Technical Marketing

Explore the Strategy of Technical Marketing

Technical marketing

The software company Adobe Systems is worth billions of dollars. Countless companies rely on its products, which range from simple online readers to advanced visual effects software. Though anyone can purchase Adobe's products, its customer base mainly consists of skilled, highly computer literate professionals.

Even still, Adobe products tend to be highly complex, and even more proficient users encounter confusing problems when using their programs.

One of the greatest marketing tools on the Adobe website is Adobe TV, a free-to-access series of instructional videos that teach users of all levels of skill and familiarity how to use Adobe programs like Photoshop, InDesign, and AfterEffects. This library of tutorials may seem like a feature created for people who have already purchased these programs, but they are also highly likely to attract users who have recently downloaded a brief trial version of one program or another.

If a user finds the trial experience to be confusing or unintuitive, Adobe could lose a sale. Hoping to clarify any questions users have, Adobe has reached out to consumers with a form of technical marketing -- a strategy designed to erase confusion surrounding complex products.

What is Technical Marketing?

The term “technical marketing” has two meanings, though they are often related. Classically, technical marketing is any method of marketing focused on the specifications and key features of a product, designed to appeal to customers with a base technological understanding of the product. However, technical marketing has also grown to encompass any use of modern technology as a marketing tool.

Technical Marketing Materials

Technical marketing uses a mix of traditional and new media to convey its advertising message. It can be found in a variety of places, including but not limited to:

  • In magazine ads
  • In television commercials
  • On websites
  • In web-based videos
  • In both print and ebooks

Adobe TV is a great example of technical marketing in both senses of the term. It is a tool Adobe Systems uses to communicate the features and appeal of complex software to customers who already use such software on a regular basis. The tutorials on Adobe TV assume a certain degree of comfort with computer technology and even the specific program being featured. Rather than simply raising awareness about a program and making it seem attractive to those who know nothing about it, Adobe TV increases the appeal of a program by teaching users how to implement its more advanced features.

Adobe TV also uses modern technology such as embedded Internet video as a marketing tool. Again, this is intended to reach customers who already have a certain degree of comfort with the technology Adobe is marketing. Instead of using media like books, home video, or television to deliver tutorials, Adobe TV's video tutorials reach customers who are certain to be literate about Internet technology.

Who Uses Technical Marketing?

Any company that has a technically complex product or whose customers tend to be technically educated people can benefit from technical marketing.

If, for instance, a company wants to market a line of advanced factory equipment, its customers are likely to already know about the technical aspects of factory equipment in general. The company should create marketing materials that outline the technical specifications of the equipment, such as how fast the equipment works, what temperatures it can safely handle, and how much electricity it consumes every hour. These aspects are more important to the company's customers than simple branding.

A company doesn't necessarily need to appeal exclusively to highly informed customers to benefit from technical marketing. Car companies often advertise vehicle specifications in mass marketing materials like television commercials, though they can't be certain their audience truly understands what the specs mean. This includes simple concepts like how many miles per gallon of gas the vehicle gets, the horsepower of its engine, and the particular kind of brakes it uses. These specifications might sound impressive even to an audience with little knowledge of car engineering.

Some Flash with Lots of Substance

Though the core of technical marketing is concrete product specifications and features, brand management can be very important as well. In 2009, bad branding slowed the adoption of a vital update to the Ruby on Rails open-source coding program when it entered what was called Version 1.9. The program helps web-based programmers use the Ruby programming language. Though Version 1.9 was a significant update on the content from Version 1.8, programmers were hesitant to switch to 1.9, wishing instead to wait for a Version 2.0. The numbering system of software versions is arbitrary, but tech-savvy users tend to view odd-numbered versions as being incomplete. If Ruby on Rails 1.9 had been branded as 2.0, its usage would have been more widespread.

Creating a Technical Marketing Plan

Before a technical marketing campaign begins, everyone on a marketing team must work closely with the product's developers to acquire a thorough understanding of a product or service.

For example, if an electronics company wanted to begin marketing a new, high-end digital video camera intended for filmmaking, the marketing team should spend time with the people at the company who designed, built, and tested the camera to discover what the camera can do and what its technical specifications mean. This allows marketing professionals to create effective advertising materials for people like movie directors, cinematographers, and videographers who already understand digital photography.

While the marketing team is learning about the product, they should also conduct market research to determine who is most likely to be interested in the product, and what is most important about it to them. The team at the electronics company might read consumer data and conduct surveys to find out what kinds of people are likely to buy the new camera, and which specifications they value the most in cameras.

Widespread Tech Use on the Rise

According to a report by the International Society for Technology in Education, a majority of Americans who are at least 12 years old now own a mobile device. High-tech products are becoming a part of everyday life, so technical marketing is bound to become increasingly prevalent as well.

  • 61% of Americans 12 and older own mobile devices
  • 44% of Americans 12 and older specifically own smartphones
  • 52% of Americans under the age of 8 have access to mobile devices

Using market research data and knowledge they learn from the developers, a marketing team creates advertising materials for their product and places them in strategic media channels. The team at the electronics company could craft an advertisement outlining the camera's specifications to be placed in a film industry magazine, as well as create the camera's product page on the company website. Informational materials are highly effective in technical marketing, so the electronics company should also create valuable content like blog posts and videos related to the camera that will link to the product web page.

Throughout the advertising campaign, the marketing team should have a method to collect customer feedback about the product. Adjustments to the campaign should be made using the feedback collected. (See also B2C Marketing)

Careers in Technical Marketing

Technical marketing is an interdisciplinary field. It relies on a team of people who have a diverse set of skills, ranging from great research, to creative design and excellent communication. The following are just a few positions that are highly valuable on a technical marketing project.

Market Researcher

Technical Marketing Salaries

  • Market Researcher
    Starting: $39,000
    Median: $51,000
    Top Earners: $65,000
  • Web Designer
    Starting: $47,000
    Median: $62,000
    Highest Earners: $80,000
  • Instructional Designer
    Starting: $37,000
    Median: $51,000
    Top Earners: $67,500

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

In the preliminary stages of a technical marketing campaign, the team will rely on a researcher to gather and analyze information about the product's related market and consumer behavior. Market researchers need to have a meticulous attention to detail, the ability to speak to a wide variety of people during surveys, and strong communication skills to convey what they have learned from their research.

Education/Experience

Market researchers should have a bachelor's degree in marketing, business, psychology, or sociology. Previous experience in a data-focused field like analysis or database management is very helpful.

Web Designer

In today's technology-driven business world, consumers will almost certainly seek out a company's website to learn more about a product. This is especially true for consumers who are searching for technical specifications. A web designer is in charge of coding and creating the visual layout of a website. This requires high computer literacy and experience with many kinds of business software, including programs for coding, graphic design, and image editing.

Education/Experience

Web designers should have a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing, web design, or computer science. It is very important for a designer to include a portfolio of original website designs with any resume to demonstrate ability and creativity.

Instructional Designer

Because so many products advertised with technical marketing are complex and require some training to use, instructional materials can be very effective marketing tools. Instructional designers create everything from ebooks, to video tutorials and other educational materials that teach customers about a product and how to use it. This requires strong written and verbal communication skills, as well as comfort with multimedia technology like video and sound editing, web publishing, and word processing software.

Education/Experience

Instructional designers should have a bachelor's degree in marketing, business, education, English, or communications. It can be useful to have previous experience in a teaching position, in a writing-focused position, or in a media-focused role.

Learning Technical Marketing

Those who are interested in learning the professional skills necessary to participate in technical marketing campaigns and other advanced strategies should consider applying to a marketing education program. A marketing program provides an extensive examination of the business and philosophy of modern marketing, while giving students hands-on experiences that are invaluable in the pursuit of a marketing career.

Early coursework in marketing concentrates on establishing a firm foundation of marketing concepts and practices. This includes classes that teach vital team-building and communication skills that will be important for working effectively in any marketing department. These preliminary classes will also discuss marketing campaign finance for realistic budgeting concepts, as well as the basics of branding and advertising content.

For students who are most interested in technical marketing, the technology-focused courses in a marketing program will be the most important. These classes will familiarize students with business tools like widely used office suite software for word processing and database management, and also more complex programs for web design and data modeling. Marketing technology classes not only teach students how to use existing software, they also teach tomorrow's professionals how to learn new software quickly and effectively.

A marketing education culminates in advanced work with business simulations and in-depth case studies of marketing campaigns from the real world. Students will be expected to create their own campaigns, applying all they have learned to demonstrate a true understanding of the skills they will have to implement later in the workplace. This fast-paced, interactive approach to business education prepares aspiring marketing professionals to be valuable assets on any marketing team, whether it is part of a large corporation, a small start-up, or anything in between.

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