Selling RFID to Big Companies

Author Jill Konrath has a lot to teach all of us—even if what she's saying isn't groundbreaking.
Published: April 1, 2010

I received an e-mail from someone who listened in to our recent teleseminar, “How to Sell RFID to Big Companies” with bestselling author Jill Konrath. The writer said: “Frankly, it was filled with obvious and rather lightweight thoughts. Most of it was generic to selling to large corporations, and had nothing specific to the challenges facing those of us actually marketing RFID solutions.”

The fact is, the challenges facing those actually marketing RFID solutions are similar to those selling other technologies, and I see a lot of companies doing a lot of things wrong—the very things we brought Jill in to try to help them fix.

One thing Jill suggested is to narrow your target market, rather than expanding it. This might seem to be an “obvious and rather lightweight” thought, but if so, why are so many companies doing the opposite? Why are so many people wasting valuable marketing dollars and critical sales resources chasing what Inside the Tornado author Geoffrey Moore calls the “pragmatists” (those who aren’t ready to adopt RFID) rather than the people “for whom the status quo is unacceptable”—and who need RFID now?

Jill talked about the three decisions a technology buyer makes: whether to give a vendor access, whether to switch from the status quo to a new technology and whether to purchase a specific solution. And she emphasized the need to convince end users to switch from the status quo before promoting a specific solution. This, too, might be an “obvious and rather lightweight” thought, but I have sat in rooms with end users who were trying to determine whether they should switch from the status quo to using RFID. The RFID vendors were focused on beating up their competitors in an effort to convince the end users to adopt their solution. But the end users hadn’t made the second decision yet, and after hearing so many bad things about different systems, most decided notto abandon the status quo.

Jill said to talk about the business problems the technology can solve, and not about the technology. That seems obvious enough. But I guarantee you that a lot of end users attending next month’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference will get an earful about read distance, location accuracy and other issues related to performance. The vendors that listen to Jill will ask a lot of questions about the issues potential customers are trying to solve, and there might even be one or two vendors who say, “Our system is not designed for that, but go see those folks over there. They can do what you’re looking for.”

I read Jill’s book, Selling to Big Companies, which Fortune magazine named one of its must-read business books. I didn’t think there was anything in it that was earth-shattering. But there was a lot of good, pragmatic advice—advice that I’ve taken to heart. We hired Jill to conduct her workshop at LIVE!, and also hired Geoffrey Moore, with the help of RFID Recruiters, in an effort to better serve our partners.

I took some offense at the e-mailer’s comment that “if RFID Journal really wanted to help improve the selling/buying dynamics of its reader base (buyers and sellers), you could readily run a survey seeking the realities of buying and selling in this arena, using applications/installation as the bridge between the two sides more so than technology.”

The insinuation here is that we don’t really want to help improve the buying and selling dynamics. But that, in fact, is what RFID Journal tries to do—we try to educate end users about where and when RFID is better than the status quo. To that end, we released a report entitled “Understanding RFID Technology Buyers,” in which we published specific information about the types of products and applications in which end users are most interested, as well as which industries are adopting RFID more quickly than others.

What’s more, in January of this year, we offered a free webinar with Bob Basmajian of Spectrum Marketing and John Burnell of Burnell Reports, in which John discussed the most effective types of marketing programs, based on a survey he conducted with RFID Update, and in which Bob talked about using white papers for lead capture (see Content Marketing as a Lead-Generation Tool for RFID Vendors). We also ran a webinar in which I presented information on the type of marketing that works and doesn’t work for RFID Journal, including specific messaging in banner ads.

Furthermore, we recently created RFID Connect, a free community portal enabling vendors to post their own press releases, create blogs and connect with end users. End users can utilize RFID Connect to search for products and meet vendors.

We’re doing everything we can to help buyers and sellers meet. Not everything we do will be of value to everyone, of course—but please don’t suggest we aren’t trying.

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, RFID Connect or the Editor’s Note archive.