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Apr 07, 2004

Michael Della Penna's Tips on Marketing Emerging Technology Products

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Michael Della Penna has built a career around marketing products based on new technologies. "I started my career 18 years ago at Canon USA where I launched the personal facsimile machine," he says.

After seven years there, he moved into the software business, building a direct response team at Cheyenne Software to bring anti-virus and enterprise-level backup software products to various channels.

Following that, he focused on Net marketing, serving as VP Marketing at ZDNet, then as VP Strategic Development at CNET. And these days he's the CMO at Bigfoot Interactive.

Della Penna offered marketing insight based on a career in emerging technologies.

-> Educate yourself about the marketplace's true needs

"Early on in my career I underestimated the importance of talking to consumers," Della Penna says. "That's an incredibly powerful tool for any marketer to really build consumer intelligence within their organization. If I look back at my product marketing career, I would have spent far more time doing market research and building segments."

Random intercepts, telephone studies, and email studies are extremely helpful in segmenting the marketplace and market needs. But first look at the various auditing availability you already have within the organization to be sure you're not spending time and money on research that already exists.

"It's the whole challenge of customer relationships and databases," he says. "Mike Della Penna might be a customer for JP Morgan Chase but he's also a banking customer and a credit card customer, and you need to see that."

The aggregate view of customers offers additional insights and intelligence about the customer and what his needs might be, he explains. "The whole area of customer relationship management and aggregating data across the organization is as much a marketing weapon as it is a sales method today."

However, don't make the mistake of relying on data alone. You have to get out of the office and meet with actual prospects in person (yes even though you're not in sales.) "I spend a lot of time today and throughout my career visiting companies to understand their specific needs and challenges," Della Penna says.

Hearing prospects' own words and seeing their organizations in action can help you turn tired this-is-what-our-tech-does copy and white papers into compelling marketing materials that tug at their pain points.

-> Educate the marketplace through a new industry association

"You market the industry as much as you market the product itself," Della Penna says. "I spend a lot of time with industry associations."

He figures when a tech association educates the marketplace about the technology's viability and best practices, it helps lay a framework and soften the ground for his marketing efforts afterwards. You spend less time explaining the tech exists and more talking about why you're the best choice in the field.

So if you're marketing a brand new technology, see if you can either help start a new association or launch a topical council within an existing one. Then consider every hour you spend in committee meetings serving the association's educational efforts to be an hour well spent in marketing.

-> Educate your management team with continual reporting

Being able to understand ROI is well and good, but marketers of emerging media need to be particularly skilled at communicating it to executives effectively -- and continually.

Della Penna suggests campaign reporting on an individual basis, plus monthly reports and quarterly assessments. This is especially important if your organization is driven by the sales department, or it's run by a management team who don't have a strong marketing background -- both very common situations in tech companies.

Given that fact, don't assume the marketing budget you've been handed is the right one. For example, when Della Penna was at ZDNet, management offered him a $25 million budget to develop a particular program.

"I said, 'I don't need $25 million,'" he explains. "I was probably the first person in the dot-com era to say I don't need more money." Instead, he asked for $5 million, and suggested the rest of the budget be allocated to another program that would be more valuable to the company's goals.

"More money is not always the answer and a good marketer understands that, and is able to help prioritize within the company. When I go in to the CFO, six months or two years later, and say, 'I need $10 million for this initiative and here's why,' I'm a credible source in a way a typical marketer isn't."
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