowhow as a key differentiator. Despite this transformation over more than a decade, many of its clients and prospective customers still think, more or less, that the company just provides the vessels and crew to lift enormous structures into place far out to sea – and that’s something you can buy, well, from anyone, can’t you? A2SEA just wasn’t getting enough Return on Knowhow.
Pioneering an industry
Even in the beginning, when A2SEA was no more than a two-person company, it was the industry pioneer in the new practice of offshore wind turbine installation. Now, 12 years later, after being jointly acquired by Siemens and Danish utility DONG Energy, it has grown considerably. With an annual turnover of around USD 200 million, A2SEA is still the market leader, with the lion’s share of installed turbines offshore (over 800) and a growing palette of capabilities.
Powered by knowhow
Where in the very beginning, the company may have taken more of a try-and-see approach, climbing steep learning curves and learning by doing, today A2SEA is a knowhow-based company with a strong knowledge base and best practices in what its people know and how that knowhow is applied. In fact, the company’s slogan “Powered by know-how” has never been more true.
Offshore wind installation and service, however, is a very attractive market. It’s safe to assume, therefore, that more and larger competitors will enter the market, presenting a wider range of choices for wind farm developers and operators. Given that some of these new entrants come from asset-heavy industries such as oil and gas, A2SEA needs to use every weapon at its disposal to stay in the lead. And that’s where, in late 2011, increased focus on sharing the company’s knowhow turned into an important transformation project.
A2SEA is a knowhow-based company. That’s more than just something it says to convince prospective customers to choose it. Oil and gas companies, for example, may know a lot about their field – and represent a threat that’s not to be taken lightly. But they have a lot of catching up to do on A2SEA’s home ground: offshore wind. The company’s knowhow and years of experience in its specialized field is one of its primary strengths in the competitive battle.
Introducing A2SEA Advantage
In October 2011, A2SEA’s management decided to invest in a new competitive advantage for A2SEA – internally known as the A2SEA Advantage project. A2SEA Advantage is an initiative designed to ensure that the company has the industry’s best marketing platform for promoting A2SEA as a knowhow-based partner for its customers.
Eighteen months later, in April 2013, A2SEA launched a range of new elements that ensure the company really looks like the market leader it is. From a new company website to sales tools, these new elements lift A2SEA’s image in the marketplace as the most knowledgeable, most experienced and most capable company in the industry.
Not marketing as usual
But this isn’t just some sort of “branding” exercise. To a large extent, A2SEA’s new marketing and communications platform exploits a new discipline in marketing called content marketing, as described in the B2B business strategy book “The Death of Propaganda” (disclosure: I co-authored this book together with David Hoskin and Michael Best). The company decided to use the principles of the book to:
- Increase A2SEA’s visibility in the market
- Enhance its reputation as a knowhow-based company
- Increase the perceived value of its expertise
- Connect it to more people throughout the industry
- Strengthen its image with owners and other key stakeholders
As you may sense from the book’s name, a key principle is to move from the propaganda of traditional marketing toward greater credibility. By sharing knowhow, and making it more visible and accessible, B2B companies can connect to more people in more meaningful ways.
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