RFID Journal Editor Mark Roberti's Blog

5 Common Mistakes Made by RFID Marketers

February 29, 2012

By Mark Roberti

Two years ago today, I wrote a blog titled "The Biggest Mistakes RFID Marketers Make." Frustrated by the mistakes I see such companies making, I recently went back and re-read that article. The five mistakes are unfortunately still common—and I would add five more:

Targeting executives in the C-suite. Many RFID sales and marketing people I speak to want to meet C-level executives. They believe that if they could just get to the CIO or the CEO, he or she would recognize the value their solution provides and implement it quickly. This, in my experience, is almost never the way it works. In fact, I was talking to the RFID project lead at a Fortune 500 company recently, and told him this is the approach most RFID vendors take. He laughed, saying, "The CEO is the last person you want to speak to."

The reason is that CEOs are not obsessed with problems on the shop floor or in the warehouse. They are focused on the big picture, and are extremely skeptical of technology firms trying to sell them "game-changing" solutions. RFID is a bottom-up technology—that is, someone in the trenches at a company has a problem, consults the Web and starts reading about RFID. The person typically does a lot of research. Then, he or she usually has to fight for funding—first for a pilot, and then for a small deployment. But when that project is successful, companies often wind up expanding their rollout as the vendor and technology build credibility within their customer’s ranks

Believing they can convince someone not seeking an RFID solution to buy one. A lot of marketers and salespeople I talk to believe that if they meet an end user who has no interest in RFID, they can somehow convince that person to buy an RFID solution anyway. I can understand why. I'm passionate about RFID, and I have spoken over the past few years at events for the packaging, manufacturing, retailing, forestry, logistics, defense and other industries. I often make the case that RFID can deliver value for companies in these industries, and usually present brief case studies of businesses that have benefitted from RFID. But mostly, my message falls on deaf ears. This used to frustrate me, until I read Geoffrey Moore's books, Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado. Moore clearly explains why most companies won't deploy a new technology, even if they know it will benefit them. It's a lesson RFID marketers need to learn, so that they will stop wasting money on people who will not buy an RFID system, and instead focus on the few early adopters who will.

Believing they have found the key to selling RFID that no one else has found. I talk to many marketers in the RFID industry, and they all seem to believe they have discovered the secret to reaching a broader market everyone else is missing. Usually, the thing they have discovered—Google ads and vertical-industry events, for example—is one that many others have already tried. I point to RFID companies that have attempted and abandoned the same strategy, but they refuse to believe me, until it doesn't work for them, as predicted.

The reality is, the RFID market is not that big. There aren't huge numbers of companies that will deploy the technology tomorrow, if only you can get to them. As Moore points out, it takes time to build critical mass and reach the point at which a technology goes mainstream. Until we reach that point, the market will remain small—the key is to win one customer over at a time.

Marketing where customers are few and far between. I had a marketer tell me, a few years ago, that his salespeople believed there must be customers outside of the RFID Journal universe. That, no doubt, is true. I'd be a fool to believe that every single firm thinking of deploying RFID reads RFID Journal. The problem, however, is this: How do you reach the one manufacturer in Germany, the one retailer in Brazil, the one hospital in Australia and the one logistics company in Chicago interested in the technology? And even if you could reach those companies, how would you find the one person at each firm who understands RFID? You could run radio and television ads around the world, I suppose, but I don't think that would be cost-effective.

It would be far most cost-effective to market to those who have raised their hand and shown an interest in deploying RFID by reading an RFID publication, attending an RFID webinar or going to an RFID event. That might seem self-serving, but it also happens to be true. We do a lot of marketing to partner lists, and we find the response abysmal. A mailing of three brochures to 100,000 people one year earned us a total of only three event attendees. We learned a valuable—if expensive—lesson that year, and instead focused our own marketing dollars on those who have shown an interest in RFID. The result has been a much higher success rate.

Not executing the basics. Many companies fail to provide the information potential end users want. When RFID Journal readers click on an ad for, say, an RFID returnable asset-tracking solution, it takes them to a homepage that displays generic information about the company and its products. Having a landing page that talks specifically about an RFID returnable asset-tracking solution would be far more effective.

In addition, there is often no call to action on the landing page. We recommend that businesses offer a white paper that visitors can download, enabling our advertiser to capture leads resulting from ad clicks. Even if you don't have the time or money to create a white paper, you should have a call to action, such as: "Contact us to learn how you can save 20 percent on labor associated with inventorying returnable assets."

These mistakes are common across most companies in the RFID industry. What I find most frustrating is that I see the same mistakes being made over and over again, and while I try to help businesses succeed, most don't listen. I think they assume I am just trying to get them to spend money with RFID Journal instead of somewhere else. The truth is, I want them to succeed—because if they are not around in two years, they won't be able to spend money with us or anyone else.

For tips on getting more value when you are exhibiting, see Eight Ways to Get More Out of LIVE!

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.



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