Peter Drucker, author of Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, stated that “the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself”. IT marketing agencies, whether as a department within a larger company or a private company altogether, have a responsibility to promote products specifically related to the IT industry. It has been proven time and time again that market-driven technology companies are more profitable than those not driven by the market. In these types of organizations, marketing managers are the center pieces that connect the programming or development teams, advertising teams, and sales teams. Managers in IT marketing agencies accomplish this by identifying and quantifying market needs, and then they rely on the product development team to find a solution for that need. The advertising team communicates the newly discovered solution through promotion, and the sales representatives assist the customers through the purchasing process. The position of the marketing manager is critical in the product development or re-launch cycle and involves an intricate system of research, analysis, strategizing, planning, and execution.
The first step for the marketing manager in IT marketing agencies in the product development cycle is to perform an extensive market analysis, both in quantitative and qualitative formats. Research should focus on the competition, the market, the specific product, and the customers. The marketing manager must fully understand the competition and where each competitor is positioned in the market. With that information, he or she would need to ask whether or not the company can distinguish itself in the market and articulate that distinction clearly to customers. Marketing managers often use a tool called SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. This tool is helpful in determining the company’s and competitors strategic positions in the marketplace. Additionally, this tool will assist the marketing manager in identifying potential unmet needs or problems that customers currently face in the industry. In doing so, the marketing manager could potentially uncover additional products or services the company could offer to position themselves more strategically in the market.
Research conducted by IT marketing agencies should also focus on specifically what customers think about the company’s products. To find this information, companies can conduct qualitative and quantitative market research. Oftentimes, quantitative market research can be done through third party vendors who specialize in collecting and compiling data from the market about a company’s product. Often, quantitative research involves analyzing the performance of the product through predetermined ratios or data (profit, sales in comparison to competition, customer satisfaction surveys, determining percentage of market share, etc.). Qualitative research should be done in-house by IT marketing agencies or departments within a company and typically involves asking open-ended questions about the industry, product, company, and competitors to gather more information about the product line and its position. For example, the customer could be asked which company they look to in identifying market trends or why they chose to purchase a certain product.
Once the analysis of the product, market, competition, and company is complete, a strategy for the product should be formulated by the managers in IT marketing agencies using the data collected. The goal should be to find the type of solution that requires the least amount of investment in technology but has the greatest positive impact on fulfilling the customer’s needs. Whether a product is new or existing, certain decisions will have to be made in this step using the information compiled in the research phase. It is at this point that pricing decisions are typically made and managers determine what pricing would be effective based on the target market position and competitive analysis. The development, marketing, and sales teams must fully understand the price and how it was calculated. They must also understand the inherent value of the product and why customers should be willing to pay the decided-upon price. A report should be compiled by IT marketing agencies that articulates clearly the lessons learned from the data collected and the target goals for market position, revenue, and market share. The risk of the investment or product modifications should be clearly defined as well, with targets for potential gains and potential losses based on price point and sales forecasts. Additionally, the decisions made in the strategic write-up should include statements about how the company will produce the new or re-launched product and the benefits/drawbacks of those choices. Buying a simple technology versus partnering with an outside company to build the product, for example, will have large impacts on the future decisions of the company and its strategic position. In making these decisions, core competencies should be considered along with strategic position and cost of investment.
After the overarching strategy is defined clearly and understood by the entire product development team, a firm plan for execution should be developed. This plan should clearly describe what problems the product will solve, what the position of the product is in the market, what the value of the solution is, and what makes the product unique. Next, a sales process should be defined that will fit with the product type market position, and customer expectations. Marketing plans should be developed and should define how the company is going to reach potential customers. Existing customers, potential customers, and competitors’ customers should all be considered when creating a marketing plan. Marketing managers in IT marketing agencies should also consider the marketing mediums through which information will be passed and which will have the highest impact on sales. Additionally, marketing managers should include in this plan a process for customer retention and ensuring customer satisfaction. This is especially true if the product relies on recurring revenue or product upgrades/add-ons. A specific “launch” plan should be laid out that defines how the product will be revealed to the public and how the product will be launched within the organization. Included in the launch should be definitions of who the stages of customers will be. Who are the “early adopters” in the market, and how can we tell them about our product? How can we provide a platform for the early adopters to promote our product once they have used it? Finally, product marketing managers in IT marketing agencies should partner closely with technical managers to make sure that staff is well-versed in the market research. It is important that the technical sales force understand the technical background of the product and also the market data compiled. In being trained on this information, the technical staff will be better equipped to describe the product benefits as perceived by the market. Since the relationship between the product marketing manager and technical managers should be strong and effective, the marketing manager should have a clear technical background. He or she should be able to follow the technical manager when conversing about the details of the product development process and should be able to understand and describe technical concepts.
As described in the processes above, the position of the marketing managers in IT marketing agencies are extremely critical to the product launch and development phase, as well as to the maintenance of existing products. These concepts are critical to the success of any company’s product lines. It would be foolish to suggest a specific marketing strategy or claim a complete overhaul is necessary while ignoring all the research that has been completed up to this point. Rather, it would be wise to review this research extensively and speak to some of the current or previous customers to gain a better understanding of what needs to be accomplished or changed. It is not necessary to become an absolute technical expert on the product. Rely on the company’s technical experts for this information. However, in a position like this, the product marketing manager would be required to be a market expert. One could accomplish this by following the above outlined processes.