The RFID Marketer’s Mindset

It's not about reaching a lot of potential customers—it's about reaching the customers likely to invest in an RFID system.
Published: March 5, 2015

I used to believe that marketing our flagship event, RFID Journal LIVE!, was all about numbers. If we could get our brochures into the hands of more retailers, manufacturers, logistics executives and so forth, we could convince more of them to attend the conference. In 2008, we purchased 100,000 contacts from list brokers. We modeled our readers and chose people just like them to receive our printed brochures. It was hugely expensive, but based on a 3 percent response rate, we hoped to bring in an additional 3,000 people to the event. Unfortunately, we ended up with fewer than 50.

It wasn’t that our brochure was poorly designed, that our message was bad or that the end users slated to speak at the event weren’t interesting. The response rate from our readers was good, indicating we had the right product and message. It just didn’t resonate with anyone outside our core readership. I learned a painful lesson that year: Companies are either in or out of the RFID market. So we changed our marketing approach to focus primarily on our core readership, and to spend only a small percentage of our overall marketing budget on outside lists.

Our marketing strategy changed, but my marketing mindset did not until I read Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” and “Inside the Tornado” about a year later. I had known of Moore for years, but had never read his books. Once I did, everything became crystal-clear to me. Moore explained why someone who can benefit from a new technology won’t use it until everyone else is using it. He outlined the right marketing strategies at different phases of the technology adoption life cycle, and everything he said in these books matched what I was seeing in the RFID market.

So I changed the way I think, and I began to realize that marketers need to focus on companies with a compelling business problem that no other technology can solve, and that makes them seek out a new technology solution. By solving the problems of individuals researching RFID systems, we could convince others with similar problems that RFID is the answer. And by winning over one customer at a time, we could eventually reach a tipping point at which everyone decides they must use the new technology.

Most RFID companies still do not realize this and have a mass-marketer’s mindset. They want to obtain more leads and hope to convert a percentage of them. But if none of these leads have expressed an interest in RFID, then they will likely not invest until we get closer to the tipping point. RFID companies will waste a lot of time and energy trying to sell to people who don’t want to buy. Meanwhile, they will be missing out on opportunities to sell to those who are interested in RFID.

I know some salespeople will say this is all nonsense. They believe in their selling skills and their products, so they think they can convince anyone to invest in RFID. I understand that, but the overwhelming evidence shows this not to be the case. The return on investment from using RFID in health care, for example, is well-known. Yet very few hospitals have yet deployed an active RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS) or a passive RFID inventory-management solution for high-value goods. Now, does that mean all of the salespeople from the various companies selling these RFID solutions are no good at their jobs—or that Moore is right, and that most hospitals won’t use RFID until others are doing so?

In my upcoming posts, I will discuss the tactics that marketers with the right mindset use to grow their business.

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.