When it comes to technology, it’s OK to have your head in the clouds, or, rather, “cloud.” Competition in the tech sector is as fierce as ever, with no evidence of a slowdown anytime soon.
According to recent ASI research, the technology sector accounts for 5.9% of ad specialty revenues, which is down slightly from 6.7% of 2012 revenues. Yet, it’s still one of the strongest markets for industry sales. “The fast-paced technology industry, although very cloud-based and software driven, still requires hardware products, and people to function” says Kathy Whitburn at American Solutions for Business (asi/120075). “As a result, their usage of tangible promotional products continues to be a strong sensory marketing tool widely used in many sectors of the tech industry.”
Here’s how to find your own access point into the industry – as well as ideas and trends to help navigate this vast and complex sector.
TECH LOVES PROMO PRODUCTS
Tech companies are embracing promotional products in their marketing efforts as well as recognition and education initiatives. “Competition is very real, where two companies might be doing the same thing, but in a slightly different way,” says Olha Korolenko, promotional sales consultant at Motivators Promotional Products (asi/277780).
For example, Google and Bing both offer the same search services, but will claim to provide that service differently. This presents an opportunity to use promotions to thank loyal users, but also to educate consumers about product differences and what makes them “better.”
“The tech industry values promotional items because their clients do,” says Brian Wheatley, senior account manager at Leaderpromos.com (asi/287087). “Tech is a very mobile and forward-thinking group that understands the ROI of branded items. They attend multiple trade shows and conferences where the latest technology items are introduced. What better way to remind your clients of who had the coolest new gadget than with some swag?”
Technology is one of Wheatley’s main market niches, and he says the telecommunications and computer networking sectors are among his largest clients.
“Any sector that has a retail presence is always big business for distributors – they’re the most inclined to purchase giveaways for consumers because there’s so much competition,” says Karen Pace, social media manager at Pinnacle Promotions (asi/295986). Technology companies specializing in software are also consistently at the top of the list for annual spend, she adds.
“Teleconferencing and data sharing are being used on a large scale at a rapid rate,” says Seth Weiner, president of Sonic Promos (asi/329865). “The ability to collaborate on projects online is available at the touch of a button or two. While this is still new to many, it is imperative for these companies to stay top-of-mind.”
TARGET TECH CONFERENCES
Sonic provides a number of trade show items for technology clients, such as LogMeIn, a software solutions company that provides personal and business remote access, support and administration. “The goal is to place their information in the right people’s hands at the right time,” says Weiner.
He recommends when choosing promotional products, think about where the prospect will be when they’re making the decision or when they will think of you. If a company provides online business tools, like LogMeIn for example, choose items that are centered around mobile transport, such as emergency phone chargers and phone wallets.
Often at tech trade shows, there will be a secondary “invitation only” event geared toward the higher-level execs. These typically include programs to help companies leverage their business goals as well as networking opportunities to those attending. “For a C-level executive on the go, make sure you provide a unique item that they’re not going to give away to someone else,” Weiner says. As an example, Sonic has provided Bose noise cancelling headphones for this type of event.
Another niche for promotional product opportunities are technology recruiting festivals, says Gregg Emmer, VP and Chief Marketing Officer at Kaeser & Blair Inc. (asi/238600). “Tech companies recruit on all the college campuses, and many offer product giveaways that contain the company contact information,” he says. “A student is more likely to keep a [flying disc] than a brochure.”
The technology sector covers a lot of territory, says Emmer. The sector can be broken down into service providers, content providers, equipment suppliers, accessory suppliers, application and program creators and search platforms, among others. “As companies like Google have grown to an enormous size, they have put their logo on hundreds of promotional items along the way,” he says. “In local markets, cable companies and phone companies compete for Internet access customers, and are a steady customer of promotional items from our industry.”
Emmer notes there is also a wide range of technology opportunities outside of the sector. There is a lot of tech crossover among industries. Automobile accessories are one example of products that can apply. “Superex (asi/90231) has been in the business over 60 years,” he says. “They have a niche in technology, but they don’t call it tech – they call it power.” The Canadian supplier offers a variety of automotive, travel and safety products, including power stations and power sources.
Even non-tech clients have technology needs. “Technology and health-care delivery companies have merged, so hospitals are really big technology centers. They want to get that message across and are using tech-oriented products to do so,” says Emmer. Increasingly, patients are registering for hospital services online, and their records are being loaded and transported on thumb drives. Logoed thumb drives are another example of a promotional product that can generate brand recognition. Plus, they’re functional.
Banks are also becoming based in technology, as they push people toward mobile banking options, Emmer says. Promotional items like phone cases and car chargers are good choices for helping deliver the message to go mobile.
Weiner says many non-tech clients are adding social media to their business, and as they’re evolving, they’re looking for ways to market their technology efforts. Others have technology platforms that they want their customers to use, such as a health-and-wellness portal. “It’s a challenge getting people to go to the site, go online and register to use it,” he says, and promotional products can help drive traffic to the portal.
It depends what facet of the company is involved when marketing to the technology sector, says ASB’s Whitburn. If working with the sales division, the tools are different than for team building. “Some of my strongest associations with technology are in software education,” she says. “The challenge is making sure that clients know who to call when they need assistance, especially if the company they work for uses a number of different software platforms.”
Software support is critical, as the platform may be used by a large number of employees with varying levels of tech knowledge. Distributors should recommend products that reinforce and provide essential contact tools for the IT help desk, she says.
She provided one of her tech software support clients with Help Desk Contact kits. “Each client employee involved with the IT software team received a kit upon completion of its startup webinar meeting, which provided a value add that they’re there for them after the software has been installed,” she says.
Appropriate promotional products for this type of client might include mousepads, cork coasters and mobile microfiber screen cleaners with the company’s logo, website and phone number.
Rob Brown, chief operating officer at OnceLogix, an electronic health-care software company, says promotional products are a regular component of the company’s marketing efforts. “We know it’s critically important in this highly competitive marketplace for us to do all we can to make sure our company’s products and services are top of mind for these company executives,” he says. “What we’ve learned over the years is that our promotional items have helped generate leads of new clients, and that existing clients appreciate our ongoing contact with them.”
OnceLogix has distributed pens, coffee mugs, keychains and jump drives as part of its ongoing marketing efforts.
Emmer says addressing tech clients is no different from the way other businesses are approached. “If you have access to someone at the corporate headquarters, your chances of working with that client go way up,” he says. “If you want to sell microfiber cloths to Verizon, it’s not going to happen talking to the young people at the kiosk in the mall.”
He recommends approaching Internet service providers at a local level. “There are local cable companies in each county, each with their own budgets,” he says. “They are competing with the phone companies for business, and they use a lot of promotional items.”
Also at a local level, there are a number of software developers writing code, and they, too, use promotional products in order to connect with potential customers, he says. Things change so rapidly in the tech industry that even if a potential prospect doesn’t need the client’s services at the moment, in a few months they might, and branded items can help keep the client’s name in front of the prospect when that happens.
Tech-oriented items like Bluetooth speakers, mobile chargers and unique flash drives are always extremely popular in the tech space. Always keep in mind who you are targeting and the marketing results you are trying to attain.
“Tech companies love cool gadgets, and that’s great internally for team-building events and other staff incentive programs,” says Whitburn. “However, it’s critical that we remind our tech clients that their customers may not necessarily be as tech savvy as they are. That cool gadget may be lost on a demographic more inclined to relate to a tried-and-true item.”
Think analytically, but creatively. Some non-tech items that are popular with tech clients are “thinking putty,” walking coils and stress relievers.
When recommending promotional product marketing ideas for a tech client, it’s important to understand what that company does before you recommend specific products. “You don’t want to present products that compete with the merchandise the potential client sells,” Emmer says. “You want to support the client’s efforts, not be a challenge to them.”
In that regard, sometimes non-tech items can work best. Logoed water bottles and spill-proof beverage tumblers can inexpensively deliver a highly visible, high-impact brand message.
One of Emmer’s tech clients provided employees with refillable, spill-proof tumblers to take back to their desks in an effort to discourage keyboard spills. As employees carried the tumblers around and refilled them, it was a visual reinforcement of the company logo.
An employee out for a jog, wearing a branded hanging water bottle will draw more attention to the company’s logo than the phone in his pocket. This also delivers a positive and modern message, that the company advocates green initiatives, an active lifestyle and good health, Emmer explains.