Cross-channel technology marketing

Even those working in technology can find it difficult to keep abreast of the industry’s constant developments. In order to keep customers up to date and engaged, technology companies take a multichannel approach to customer relationship management, using everything from social media communities and forums, e-mail newsletters and in-store signage with user reviews.

Social media communities help consumers to connect with technology brands whose products they own, and this can extend to additional sales.

“It is easier to sell tech products to somebody who is comfortable with your brand and comfortable with how to engage with your brand,” says Rebecca Taylor, social media manager at HP. “Social media gives us an opportunity to communicate on a more personal level and give them the feeling that they can access us at any time.”

E-mail newsletters are a good way to keep a customer informed about how to use technology products, administer product updates, and market additional products that might complement what a customer already owns. Personalizing these e-mails is one way to get attention.

“Once a technology provider is able to understand who a customer is and what their needs are, then they can use e-mail to personalize the experience and aid the decision-making process,” says Joel Book, director of e-marketing education at ExactTarget. “The key point is not to fall into the trap of sending the same information to everybody, but to provide personalized information like invitations to webinars, live events and links to user reviews that make sense to that customer.”

User reviews play a big role in marketing technology products, because consumers want to know about the usability of a product. Many technology marketers are taking note and using reviews to help design their products, as well as for marketing purposes. Highly rated products make for great marketing pushes, says Sam Decker, CMO at Bazaarvoice.

“Manufacturers like Dell and HP are syndicating reviews from their site into e-mails, direct mail and at retail because consumers trust reviews from other consumers. They are credible and relevant,” says Decker. “More reviews drives higher conversion and lower return rates.”

Acquisition and retention: HP

For HP, social media is a great platform for two-way communications with business-to-business customers. The technology marketer uses podcasts, Facebook, Twitter and blogs to help spread the word about its products and to keep users informed on how to use them.

The company leveraged these properties to run a social media campaign during its annual Tech Forum in 2009. HP promoted its social media properties via e-mail and direct mail leading up to the event.

“We were trying to find ways we could use social media to enhance the experience of our attendees at the event and reach out to those in our audience who were not able to make it to the show,” says Rebecca Taylor, social media manager at HP. “We wanted to provide people an opportunity to engage with during the event and after it was over.”

The goal of the effort was to integrate the virtual and physical worlds of the forum and increase awareness of the overall event and important sessions at the conference by using social media.

In addition, HP wanted to grow its social media following to extend its online community. HP used its existing social media pages and blog to help promote the event and used event signage to encourage social media signup in order to keep the conversation going after the conference concluded. HP also hosted a tweetup at the event to help bring the community together and encourage viral retweets. Twitter followers could also vote on the best sessions to enter to win backstage passes to meet the Beach Boys, the closing party performers.

Leading up to the show, HP recorded 877 mentions. It garnered 1,200 tweets about the event during the show and, on the first day, its event-specific hashtag (#hptf) reached the Top 100 hashtags on Twitter. HP doubled its Twitter followers following the show.

HP is keeping the conversation alive with these social media communities by posting content about its products and events.

“Once we create that audience, we don’t want to lose it,” adds Taylor.

Acquisition: Dell

For computer maker Dell, e-mail is a great way to keep in contact with customers and drive sales. But the technology marketer was challenged with a high abandonment rate when consumers went to sign up for their e-mail product.

Dell wanted to grow its e-mail list and avoid this abandonment during the holiday season in 2009, so it teamed up with database marketing firm Acxiom to help optimize the e-mail subscriber process. The company ran banner ads with incentives for consumers to sign up for its e-mail list and worked to make the signup process more user friendly.

“The goal was to grow the list organically without having to buy one,” says Adrian Olvera, director of global consumer and SMB CRM marketing at Dell.

Prior to the effort, Dell’s e-mail opt-in page consisted of a long form, and it only appeared on the small-to-medium business tab on its website. To optimize the experience, Dell cut the signup process from one long page to two shorter pages and let consumers sign up to receive e-mail across the spectrum of its site. Consumers whom preferred to provide their name and e-mail address could do so on the first page. If they wanted to give more information about themselves in order to personalize the experience, they could do so on the second page. In addition, the preference center let people sign up as consumers or small businesses and midsize businesses.

“If you are looking at one page and it looks like there are a bunch of form fields, it can be very daunting,” says Vicki Poon, account director at Acxiom. “Long forms can turn people off. Marketers should make it simpler to sign up and then give people the option to tell more about themselves if they want.”

After the effort, Dell saw a 36% lift in organic list growth. In addition, it reduced abandonment rates by 70% by only requiring one page for the basic signup process. “We treated the subscription center almost like a product and marketed it within the context of our transactional landing pages,” adds Olvera.

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