Push to Maintain Your Hi-Tech Audience

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It's easy to be different if there's only one of you. It's harder to be unique if other companies are doing the same thing with much the same technology.


That's what's happening in many hi-tech sectors. Talk to anyone who has returned from a recent trade show and they'll probably tell you how amazed they were that so many products were exactly the same.


More of them are being built from identical product genes, often by the same people, and the market is becoming more homogeneous.


The same holds true for many technology companies' Web-marketing strategies. They all look exactly the same. Lots of the big global players have invested heavily in online channels that have great functionality, but they're also static, untargeted and impersonal. The sites deliver greater service automation and higher operating efficiency, but they do little to cultivate brand image and build loyal, high-yield client relationships.


At its core, building an online relationship with a technology buyer is not much different from building affinity with the consumer buying theater tickets. You have to gain confidence and you have to deliver value. Most importantly, you have to find a means of staying top-of-mind. You have to get permission to push.


Permission to push opens a direct communications channel to your clients. Once you have it, you can contact clients with presentations, new product announcements and special promotions as much and as often as you have permission to do so.


The key challenge with the technology buyer, or any business customer, is that he is more selective about his online relationships and much less forgiving than the average consumer. Waste time with pure promotion or information that's irrelevant to his needs and he'll shut down the relationship without a second thought. Provide useful information, and you have the start of a beautiful marketing relationship.


So how to do you get permission to push to a technical audience? And how do you use it wisely? It starts with offering something of value. You have to make the first move providing something of value for free. That will generally take the form of information or tools. It's the first move in a three-step process: Start the relationship by gaining the prospects' confidence. Next, draw them further into the relationship through personalized service. Then, seal the relationship by making them part of a community of like-minded people.


So what do you do to build effective digital marketing relationships? Here are some ideas:


Give clients personal attention. Institute a system that remembers your clients and key prospects. Offer the opportunity to opt in by selecting site areas of particular interest. Then get permission to use this information to add value to their visit. Each time a client returns, the index page will be altered and the visit personalized through faster access to the information that meets their preferences.


Give clients a reason to think of you - regularly. Encourage visitors to complete a survey that pinpoints their information needs and allows them to register for e-mail updates of relevant news. Once you have permission to push, you can anticipate your clients' needs, keep them up-to-date, reinforce your positive brand image, increase their reliance on your expertise and stay on top of their minds.


Make clients part of a community - yours - and keep them coming back. The hi-tech marketplace is fast, it's fickle and it's fatuous. Buyers of hi-tech products run scared and are highly influenced by group psychology. Given the opportunity, they'll look for comfort by comparing ideas and products with peers. The simplest execution would be a client message-board where visitors can discuss the merits of various technologies or stay up to date on their industry.


So, where's the marketing opportunity in today's crowded technology marketplace? Much like the consumer marketplace, it rests in building valuable relationships with your clients and prospects. You have to gain their confidence, you have to deliver value, and, most importantly, you have to maintain a hold on their attention. To do this effectively, you have to get permission to push.


John Petitti is vice president of marketing at ResponseLogic, New York. His e-mail address is jpetitti@responselogic.com.
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