Creating an RFID Gorilla

By Mark Roberti

Here is how to become the dominant player in RFID and ignite exponential growth.

I see a lot of companies that make radio frequency identification products struggling, even though adoption is growing at a healthy clip. The problem sometimes is that they don't offer a product the market wants, but often it's that they have good products but no coherent marketing strategy. They try a lot of different options in the hope of finding the magic bullet that has so far eluded their competitors.

I'm here to tell you that there is no magic bullet—no secret way to make CEOs wary of RFID suddenly write a check for a system. But there is a way to grow your business and even become the RFID "gorilla."

"Gorilla" is the term that Geoffrey Moore, the author of Crossing the Chasm and other seminal works on new technology adoption, uses to describe the dominant player in a new technology market. According to Moore, new technologies do not take off until a gorilla emerges. So with that in mind, and with all due credit to Moore, here is how to become the dominant player in the RFID market.

1. Build the whole product—or develop partnerships that can deliver the whole product—for a single industry. Companies hate complexity because it creates risk, which is bad. By creating an integrated solution (tags, readers and software) that solves the problems of one industry, a company can reduce complexity and risk, making it easier for CEOs to sign off on an investment. I would add that the simpler the solution the better, because that also reduces risk.

2. Market that solution to those most likely to adopt. Too many companies waste money trying to market to large numbers of retailers or manufacturers or logistics companies that have expressed no interest in RFID. These solution providers think that their offering is so good and their salespeople so talented that they can convince anyone to buy their solution. If that worked, however, the industry would be booming right now.

3. Conduct narrowcast advertising. More companies are adopting RFID, but it is still a small percentage of firms in any given industry. I would advertise specifically to those executives researching RFID solutions. I would try build my brand with those most likely to deploy an RFID solution within the next 12 months. And I would offer a white paper to capture the contact information of those likely to adopt soon.

4. Provide outreach at RFID events. Companies that send executives to attend RFID events are most likely to adopt RFID solutions within a year. But too often, exhibitors sit in their booths and passively wait to talk to whoever strolls in. I would research who is attending (most shows publish lists of companies) and use tools that event organizers provide to request meetings. I would also send each person from my target companies a personalized email, telling them how our solution might benefit their firm, and asking to set up a meeting.

5. Talk about the potential customer's problems, not your solution. Too often, I hear salespeople bragging about all the reports in their software, or the speed of the processor in their RFID reader, or the read range of their tags. Potential users of RFID don't care about that. They want to know if it will address their business issue, as well as how much it will cost. I would train my team to focus on the potential customer's business issues.

6. Use customer wins to gain new customers. A big problem with having solutions for multiple industries is that you never build a critical mass of customers that others will see as validation of your solution. I would focus on building acritical mass of customers in one industry, and use the fact that five or six companies in that sector have deployed your solution as evidence that it works. I would keep working toward building critical mass until your company's solution was the first choice of all those seeking to use RFID in that industry.

7. As the market ramps up, I would expand advertising to vertical industry websites and exhibit at vertical industry events. While it's important to continue building a reputation with those reading about RFID and attending RFID events, as the company began winning two or three new contracts a month, I would start promoting it more widely, so as to ensure that the company's brand was top-of-mind with those that would soon be forced to adopt RFID—even if they weren't yet researching the technology.

8. After mass adoption of the solution occurred in one industry, I'd start to market to adjacent verticals. This, again, is pure Geoffrey Moore. Start with a very narrow approach. Then, as adoption ramps up, expand into more industries and gradually make the solution more horizontal.

There are some solution providers that have focused on a single industry, but few have been disciplined in their marketing approach, and even fewer have done the leg work to reach out to their potential customers at events, even though the tools are available and are promoted to them. I know, from checking the reports we run, that more end users send meeting requests to exhibitors than exhibitors send to end uses attending our events. I find that mind-boggling.

Right now, the market is wide-open. There are big companies offering tags, readers or software. But it’s not clear which solution (combination of hardware and software) will spark the market and lead one company or group of companies to achieve gorilla status. While some companies have a big lead in market share and brand awareness, there is still a possibility that a student who gives a talk at the IEEE RFID event co-located with RFID Journal LIVE! ends up developing a solution that dominates the market.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or the Editor's Note archive.