As marketing professionals, it is our job to stimulate demand for a company's goods and services with one of two outcomes: increasing sales volume or increasing price.

When it comes to selling big-ticket items or complex services, increasing sales volume is often not an option. Fewer customers require these specialized solutions. Those that do require them tend to purchase only once, or—at best—infrequently.

Low sales volumes are not the only reason that companies look to marketers to generate higher prices for big-ticket items and complex solutions. These sales are also more expensive to conduct and close. Customers, anticipating that the purchase will have a significant impact on their businesses, usually require several levels of approval before they decide to buy, and sales cycles stretch out.

So, how do marketers get the price premiums they need?

First, marketers tap into prospective customers' most pressing needs and raise awareness of the "pain" prospects will experience if they fail to buy. Then, they develop a compelling value proposition that demonstrates how their solution is superior to that of the competition. The only caveat is that "superior" means different things to different people. Nowhere is this more apparent than when selling technology.

Like their peers in other industries that sell complex solutions, high-tech marketers employ a variety of tools to create value, depending on where the prospective customer is in the buying process and the departments that they need to win over. Brochures describe the benefits that users will experience, such as higher quality outcomes or increased ease of use. ROI calculators help financial buyers evaluate the return on investment the solution will deliver. Case studies help decision makers vicariously experience the results and benefits that others have derived from the product or service.

Technology marketers, however, face yet another hurdle. Whether the technology is a minimally invasive device for a teaching hospital or an automated enterprise-wide auditing system that assures compliance with Sarbanes Oxley, few of their sales close without the recommendation of a specialist whose job it is to compare technologies and determine whether each vendor's solution will perform as promised.

Technical Marketing's Secret Weapon

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Barbara Bix is managing principal of BB Marketing Plus, where she helps companies enhance their brands by capturing and enhancing the customer experience.