Sunday, October 22, 2006

"The 'We' Mentality" - Technology Division

One of the challenges that technology marketers have - especially when the technology is not cool consumer "stuff", but behind the scenes software and services sold to developers or IT - is how to build the type of allegiance that results in The "We" Mentality that Spike Jones is writing about over on Marketing Profs. Much of what's getting written about in his post (and the comments) is how people so closely identify with "their" sports teams, which for a lot of folks is a "til death do us part" relationship. (Actually, it goes beyond death, as I noted last week when I wrote on Major League Baseball logo-caskets.)

OK, no one's every going to identify with, say, a testing tool, the same way they will with their favorite team, but as technology marketers, we still want to build the sorts of loyalty and allegience that results in repeat sales, word of mouth referrals, references, and unprompted, spirited defense when we're being attacked out in the blogosphere. Obviously, the first thing you need is a good product - all the logo shirts and mouse pads in the world won't build loyalty if your products aren't doing the job. (It may be a very niche job that they're doing, which may leave you with a group of crazed supporters who are few in number, but that's another story.)

User groups are one clear way to foster a tech community. If you have multiple products, it's obvious a good idea to have birds-of-a-feather sessions to bring the like-minded together. If local chapters of your user group spring up, make sure that you support them with info and an occasional speaker at chapter meetings.

If you do trade shows, make sure you alert any users in the area. They're probably coming to the show, anyway, so why not invite them to drop by? Sure, you might risk getting into a gripe session, but you also might be in the enviable position of having them do the selling for you when they start evangelizing to people who stop by your booth. If you do local sales events (breakfast seminars, etc.), invite your local users as well. For the cost of a cup of coffee and a croissant, you're giving prospects an opportunity to talk to actual users. (And why not tack on a product update, or some other session - for users' only - to the end of your sales event. Your customers like being in the know.)

If you have a blog for tech-talk - and you probably should - keep it current and informative. And real: don't make it a thinly veiled sales pitch, and don't let your self get defensive if comments and questions get critical. (Obviously, you want to make sure that your competitors aren't in there trash-talking, so you might want to make sure that blog-icipants are legit and real customers. Encourage your users to weigh in.)

Periodic webinars - again, not sales pitches, but events that convey useful materials: product information, usage tips, technical trends - are another good way to build customer loyalty. Let those who missed a session know what they missed, and encourage them to replay the recorded session for themselves.

No, we'll never have caskets with our product logo on them, but there are still plenty of good ways to build loyalty.

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