When they consider sales materials, most people think only of a brochure. In my experience as a technology writer, I have confirmed that many distinct materials can help with a variety of marketing situations. The guidelines presented here will help you choose the right materials for typical technology sales and marketing challenges.
Launching a New Product
The launch of a new product typically requires numerous types of print and online content, everything from a multi-page glossy brochure to a three-inch Web banner ad. A brochure or data sheet is almost mandatory to introduce the product. 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 is another document commonly created for every new product. The release may be packaged into a print or electronic 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 to explain an underlying technology or describe the product in the context of a customer's environment.
- Application notes to describe how the product operates for various uses or purposes.
- A selection guide to give 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 technology 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, white papers, and customer success stories.
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 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, user case studies, and 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 a company blog.
The Right Material for the Challenge
The complexity of most technical 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.About the Author
Janice King is an award-winning, freelance marketing writer who helps technology companies around the world produce clear, compelling sales and PR materials. Learn more about Janice's technical copywriting services.