Nov 18, 2013When I was a reporter for the Industry Standard—the dot-com bible that famously flamed out a year after making $350 million in revenue—I would receive invites from savvy marketing people to have lunch at the 21 Club in Manhattan (the magazine was based in San Francisco, but I worked out of our trendy office in downtown Manhattan). Inevitably, the company would be a startup that had raised $50 million in venture capital, and the marketing person wanted to introduce me to the CEO (who was half my age), so he could tell me how his company (it was almost always a man, and often an immigrant from the Indian subcontinent who dreamed up the idea while at Harvard) was going to revolutionize this or that industry.
The problem was these companies had a great deal of cash and good marketing, but no product. They often aggressively marketed "vaporware" or "slideware"—products that did not exist, or that existed only as a concept in a PowerPoint presentation. Almost all of them failed, some spectacularly so.
The radio frequency identification business is almost a mirror opposite of the dot-coms. RFID providers have good products, but very little money or marketing. The CEOs tend to be engineers who can do magic with electronics, but who are distrustful of marketing and uncomfortable with self-promotion. While I admire the hard-working folks who have launched RFID companies, the truth is that not marketing a good product is almost as fruitless as cleverly marketing no product.
Since the recession, RFID Journal has been trying to help companies better understand the RFID market—what buyers are looking for and how to reach them. In 2009, we introduced targeted marketing on a pay-per-click basis, so advertisers could show their ads to very defined market segments, such as people in Germany interested in an RFID-based kanban system, or folks in Asia interested in container seals.
In 2010, we launched a marketing service—headed by RFID Journal's director of marketing, Sonja Valenta—to recommend tactics for achieving marketing goals cost-effectively. We can create ads for RFID companies at a fraction of the cost of an advertising agency.
In January 2013, we introduced The RFID Marketer's Handbook: Smart Strategies for Finding Potential Buyers and Converting Them Into Customers, which uses RFID Journal readership data to explain the state of the market, the industries adopting the technology more quickly and the best ways to reach specific market segments, such as health-care executives interested in real-time locations systems.
Now, we have introduced our Marketing Blog, written by Sonja Valenta, to provide our readers with marketing advice. Sonja is an industry professional who was involved in direct-mail programs for one of the United States' largest banks prior to joining RFID Journal seven years ago, and she also conducted online marketing for a leading provider of consumer health solutions, where she helped generate new subscriptions for a portfolio of more than 25 websites. Since coming aboard RFID Journal, she has overseen all of our marketing efforts for all of our products. She knows the RFID customer, and she knows how to reach that individual. During her tenure, we have run more than 10 million banner ads and sent nearly 1 million direct-mail pieces, so she sees what works for our advertisers—and what doesn't.
In her first post, "How to Create Realistic Marketing Goals in the RFID Market," Sonja addressed the critical issue of setting realistic marketing goals. It sounds simple and straightforward, but most companies do not do this. We often hear, "We want to get more leads." That is not a well-defined marketing goal for the coming year.
"If your overall marketing goal is to generate more leads, it would be well-defined as 'We need to generate 500 new leads for RFID in health care from our marketing campaign over the next year,'" Sonja wrote. "An even better, more defined goal would be, 'We need 500 new qualified leads for our RFID health-care solution from our marketing campaign, which will result in at least 10 sales this year and contribute $500,000 in revenue.'"
Having a clear idea of what you hope to achieve will lead to better results. Here's why: If you just want more health-care leads, then the right strategy is to go to a big health-care event and scoop up lots of business cards. Since the people attending that conference are not there to investigate an RFID solution, you are unlikely to get much business—but you will achieve your marketing goal. On the other hand, if your aim is to obtain $500,000 in new business, then focusing on a smaller group of people who are actively researching a solution like the one you sell would enable you to reach that goal.
The sad reality is that RFID solution providers with good products are struggling, since companies that want to buy those goods simply do not know they exist. I am often reminded of a poster that was pinned up behind the desk of the salesperson at the first magazine I ever worked at. It said:
"Do you know what happens when you don't advertise?
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, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.