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High technology prospects are different. They don't respond like consumers and they don't respond like other businesses. What works with them is often the opposite of what works with consumers. Here's a primer on how to sell high-tech products to businesses using direct mail.
Mail to people who won't buy High-tech buying decisions are often made by a committee, not an individual. To win the sale, your direct-mail program must address the needs of everyone around the table, whether the president, purchasing agent, technical specialist or end user. So find out who wields the greatest influence in buying decisions (often it's the end users), and target these influential prospects in your mailings, along with the people who sign the purchase orders.
Go cheap on design and printing Consumer direct-mail gimmicks sell sweepstakes, but not servers. Don't ask a senior verification engineer to "AFFIX FREE BUYING GUIDE SEAL HERE." Don't expect a network operations analyst to "PLACE TAB A INTO TAB B." The same goes for fake handwriting and fake underlining. They're genuine mistakes.
High-tech business readers are sophisticated. They want a letter, a brochure and a business reply card. That's it. The more inserts, lift letters, coupons, free-gift slips and other stuff you put in the envelope, the more likely the busy executive is to fling your package in the circular file.
Here's one caveat. Fancy folds, die cuts and 3D objects work well when you tie them into your offer. This is especially true of trade-show mailers, where a unique and relevant gimmick often draws more prospects to your booth than a traditional mailer does.
Assume your reader has a split personality Your reader is a business person, in that order. As a business buyer, your prospect wants to save money, raise productivity, increase efficiency. So your mailer must address those issues. But your business buyer is also a person. A person who is unlikely to buy your product–however good it may be for the company–if buying your product means more work, more stress or more grief for them personally. Your prospect may even buy your competitor's inferior product instead of yours for selfish reasons alone.
Today's rule of thumb in high-tech purchase decisions is this: "Sure, no one ever got fired for buying IBM. But did they get promoted?" Look after both the business interests and the personal interests of your prospect and the sale will look after itself.
Keep it technical Telecom professionals know what SS7, ITU-T C7 and ISUP are. You don't. So you're inclined to explain these concepts in your copy, showing prospects that you don't understand their business.
But engineers don't read at the Grade-9 level. They name their dog Archimedes. They want substance, not oversimplification. Your letter must speak their language, their jargon, their lexicon. Learn the lingo by reading the industry journals and technical literature that your prospects read. Watch for acronyms, abbreviations, initialisms and jargon that are commonplace but never defined. Write accordingly.
Lots of copy, thank you Your high-tech prospects are information-seekers who will read a lot of copy. They hunt for information that helps them do a better job, and knowledge that makes them more marketable. They want facts. The more the better.
That's why, with this audience, self-mailers don't pull as well as packages with a letter, brochure and business reply device. One exception is seminars, where innovative self-mailers still grab attention and fill seats. Engineers welcome long copy when your message is interesting, important and relevant.
Stress features, not benefits In consumer direct response, features are subordinate to benefits. What a product does is never as important as what it does for the consumer. In high-tech direct response, the opposite is true. Semiconductor design engineers, for example, want specs. Saving money is beneficial to them, of course. So is saving time. But what they want more than benefits is hard data. They want I/O word widths, data transfer rates, frame buffer bandwidths–every relevant fact that helps them make an informed buying decision.
Don't ask for the order A senior vice-president of manufacturing doesn't order a $1.5-million network upgrade by dropping a business reply card in the mail. Instead, the first step in the process is usually a request for more information. Followed by a sales meeting. Then a demonstration. Then a trial. Then a contract.
That's why direct-mail pieces to high-tech prospects must contain multiple calls to action. Your response device, for example, might look like this: "(Choose one) 1. Send me your brochure by mail. 2. Have a salesperson phone me. 3. Not interested, but add me to your mailing list."
Writing persuasive direct-mail copy for high-tech products is different from pitching credit cards or magazine subscriptions. It takes a unique set of skills to translate technospeak into hard-hitting sales copy. Enjoy the challenge.
Alan Sharpe is a business-to-business direct mail copywriter and lead generation consultant who helps high-tech firms attract new clients using creative, cost-effective direct mail. Subscribe to "Sharpe & Direct," his weekly newsletter, at www.sharpecopy.com