Marketing Communications For A Successful Product Introduction, Part 1

by  Joyce Jensch

This article represents a recommended Marketing Communications Program (MARCOM) for a semiconductor equipment manufacturer located in the Silicon Valley. Also discussed are elements which assist in the development of the plan, such as identifying the target market and clarifying features, advantages and benefits of the products. This plan focuses on the continued corporate branding of an emerging company and addresses the product launch of the company's products. The plan outlines the use of trade shows, advertising, collateral materials, public relations, sales literature and sales promotions to achieve forecast sales.

The company we will be using as an example already has good brand awareness and a positive perception by the industry in general. Utilizing the strength of the brand name, more emphasize will be placed on the "product" introduction and promotion. Product introduction and promotion are no longer activities that come at the end of product development. The same customer requirements that went into the design of a product now become the basis for all promotional activities. Marketing Communications is chartered with the creation and delivery of the product message. The ultimate goal in this case study is for MARCOM to generate customer leads.

DEFINING THE TARGET MARKET

Defining the target market for your product takes careful planning. Good market research will help. If you already have a customer base—this is one source. If not, you need to identify those companies and industries most likely to use your product. Once this is done:

  • identify the prospective users.
  • determine the "buy" route inside key prospective customers.
  • identify the influences in key prospective customers—you may need to talk to all types of people, from end users to upper management.

You may want to place restrictions or parameters on the target market. There could be a large market for your product, but do you have the ability to effectively reach it? Due to various limitations such as financial resources, people, time and competition, a decision may be made to focus on just a piece of the market or niche.

The target market for semiconductor capital equipment is relatively easy to defined in comparison to the consumer market. It is the Integrated Device Manufacturers (IDM) located worldwide. There are approximately 700-800 wafer fabrication facilities within the United States. Within each of these operations the final end user of your equipment needs to be identified. If your company offers a chemical mechanical planarization tool (CMP) it is relatively easy to identify the engineer and decision maker within the IDM to whom you must communicate your message. However, if your company offers a wafer inspection tool there may be several individuals within the wafer fab operations that would have a need for your system.

DEFINING THE FEATURES, ADVANTAGES AND
BENEFITS OF PRODUCTS TO BE PROMOTED


The MARCOM message will highlight the features, advantages and benefits of the product to the end user. It is essential to focus not on the product but on the customer. Why is the customer going to buy your company's product offering over your competitors? Or another way to state this is, "What benefit will the customer realize using your system?" It is important to look at the differences between benefits, advantages and features.

Features are simply the characteristic of the product. They describe the product. Characteristics such as color, price, size, speed , capacity, weight, height, tolerance levels are all features. An example would be, "The unit has it's own power supply". Power supply is a feature. Traditionally, product specification sheets are full of features. Everyone, especially engineering and manufacturing people understand features.

Advantages are terms used to tell the customer how the feature of a product will help. For example, "each unit has 32 settings for total flexibility." Or, "the system weights only 30 lbs., making it very portable." In these examples, 32 settings and 30 lbs. are features while flexibility and portability are advantages. With this feature, you the customer, can have this advantage. Advantages are simply perceptions of the product's value to the customer. Most promotional material will use Advantage statements.

Then what are benefits? What is the difference between advantages and benefits? The differences can be subtle and hard to distinguish. To the customer, however, there is a big difference. A benefit is the value the customer receives from the product. You may be thinking, that's the same as an advantage. Not exactly. Remember, advantages are perceived values to the customer. Perceived by who? These are perceptions of the company offering the product.

In the previous example, "the system weighs only 30 lbs., making it very portable." We said that is an advantage. But is it also a benefit to the customer? Portability may or may not be of value to the customer. If the customer wants or needs portability then it becomes a benefit. If portability is not required, there is no benefit. It is all up to the customer. To help the customer perceive the benefit, we might say, "the system can be used in multiple locations as it is portable, weighing only 30lbs."

The strategy for all promotion and introduction activities is ensuring that each activity is relating how the product is meeting actual customer needs. We are moving from the technical, stating what the product does, to the application, stating what the product does to help the customer. It's offering benefits not advantages. The marketing communications message should focus on the benefits to the targeted audience.

KEY COMPONENTS OF THE MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS PLAN

Informing the target market audience about new products can be done in many different ways. Choosing the best way for your product comes by knowing as much as possible about your target audience. What is the most effective method of reaching them? Maybe it's through advertising, direct calls, telemarketing or trade shows. You may want to use a combination of these promotional activities. Each of these has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Public Relations (PR), sales literature, collateral materials, the web site, electronic mail pieces and participation in industry trade and technical expositions will be the foundation of this particular plan. This plan will utilize both graphic and content elements of each venue to provide a consistent look. The strategy will always present the company in a way that stands out and portrays the company and its message as a key player in high technology product development. Part of the plan's goal is to present the company as "larger than life". This is important to potential customers and partners specifically in the semiconductor market. They want to make sure that if they are committing resources to you, that you will be here for the long-term.

The primary objectives for promotional materials are to provide product information, gain company and product recognition and to create a buying interest. Promoting products as they relate to customer needs is certainly the way to do it. During product development you found out what their needs are. Now is the time to take advantage of this information. In all promotional materials or events, you are focusing on these issues. Whether it's advertising, brochures, press releases or mailings, your copy should be written to illustrate how the product is going to benefit the user. Use as many benefits or advantage statements as possible.

Look for Part 2 of this article appearing soon. In Part 2 where we
discuss key components of the communication plan, in detail.

‹‹ Joyce Jensch
[About the Author]

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