How to Market RFID Products and Services in a Slowing Economy

With the economy weakening, here's what RFID technology and service providers need to know to make the most of their marketing dollars.
Published: November 17, 2008

In my Opinion column this week, I share my views on how providers of RFID hardware, software and services can deal with the rapidly slowing economy (see Winners and Losers in the RFID Market), and I also suggest that RFID companies can market more effectively by targeting potential customers. Here, I would like to discuss how best to accomplish such a goal, based on what RFID Journal has learned over the past six years. I believe our marketing experiences can help vendors make smarter investment decisions.

We know it’s a huge challenge to identify end users that might be interested in purchasing RFID products or services, because we tried to do just that. In an effort to build awareness for RFID Journal, we took out ads for our events in IT, supply-chain, manufacturing, retail and pharmaceutical magazines, thinking readers of those publications would be interested in radio frequency identification—but we received almost no response. We also spent a lot of money to purchase lists from those same industry magazines, and we mailed their readers brochures for our flagship event, RFID Journal LIVE! Again, we got almost no response—far less than the standard 1 or 2 percent response rate for consumer direct mail, in fact.

What’s more, we exhibited at several events for vertical industries likely to adopt RFID, including manufacturing, retail and pharmaceutical. We gave away a good number of RFID Journal print magazines, and we collected a lot of business cards, but we didn’t convert one single lead into a subscriber (and we met only one person who already was a subscriber).

It seems the pool of individuals involved in RFID purchasing decisions at each company is small, and they don’t generally attend vertical industry events. They go to RFID events. And while some of the thousands of people attending vertical industry events might have a general interest in or understanding of radio frequency identification, most have no authority to make decisions regarding pilots or deployments involving RFID technology.

You don’t have to take my word for it—check the BPA audits these events often perform. One pharmaceutical event’s audit, for instance, indicates only 6.2 percent of attendees had authority over purchases of RFID products.

Our experience is not unique. I hear from a wide variety of RFID companies that exhibit at vertical industry events. These firms tell me they get a lot of leads that never pan out. And an examination of exhibitor lists from year to year bears this out: Most RFID companies don’t go back after their first visit.

Our marketing focus for 2009 will be on the end users most educated about RFID, and most likely to subscribe to RFID Journal, attend our events or purchase hardware and software. We’re lucky in that regard, because we don’t have to look for those people—they are already our readers.

We’ve found, over the years, that when we market our events, readers of our magazine (that is, Premium Members) are the most likely to attend, followed by registered users of our Web site. That’s because these people are the furthest along the adoption curve, and the most ready to invest in RFID. A recent survey of our readership confirms this. Almost 60 percent of end users who responded said that they had been researching radio frequency identification for more than a year, and of those who had attended our events, more than half indicated their main purpose was to locate products that could meet their needs.

So by targeting RFID Journal readers online and in print, we can maximize the return on our marketing investment. And as self-serving as it may sound, vendors that advertise on our Web site and in our magazine, and that exhibit at our events, maximize their marketing spending as well, because they receive access to the end users furthest along the adoption curve—and the most likely to invest.

Consider these results from a recent survey of our readership:

  • 45 percent of end users said they have already purchased RFID products or services
  • 63 percent said RFID Journal was likely to influence their investment decision
  • 75 percent of end users say they conduct their research on the RFID Journal Web site, and twice as many use our magazine as those that utilize competing RFID sites (24 percent versus 12 percent)
  • 54 percent of end users who attended an RFID Journal event did so to research products, while 46 percent attended to identify vendors with products or services they needed
  • More than 50 percent of respondents said they check our Web site daily, or several times a week; 80 percent come for the case studies and 45 percent seek out white papers
  • 70 percent of end users believe RFID technology providers that advertise with RFID Journal are somewhat or much more credible than those that do not

When you have a shrinking marketing budget, you have to ask yourself: Do I want to spend a lot of money to reach people who might have no interest in RFID—or do I want to go where the folks most likely to invest in RFID are found?

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, click here or here.