Direct Marketing Fuels Hi-Tech Firms

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New hi-tech companies are coming to market at a faster pace. The Internet and demands of e-commerce as well as the pressure for truly open enterprise systems are creating new opportunities for start ups and established telemarketing and technology companies. With the increased importance of telemarketing and the Internet in everyone's marketing mix, the role of direct marketing is more important than ever.


Technology marketers who know direct marketing and its methods have helped their companies grow at significant rates. By quickly generating product awareness and demand through specific targeted campaigns, companies can quickly and cost-efficiently cut through the marketing clutter of general print advertising, trade show and PR campaigns.


If your company is new, marketing's job is very different than it is for established, larger firms. Younger firms will have newer ideas and cutting-edge products, and many technology buyers are eager to test emerging solutions that they may integrate into their own products. Therefore, the early adopter phase can be exhilarating, full of challenges by engineer responders and full of new, quickly made sales.


However, as Geoffrey Moore warned us in "Crossing the Chasm," other than innovators and early adopters, the early majority buyers in larger companies are the pragmatists mistrustful of new companies. The majority market buyer must justify the product to management. And the track record for start-up failure is far too great a risk for most larger IS organizations to install a start-up's product across their complex networks and integrate into their established standards.


So, how is an emerging technology company able to attract the serious attention of the majority market so they can build a sales pipeline of qualified, educated leads from larger organizations? How can we convince the larger market that the benefits of the new technology outweigh the risks of an offer from a new company?


Educating the market. Many successful technology companies have found that by educating their market early about the multiple solutions that their technology offers, they can create credibility and generate interest in the technology. By educating the market prior to selling the product, they can generate interest from a range of companies beyond the early adopters.


The tendency by sales and marketing groups is often to sell, but until the brand or technology solution is seen as stable, the results will only be innovators and early adopters. Offers centered on white papers and third-party studies point to the same key features as found uniquely in the comprehensive technology solution, such as that offered by the mailer.


Challenges of the Internet. Technology marketing today must integrate an Internet solution into its lead generation mix. Many technology companies offer an online store for their low-end products. In addition, the demarcations between high and low ends have blurred significantly.


Many companies have built their reputation today on the Internet and the distribution of free software. It would seem logical that sales forces and telemarketing can easily follow downloads of software and documents in an attempt to close more business.


However, the Internet is an open community that prides itself on its independence. Sales follow-ups are often seen as an intrusion and abuse of the spirit of the Internet. So often data from registration pages is sketchy or even false. Internet users see it as a necessary evil device to gain the review software desired. This open community therefore becomes problematic for direct marketing, which requires detailed response data and accountability of projects.


Integration of electronic and traditional. The solution lies in integrating traditional direct marketing with electronic Internet marketing. Marketers have successfully used e-mail campaigns to opt-in lists and Web banners that offer items of value and require details in order to deliver the item.


Direct mail can be used to fuel the early growth by targeting previous electronic customers or prospects that downloaded early versions of software, as well as reaching new prospects. The role of mail is to make the previous customer of the free software feel special and included in the direct mail offering. Using follow-up mailings, the product's technical benefits can be positioned in more detail. In addition, free offers can move the free software user to a lead for the more comprehensive commercial versions of the product that can be closed by telemarketing, the channel or the field.


While the Web is fueling some phenomenal growth, traditional direct mail is still doing its job of producing high volumes of qualified leads. Through lead generation programs that reflect their current position in the market, young technology companies can use both the Web and direct mail exposure to educate and present intelligent value to the reader.


Whether the mail sends the respondent to the Web to fulfill the offer or reinforces an offer that is currently on the Web, companies using mail integrated with their electronic promotions are seeing a significant boost in overall response volume and lead quality. And that leads to more closed sales, faster.


Paul Pedrazas is president of Response Associates, a direct marketing solutions agency that specializes in high technology. His e-mail address is paul@raresponse.com.
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