How has the economy affected the ways in which technology providers, resellers and integrators foster public awareness of their company?
Caswell: It’s all about return on investment (ROI) now. Customers are eagerly looking for new technologies that can simplify deployment, reduce support costs and provide long-term investment protection. These goals are satisfied by open systems and new virtualization technologies that are offered by specialized vendors, not by conventional integrated suppliers that are offering yesterday’s technologies at 1990s’ prices.
Edulbehram: The economy has lead to shrinking budgets, so there is less money available for traditional marketing. There is greater emphasis on viral marketing strategies and social media engagement. We also look to maximize joint marketing with our partners, which enables us to split marketing dollars when possible.
Smith: With the slow economic recovery and reduced budgets, marketers of technology providers, resellers and integrators are forced to be creative in how they spend their limited funds and maintain the same, if not increased, level of exposure. Traditional media has taken a back seat to digital and social media. Siemens actively engages social media and recently launched Plantville, a free, interactive online game that simulates a plant manager’s experience – challenging players to increase productivity, sustainability and the overall health of their plant. Security is addressed in this virtual world as part of a total building solution which provides inputs to the customer for better overall business process management—it’s not just about security.
Govro: The economy caused integrators to pull back from the investment. When times are tough you don't cut the person programming the systems—you cut the overhead. That's why it's critical to create an ROI plan for the marketing individual on the team. We have been working on that for the last few months and it is challenging, however, we are finding that our top of mind awareness is increasing with the A/E firms. The person is also used as a support role to the sales department.
What marketing and sales tactics work in today’s economy? Which don’t?
Caswell: Financial ROI analyses, customer success stories and exceptional support—they all work. What doesn’t work is glitz, over-promising and shoddy support. Most importantly, working with today’s resellers works because they have experience that is not yet comprehended by IT resellers and integrators. Some larger IT organizations learned this the hard way.
Edulbehram: What works is social media—LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook—and electronic media like the Web and E-newsletters; on-line information material (e.g. YouTube); selling and marketing to specific segments with targeted messaging; being responsive to customer needs; and being a true partner to the customer (i.e., meeting customer needs rather than simply selling a particular solution). What doesn’t work is paper mailings and booth babes at trade shows.
Smith: The tactic that continues to work is employing sales executives that consistently deliver a consultative approach to help solve customers’ business needs. These reps know that they’re not selling products or systems, but solutions. If, conversely, the sales representatives approach a customer from a product-centric perspective, we’re faced with a race to the bottom line where no explicit “value” can be sold.
Govro: This one is tricky. Without solid ROI numbers it's challenging to identify what works and what doesn't work. We redesigned our Web site to better describe what we are doing in the market. We adjusted our messaging strategy to be about what we do for customers, not what products we sell. When you are a product-centric company it decreases the overall value of the company. We are a solutions-centric company and understand the pains of specific verticals. If that means we don't sell them more stuff and instead, just show them how to use their stuff better, that's ok with us.