Direct marketing techniques can be used to push hi-tech products through the competitive reseller sales channel, but only if the message is carefully crafted and precisely targeted to light a motivational fire under the sales reps who make those hi-tech sales happen.
Most computer, software and hi-tech manufacturers now rely on a mix of direct and channel marketing to sell their products. Direct marketing can sometimes yield higher margins, but there is no denying the potent selling power of face-to-face personal sales. Now some of the world's most successful hi-tech companies are deploying proven direct marketing strategies to boost their reseller sales performance.
Toshiba North America used what it knew about targeted marketing to introduce its new Equium Desktop Personal Computer to the reseller channel. The company's Equium 7000 and 7100 series of high-performance computers are build-to-order enterprise PCs designed to be easily upgraded in a highly flexible and marketable package. Because custom-configured systems require significant input from reseller sales representatives, Toshiba NA correctly identified the reseller reps as the key to a successful new product launch.
Toshiba recently targeted 3,500 selected reseller sales professionals and 165 sales managers for an aggressive two-pronged awareness and incentive sales promotion. The campaign was centered on an incentive package delivered directly to these key sales reps and managers. The package included sales and technical information about the Equium line and prominently featured hard-hitting incentives designed to build excitement and sales.
To encourage participation in the incentive program, Toshiba mailed a watchband to each targeted individual — and promised to send the rest of the watch once the sales rep or manager completed a short sales quiz on the new Equium PC product line. Toshiba launched its Equium promotion in a package that included the watchband, the sales quiz, and basic technical and ordering information on the new PC. The overall creative approach was short, easy to read and big on bottom-line benefits for the salesperson. The package also contained a clear and powerful call to action, with the main reward tied directly to an affirmative response.
Toshiba's agency called and requalified the mailing list and personalized the mailing down to the level of the individual sales rep. In addition, the agency conducted pre-launch testing to gauge the sales rep's reaction to the creative elements and offer.
This holistic approach to direct marketing combines strong product promotions with the more traditional elements of a hi-tech marketing mix. Promotional strategies should be integrated closely with marketing programs, sales incentives and recognition efforts, conferences and special events, trade shows, print and broadcast advertising campaigns, channel sales efforts, technical training programs and other elements in the marketing mix.
More and more, hi-tech companies are putting direct marketing techniques to work in this unique way. And the results can be impressive.
After launching its channel sales promotion, Toshiba NA recorded a healthy 24-percent response rate from the combined sales rep/store manager mailings. The company enjoyed a 6-percent increase in desktop computer sales for the channel when compared with the previous year, when no targeted incentive program had been used.
“The Equium launch opened the door for Toshiba to be an effective competitor in the desktop arena,” said Toni DeVoe, director of channel sales for Toshiba North America. “The idea got the sales people's attention and made them take action. It really got the job done for us.”
This integrated marketing approach also has worked for such companies as IBM, Cisco Systems, Compaq Computer Corporation and other hi-tech companies.
David A. Barnes is manager of strategic marketing and communications at Communica Marketing Group, Richardson, TX. His e-mail address is [email protected].