Choose the Right Sales Material for Your High-Tech Marketing Challenge

When they consider sales materials, most people think only of a brochure. For high-tech products, different materials can help with a variety of marketing situations. The guidelines presented here will help you choose the right materials for typical technology marketing challenges.

Launching a New Product

The launch of a new product can generate numerous materials, everything from a multi-page glossy brochure to a three-inch shelf tag. A brochure or data sheet is almost mandatory in this situation. Prospective customers, sales people, and dealers all expect a document that presents the essential information about the product’s features and benefits, specifications, system requirements, and potential uses.

A press release to alert journalists and analysts of the new product is another document commonly created for every new product. The release may be packaged into a press kit that contains other relevant materials for the product launch, such as a technical backgrounder, company fact sheet, and a sheet of endorsement quotes from analysts or early customers.

Depending on the nature of the product and the launch, other materials may be useful for attracting market interest:

· A white paper can explain an underlying technology or describe the product in the context of a customer’s environment.

· Application notes explain how the product operates for various uses or purposes.

· A selection guide provides insights for choosing among product options or models based on sizes, features, or other characteristics.

Many high-tech companies create a special area of their Web sites for each new product, making it easy for visitors to quickly find all related information.

Promoting a New Version

Marketing a new version or upgrade of an existing product can involve many of the same activities and materials as the launch of an entirely new product. For example, a new version typically requires updating a brochure or data sheet, issuing a press release, creating new application notes, and revising a selection guide.

An upgrade guide may also be required; it is a unique document targeted to current users, helping them decide whether to purchase the new version.

Addressing New Markets

After experiencing success in one market, a high-tech company may decide to promote the product in new markets. These markets may be defined by industry, operating system, consumer versus business, or other dimension.

Addressing a new market usually means adapting current materials, tailoring them to the concerns and messages important to those new prospects. In some markets, these differences are substantial enough to require a completely new set of materials–especially brochures and customer case studies.

Marketing materials also may be localized in multiple languages in order to reach a new geographic or cultural market. Localized materials must appropriately reflect differences in business practices, technology base, communication style, legal requirements, and product availability in each market.

Setting a Purchase Agenda

Complex technology products typically involve a lengthy sales cycle and a purchase decision made by a committee instead of an individual. In these situations, the committee may evaluate two or more products against a stated set of criteria, which may be somewhat biased toward one product vendor.

Influencing a purchaser’s evaluation criteria in advance of the product comparison activity is known as “setting the agenda.” Marketers use materials such as white papers, articles contributed to industry magazines or technical journals, and product comparison worksheets to help shape the purchaser’s criteria and decision.

Counteracting the Competition

Publicly at least, most high-tech companies simply ignore competitors, instead marketing their own products as if they are the only choice a prospect would ever consider. Yet some product categories are so highly competitive that a company must directly address the promotional claims and activities of competitors.

Materials that are useful for counteracting the competition include reprints of product reviews and test results, as well as comments from industry analysts that directly endorse the product’s strengths and advantages.

Also useful may be charts or reports that present a feature-by-feature comparison of a product and its competitors. However, direct product comparisons must be done carefully. A comparison based on inaccurate information can backfire and perhaps create legal problems for the company.

Encouraging Customer Loyalty

Although most marketing communication efforts are directed toward attracting new customers, high-tech companies recognize that retaining current customers is vital to market success. Materials to encourage customer loyalty include regular newsletters, new product notices, and user communications. These materials can be distributed as print documents, email messages, or posts on the product or company blog.

The Right Material for the Challenge

The complexity of most high-tech products presents numerous challenges for sales and marketing. By thinking beyond the brochure, you can choose the right mix of sales materials to address any of these challenges.

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