Everywhere you go these days, there is talk about the tech market slide.
Shaky business model this; poor management that. But it is more interesting when you look at the marketing strategies way back when.
Those were the days when a marketing plan that spent 65 percent of revenue on public relations, advertising and parties was de rigueur for the technology sector. Those were the days when it worked, when chief information officers, chief technology officers and information technology purchasing agents listened and bought, often buying a technology’s potential rather than a product or service itself.
Welcome to the new chapter of technology marketing or, if you will, Tech Marketing Act II, Scene I. Your players are tech companies with lean budgets and shallow resource pools. Your audience consists of cautious CIOs, CTOs and other technology customers.
More than ever, the key to marketing your company’s technology, product or service is your message. Your audiences are no longer listening to promises that you can offer the next generation in turnkey solutions. Whatever your message is and however you deliver it, keep the following points in mind the next time you perform for a potential customer.
Be upfront about your technology. Today’s CIO/CTOs are hybrid technology/business gurus, simultaneously embracing new technology and keeping a close eye on the company’s bottom line. They will pay close attention to the long-term technological value of your company’s offerings. It is important to address the technology on which your product or service is based.
Are you heavily pushing a product that relies on some technical standard that is about to be replaced by some other standard?
Is that technology slow in gaining support in your marketplace?
These are important issues to tackle early on in order to avoid pitfalls that could erode potential customers’ confidence in you.
It is not uncommon for technology standards to suffer from slow adoption or slow development. Last year, the communications industry was wild about a technology called Bluetooth, which allows electronic devices to communicate with each other without the need for wires. A number of prominent companies announced new product lines supporting Bluetooth, only to find that technical difficulties plagued the standard and stymied new product introductions.
Be clear about the status of your product. Be honest. This sounds like common sense, right? But there have been quite a few new companies that have hyped a new product only to have it delayed or eventually scrapped.
About two years ago, one company that manufactures components for wireless network equipment went so far as to announce products based on a relatively new chip-making process. The company promised the world, only to find that because the process was so new and required so much investment, its manufacturing partner backed out of the deal. This left the company with an uphill battle in its future sales efforts and marketing campaigns, not to mention a bad reputation among potential customers.
Where does your product stand, really?
Many companies hope to market products based on expected positive test results. Attracting customers with news that a product is in beta testing at 20 locations, five major cities or with 1,000 users is a gamble. You could have complete failures in 20 locations, five major cities and with 1,000 users. It is important to clearly state the results of past trials and how they have been or will be applied to future versions of your product.
Do not become a dinosaur. You most likely will want customers to stay with you from version 1.0 to 9.5 and beyond. Conversely, your tech-savvy customers are more apt to engage in long-term, cost-saving relationships with their vendors rather than start with a clean slate year after year.
Make sure your marketing messages reflect that you will be around for the long haul. Talk about challenges affecting your industry. Openly discuss plans for future product versions and solicit input often.
Follow the money and talk business. Evaluate existing capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. Devise ways to incorporate technology into legacy systems or retool everything. Derive business value and maintain bottom-line growth. Your customers are repeating this list of responsibilities like a mantra, prompting vendors to bring in finance guys to marketing meetings.
Make sure you know and address the money side of your product/service.
How is your product priced?
What is the fee structure?
How long will it take for a return on investment?
What is the fee structure for upgrades?
Your audiences do not merely understand these issues today — they obsess over them. They are also concerned with project management, personnel retention and staff development, more so than in previous years.
Any product that can appeal to those concerns is worth a look. Develop a message that speaks about your product’s benefits to staff throughout an entire organization. You are not marketing to this other audience. Your message is still reaching CIOs/CTOs. What you are saying is that with your product, benefits can and will be realized on many levels.
Align your product with an issue. Sell answers to questions, not more questions. Concentrate more on becoming corporate partners rather than vendors. That idea should be applied to your marketing message. Your potential customers see enough pitches about products that provide cost savings and faster time to market. Marketing an answer addresses pressing issues in your customers’ industry.
A perfect example is the ongoing issue of shallow IT talent pools in a period of extensive job-hopping and short-lived tenures. If you talk to a customer about a new networking platform, all your customer sees is a networking platform. What you should and could be selling is an answer to IT understaffing, perhaps because your networking product requires only one person to install and maintain as opposed to three for alternative products.
There are times when you can align your message with a very relevant, current issue and use that to your advantage. An example are the recent California power shortages.
Does your product use less energy than alternatives?
If so, that should be the central selling point of your message. Build your argument around that feature. Some people call this positioning the value proposition.
The specifics will vary, but the point is to build upon your product’s strengths and play them against industry or market-specific challenges that your customers face.