Marketing complex products and services is a challenge. Explaining things simply and convincing prospects the technology is valuable can be very difficult without a lot of time on hand and a road map of sorts.

Take voice over IP (VOIP). Although it's been available for a long time, it's just now beginning to be recognized in the mainstream. Geeks and technical folks adopted it early, and others followed as it began to spread with free online applications. Slowly, people saw the benefit of the technology and wanted more features, so telecommunications companies offered packages.

Companies with technology solutions market them by using case studies, charts and graphs, and testimonials as proof. But these approaches aren't always good enough to reel in the customers. What methods work well for marketing technical services and solutions?

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This Week's Dilemma

Marketing new bits and bytes

What is the best approach or message for marketing technical services and solutions? We have used case studies and everything that prove the numbers in the ROI, but these approaches just don't seem to be enough to break the mental barrier and engage customers in solutions and/or projects—even in circumstances when these solutions provide more benefits, in the long and short term, financially and otherwise, than other solutions offered at present. We're working with open-source in knowledge management and information management for Small-Medium Businesses (SMB). When in an uphill battle with the technology adoption cycle, how do you convince prospects of the value of hi-tech solutions?

—Glenn, consultant

Previous Dilemma

Brand-less thanks to changes

After 15 years, our Mom and Pop agency took on two partners that didn't work out. We went through many changes, including changing our name (which had moderate awareness) and positioned the change as the "Best of OldName—made even better." Instead of keeping that promise, our service tanked and chaos ensued. Now that we've broken away, we're stuck with a no-name moniker that we don't love and no brand. How do we proceed without looking unstable?

—Caroline, Advertising Manager

Summary of Advice Received

With many companies merging, buying out and changing names, Caroline's situation is not unusual. It's still good to take action to ensure a smooth transition and to keep business going as before. Readers provide the following advice:

  1. Get acceptance from employees.

  2. Use multiple communication methods.

  3. Promote the brand/name.

1. Get acceptance from employees

It appears as if the problem starts internally. Before reaching out, start working in your own backyard. Employees are your biggest asset in spreading the name change.

One reader says changing brands is not really a problem if well managed:

Our company has been through over six brand name changes and each time it has managed to maintain its customers. Our secret is to ensure that our staff buys into the brand change first and our service offering is maintained at the same high levels our customers expect. From Caroline's statements, [it seems that] the main cause of their problems is internal, and that's where they need to focus. Accept the new brand, learn to love it and be proud to represent the company. Once this is done, start to sort out the service problems.

2. Use multiple communication methods

It's always important to communicate with clients, but more so during this time of change. Hamza Mohammed, business development manager with Silk Route Beauty Products, provides two ways to do this:

First approach:

  1. Communicate the sensitive name change to loyal suppliers and ask them to use the same method with their customers to retain them.

  2. Communicate product features to other suppliers, who may wish to remain loyal to the product due to its quality.

Second approach:

  1. Directly monitor consumers' behavior at the point of purchase and provide a continuous feedback of the product.

  2. Do product sampling to consumers to give them confidence in the new name with the same features they need.

This situation calls for challenging action like those that Vikas, consultant with Planman Consulting, suggests:

  1. Communicate your real story to the right audience in a psychological manner.

  2. Position yourself on a new platform. This platform should have a solid base to communicate that your company made mistakes. Now it is accepting [them] and [coming] back with full potential, because your company has learned from its mistakes.

3. Promote the brand/name

Simply indicating a name change could be all you need to do. Use a little creativity to display the old name, then replace it with the new. Many large companies have done this, such as GTE becoming Verizon, Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems becoming Cingular, and Ernst and Young changing to Cap Gemini Ernst and Young when it merged with Cap Gemini.

Maya, with BRIM, provides promotion ideas:

This situation calls for adopting promotion methods that highlight the new name of your agency. Some ways to do this:

  1. Run TV ads—if affordable to you and even if they are as short as four seconds. The ads should repeat the name of the brand and the fact that it has changed from this to that.

  2. Put up banners in front of stores showing the new name and what it was before that with a promise for great results.

  3. Word-of-mouth is the ideal way of promoting your brand name. Encourage existing customers and employees to promote the brand name.

Ensure a smooth transition when making changes by getting staff buy-in, communicating and promoting.

You've got a marketing help desk right here. MarketingProfs readers have the tools to support you.

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.