Ralf HallerRalf Haller October 6, 2009

Product marketing in tough economic times

While there are some signs of recovery, it seems a slow moving process and many companies are still having a hard time planning their budgets for longer than just a few months ahead. Also the question comes up what to do in marketing. Will people even be open to what you do? Or should you save that money entirely?

Tools that I feel will still work are:

  • video casts of products, your company; insightful interviews of your customers (needs someone doing the interviews who understands your business otherwise will be worthless small talk or high-level surface scratching); and something that you can try out as well are animated presentations with spoken text. This is easier to do as you don’t need video interview skills.
  • virtual events: as VMWare and others have shown, you can increase the audience by 3-5x with a virtual event site that gives every participating company their own space. When travel costs are being cut, that seems the way to still have people engaged even if they might not physically attend the event
  • interactive sites, if you are able to hook your target group with interesting discussions on hot subjects in your product market this should draw attention; and if you manage to get many to even leave comments, you have achieved the best one can expect from a product marketing tool. These social community sites require very careful and skilled planning, though. Also cultural aspects inside and outside your company need to be taken into account. You cannot just buy a community software tool and set it all up in a week. While technically possible, it will definitely not fly. Still, many software vendors try to make you believe a community is just another simple collaboration tool like chatting or project collaboration. But it is simply not so!
  • fun sells: it requires a bit of courage to use fun elements such as cartoons but, if you do, it will draw attention. It’s important that the fun is linked with what you do and not simply a general cartoon or joke
  • webinars save people the time and expense of attending a seminar but, as with e-newsletters, I feel though there are many webinars offered, maybe too many? The beauty is nevertheless that you need only one participant and it is still worth doing as also on your side the cost is minimal. So I would try them still. Maybe you get some initial prospects. Be aware though that you need to do a personal invitation as well, which means more than sending out a general e-mail to your e-mail list!
  • banner ads: if you want to make them effective then you need to spend a good amount of money making them very big and displaying them on highly trafficked sites where you expect your target group to go. A small banner ad next to half a dozen others will not be worth the money you have spent.

Tools that seem to have lost its magic:

  • e-newsletters, I get much less than a few years ago when everyone sent out a newsletter and really expected that people would read them. I think they don’t unless you have something super interesting to say. Also if you do it it needs to be done very well incl. the design. The standard e-newsletters are not good enough. There are better ways now too such as RSS or community sites to do the same or even better.
  • e-mailings, I think with RSS e-mailing campaigns have lost their raison d’aitre. Still there are many out who still spam the inboxes of their target groups. More annoying than effective I would think unless, again, it is a personal email but that is hard to do.

Update: and a more generic slide on Marketing 3.0 from Phil Kotler.