Flashback to March 1996 – “Velcro Marketing” – Stick with Prospects on the Web

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Velcro Marketing - Stick with prospects

Just another road trip? NOT! In June 1994 Simware Director of Marketing Barry Gander gave Tim Mills of Capital Research a go-ahead to visit 12-15 ‘typical’ clients. A few questions were used to start an in-depth dialogue – What are your perceptions about Simware? Our communications? Getting information about new software products?

Key discoveries

The key discoveries were, first, that word-of-mouth is the people’s choice for product information. Second, the favored tool for word-of-mouth is the Internet. This was before the ‘net’ became the hot topic of every newspaper. Amazingly, the Internet had not been mentioned in questioning. In 1994 this was a valuable early discovery.

Simware acted

By early 1995 they had a basic Web page up and running. To refine it, they sought expert help. From his 1867 Almonte farmhouse, Web sleuth Nathan Rudyk of digIT Interactive Inc. quickly shed his street persona. He had been called to help design an Internet strategy for Simware’s launch of Salvo, their new product for PC communication with corporate IBM mainframes on private Web networks – the so-called “Intranet.”

Velcro Marketing

The team chose to adopt “Velcro Marketing” – getting close to your customer through ongoing two-way communication. As defined by Rudyk, “This technique uses interactivity in ways you can’t do with traditional techniques. It sure makes markets move faster for software companies!” Here are some components:

1. Find communities of interest which fit your client profiles. The Simware team found over 500 points of contact, including listservers, e-zines, newsgroups, what’s new/what’s cool (there are over 100 of these), search indexes (Yahoo, Lycos… ), influencers/analysts, and Web media (Netwatch, Webster …). A customized message was sent to each, with a spin to appeal to each community. Simware even set up their own listserver, which allows reaching all e-mail addresses, not just the Web users.
2. Sponsor a word. In Lycos, a popular Web search directory, try looking up the word “Intranet.” When the search result comes back you’ll see that Simware is a sponsor of the word. There is a Salvo ad, with hot-key to the Simware page.
3. Demo download. Similar to the Netscape approach: “Try it ! And contact us if you find bugs.” The free demo has a 30 day time-out.
4. Contest for Clients. In the ‘Communication Room’, Simware is planning to offer users a contest, “Submit your Application,” to add incentive for dialogue.
5. Cross-promote with traditional media. Simware started with print advertising. The message: “Meet us on the Web at www.simware.com/salvo on Jan 24, 1996.”
6. Make it fun. The Salvo page includes a virtual reality tradeshow designed by Global-X-Change of Ottawa.

The results? They had 7000 hits/month before the launch, and within two weeks were getting 1000 visits per day!

What Else

On the Web, you can get information back continuously, so you must react. If a site is dormant for 6 weeks, people lose interest. The buy cycle is compressed, and where business used to be like a chess game, now it’s like a video game. Hot sites are updated weekly or daily. The new winners (e.g. Netscape) are staging product releases to have something new every 2 months.

The critical things are not electronic, though. Good listening produces good client profiles – not just the product feature needs, but also clients’ level of computer literacy, how they learn about products, and what Web communities they belong to. Also, sales follow-up is essential. Per Simware’s Barry Gander: “The Web isn’t going to solve everything. Web marketing, like everything else, is a major commitment and it needs complementary and continuing activity in other areas to create sales.”

This article by Peter Fillmore, was originally published in MARKETECH in March 1996.

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