You’ve worked day and night, and now your technology is ready for its first customer. It’s absolutely great stuff and you are standing by for people to discover it, but they don’t. They don’t know about it. You’ve got to tell the world about it, but how? Where? And what? Let’s take a three-step approach to technology marketing.

Step 1: Who do you want to sell to?

Whenever I consult with high-tech startups or scientists in the technology transfer business about their marketing efforts, I ask them about their target audience. Let’s take an example: You are making glass fibers for medical applications. Should you talk to MDs? Probably not. You have to find out about medical device manufacturers and their research & development staff. There might be three in your particular market serving thousands of doctors, so your primary audience, the developers, is small. They will use your technology to serve a large secondary audience using your technology. You have to sell to the developers while also keeping an eye on the needs of their customers.

Step 2: Where do you want to go?

If you know whom you want to address, you can decide on the best channels to use for doing so. If there are just a five other physicists out there who may use your technology, you can call them or send an email. Or, do you want to approach them at the next big conference? In any case, you should make a plan and prepare all the things you may need. This doesn’t just mean a website and fancy business cards. Consider a white paper or a technical publication to show details. What about samples of your product? Or, how fast could you process a sample for a prospective customer?

Remember, there are many ways to reach your audience. Your personal network might be the first. If you want to reach more people, you could go out and talk to people at conferences and trade shows, or write and publish about your work, so you can reach out to tens of thousands of readers or website visitors. You may even do something fancy with an agency. If you have the money, they have the ideas.

Step 3: Make a plan and stick to it!

If you know whom you want to address, and you have found some ways to address them, your next step should be to make a list of your marketing options, what they cost, and what return you can realistically expect. Rank the options and select the top three or five. Forget about the rest – your time is precious and you will have a hard time executing a marketing plan when you start selling anyway, but you have to!

Making a plan with several activities for the next 12 months is easy; sticking to it is the usual problem.  Include time for the preparation of materials, so that you don’t end up trying to prepare banners the week before a trade show…

In the end, marketing is not rocket science, but it takes certain skills and some know-how. You can buy that from agencies, but most high tech geeks start with their own money and want to do it all on their own. This is a brave and admirable move, but marketing is a professional’s game and it may help to learn a few things about it.

I will present more details about all of this next week in San Jose, California at the CLEO Conference, in Short Course SC440. I hope to see you there!