On marketing intangible products

These days, more and more of us are marketing products that are intangible. But most of the essentials of marketing intangible products don’t differ much from marketing tangible ones.

Many, many years ago, the phrase “intangible product” seemed like a lot of nonsense. How could something be a product if you couldn’t touch it? Could you grab a product out of thin air?

By Hoodedwarbler12 (talk) – I (Hoodedwarbler12 (talk)) created this work entirely by myself., Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26933846

Obviously that is no longer the case.

I’m not even going to, um, touch the NFT world, but clearly things that we used to think of as tangible products are now moving to the intangible realm. I’ll give you two examples from my experience:

  • When I started selling automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS) in the 1990s, a law enforcement agency’s AFIS consisted of a set of computer servers in the agency’s computer room, coupled with a set of some fairly expensive workstations in the agency’s work areas. But even then, there were several states that had minimal computer servers at the state agencies, with most of the servers located in the state of California. The Western Identification Network model was duplicated in later years by other agencies who would host their biometric server “products” at faraway Amazon or Microsoft locations.
  • Similarly, when I started attending trade shows in the mid 1980s, I would go by booths and pick up company case studies and white papers and stuff them into a bag. (Booths and sponsors that provided such bags were VERY important.) Today, some vendors don’t even have printed case studies and white papers in their booths any more; the attendees simply request electronic copies.
By Silverije – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63431852

Yet for the most part the marketing of these intangible products isn’t much different from the way that the old tangible versions were marketed. The differences are minor:

  • When Printrak sold AFIS servers, care was taken to place a Printrak logo prominently on the server, where it would compete with the Digital Equipment Corporation logo from the server manufacturer. The logo even appeared as a component on an extended Bill of Materials. Now, purchasers of cloud solutions from the biometric companies don’t need to worry about placing logos on physical servers.
  • In the old days of product marketing collateral, you could get into big discussions about the quality, weight, and finish of the paper that you used to print your collateral. Today, those discussions are for the most part irrelevant, since the recipients print the collateral on their own printers, if they print the collateral at all.

The important thing in each case is the content. Fewer and fewer law enforcement agencies care WHERE their biometric data is stored, as long as it meets certain security, accuracy, and response time requirements. Similarly, people who collect marketing collateral are much more concerned with WHAT the collateral says than the weight of the paper used to print it.

By Rick Dikeman at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=164188

I have been accused of preferring substance over style, and I plead guilty. While style is clearly important, the substance of the product must excel or the style is wasted.

Sometimes this requires the product creator to take a step back from the nitty gritty of collateral creation, and decide what the collateral is supposed to do, and why the customer should care. Rather than saying “give me a case study that tells how the widget is exactly 70 mm high,” my clients are now asking to “give me a case study that tells our customers why our product will let them sleep securely at night.”

If you would like to explore these topics for your next piece of collateral, whether it be a case study, white paper, proposal, or some other marketing written work, Bredemarket can help you explore. Bredemarket uses a collaborative process with its clients to ensure that the final written product communicates the client’s desired message. Often the client provides specific feedback at certain stages of the process to ensure that the messaging is on track. I combine the client’s desires with my communications expertise to create a final written product that pleases both of us.

Contact me and we can discuss how to work together to realize your goals.

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