From Technical Marketing


The true value of web analytics to digital marketers

In the management world, there is an old adage “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” For digital marketers a slight switch to this might be more accurate “If you can’t measure it, you won’t get budget for it.”

Since I started my career in digital marketing, I constantly heard marketing fellows complaining about how frustrating it is to get upper managers to support online marketing efforts.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to hire a consultant for ‘social strategy’, won’t an intern do the Facebook job?”

“I understand the website is really important, but let’s focus on contacting clients directly for the moment; the inbound thing might come later.”

All these doubts attribute to one single question “How does digital marketing contribute to the business bottom line?” If you can’t answer this question in a few sentences with quantitative proofs, I’m sure you’d have a hard time getting the budget.

Web analytics is used, or sometimes misused, by online marketers to defend their marketing endeavours. With all the tables, colourful charts and fancy terms, the marketing report instantly looks ten times more convincing. To my great regret, that’s how the first time I get my marketing budget and recruit a few allies on my side.

Evaluating results of digital marketing is one of the important things that web analytics can do for you. But the true value of web analytics is not explaining the past, but guiding the future decisions. Any small thing changed, wether it’s related to marketing, custom services, usability or sales procedure, will lead to some reactions in customer’s online behaviour: visits, new visitors, time spent, bounce, conversion, etc. These small changes accumulate and contribute to bigger change in business results.

Leaving these metrics unchecked, you might still get the final result. But you will never understand what are the factors behind it, and how to make the same miracle again.

By paying close attention to these metrics, we can break down the bigger result into smaller actions; understand how each action moves the metrics up and down.

Let’s suppose your new campaign was a big success. Without web analytics, you might still see more deals were made, but it would be difficult to understand the reason:

Did we get larger audience in the potential market?

Did we improve the conversion rate?

Were the copies or the price make the clients clicked?

Which channel brought us the most effective audience?

Can we improve something to make the results better?

With web analytics, you can measure separately where people came, what they did, how long they stayed and when they left. It would be possible to deduce the recipe of your success.

The true value of web analytics lies on how it helps us to understand better our decisions and make the success replicable.


Marketing lessons that I’ve learnt in Korea

Experience in a foreign country will always leave something to us, whether we like it or not. It gives us another way to look at, think about and do things.

Since I’m leaving South Korea, it’s a good time to reflect on things that I’ve experienced and learnt here.

In the first article, I want to talk about some marketing techniques that Korean companies do extremely well, that we can consider in our own business.

Lesson 1: Appearance is important

At childhood, We got lectured by parents that the inner beauty is more important than outside appearance. At school, we were told the function of a product should be emphasised over its form.

But in Korea, things are ironically different. Everything is judged by its appearance – whether it’s people, fashion, product or food. The look plays an extremely important role for someone or something to be accepted.

cosmetic packages
Packages for cosmetic products

I was quite annoyed by this appearance obsession at first. Slowly I started to see the value in this culture, especially the vital energy it brings to the market.

The appearance of your product gives you unfair advantages in competitions. You might argue that the function and quality are more important, but in many cases, the functionality of a product is very difficult to quantify:
– all the products have acceptable quality but have slightly different functions. ex: cosmetics
– the function of a product is too complicated for a single customer to understand. ex: CRM system

In these cases, customers cannot rely on pure quality comparison to decide. They have to consider more illusory aspects of the product, such as branding, experience, trustfulness. For any of these aspects, the appearance plays a vital role. Design of the package, quality of the catalog, posters, flyers, looks of your website influence how customers would perceive the value of your product, attribute your brand to high-end or lower-end of the market.

Lesson 2: Sell a dream, not a product

Korean drama suddenly stormed the international entertainment market in few years. One of the reasons that people like it is Korean drama is very dream-like. Handsome young man and kind-hearted young lady overcome all the obstacles and emotional moments to come to the happy ending. Everything – settings, lights, fashions and flawless makeups, contributes to the dream.

After I came to Korea, I discovered that the Korean’s dream-making ability is not limited to its dramas.

Entering a cosmetic shop, you instantly feel that you are in the center of beauty palace. It only makes sense to care for beauty. All the colorful boxes and shining bottles call for your attention.

cosmetic store
A cosmetic store featured with pink decoration in South Korea

During weekends, some downtown areas are transformed to paradise for young couples. Hundreds of small coffee shops and western restaurants feature the theme of romance. You’d feel forbade to go there alone.

Korean beef created its image of prestige through great marketing campaigns in grocery stores, restaurants, and TV programs about how local foods are fresh, nutritious and healthy. It only makes sense to feel Korean beef taste better than imported ones.

A typical promotional poster about Korean beef made by Korean beef association

Sell a dream, not a product. By selling a product, you are selling functionalities. by selling a dream, perceived value of your product is beyond the imagination. People are not buying a bottle of lotion, they are buying the expectation of beauty. Young couples don’t go to restaurant for food, they go there for creating a memory.


Why should you take discount seriously… and what to consider?

Piled up requests in the mailbox reminded me that it’s the end of the fiscal year. Every marketer in the team knows what this means: sleepless nights to prepare for special promotions.

The promotional leaflet always looks fresh, carefully designed following the latest color trend and layout pattern. It will then go through several feedback sessions to change fonts, shades and copies. However, the red percentage number, discount price, seems to be neglected by everyone. “Shouldn’t it be 30% as usual?” Here we send out the year-end promotion, with every detail polished, expect for the discount price, which was decided within 20 seconds based on the “as usual” norm.

The upper part describes how NOT to design the promotional leaflet. You might laugh, but it will astonish you how often promotions are carried out in this manner.

Price is the most powerful and neglected weapon of marketers. We use it every day but rarely give it enough thought that it deserves. Discussing price is difficult. Everyone has some sense of design aesthetics. Most marketers can generate ideas to drive sales volume. A great part of us has the intuition to reduce cost and increase efficiency. However, very little can say what will happen if the price is increased even by 2%.

Although it’s difficult, the discount price by no means should be taken lightly. Done wrong, it can dangerously sabotage your business. To decide the discount price, we need to consider the following 4 questions.

1. Is your product sensitive to discount?

In other words, if you reduce the price by 10%, how many more sales do you think you can make? What about 30% or 50%? Not every product is sensitive to discount. The high price is often regarded as prestige and high quality. If your product is new to the market, and quality is considered very important by your clients, discounting the price might suggest poor quality and attribute your product to the lower end of the market.

2. Are you getting new customers or borrowing customers from yesterday/tomorrow?

When you discount, there are two unhealthy states you want to avoid: borrowing customers from yesterday and borrowing customers from tomorrow.

By borrowing customer from yesterday, I mean when customers get used to your seasonal discount, they will stop purchasing normally and only buy during promotional seasons.

I live close to a subway station near Seoul, South Korea. Since many young Koreans take the subway to go to downtown, cosmetic shops find their potential clients. As more and more shops opened the competition between fierce. Each time I went down the street, I saw big posters featuring 50% discount or 1+1 events. At first, I would take the chance to visit the shop and purchase one or two products that I didn’t plan to buy. Soon, I figured out the shop was having sales half of the time and It made no sense for me to rush. My behavior changed, I would stop buying things when there is no discount, and only visit a cosmetic shop during its promotions.

By borrowing customer from tomorrow, I mean you make discounts to customers who are going to purchase your products anyway. And since they purchase the product today, they will not purchase them for a long time in the future.

Many companies are measuring the efficiency of promotions wrong. I often see people say “During this promotion, we increased our sales by 40%”. While the number looks good, the reality can be different. It’s not uncommon that after promotions, sales fall because customers use up their inventories. To measure the real efficiency, we need to put the promotion in a larger context and longer period.

I worked with a team that sells civil engineering software to Vietnam market. As the economic status of Vietnam was considered lower in South Korea, our strategy was to enter the market with huge discounts. At first, the outcome was great, we quickly attracted attentions from the construction industry and sold many copies. Just before we were about to put more efforts into it and open a branch office in Hanoi, the sales suddenly stopped. The customers who wanted the software already bought it during promotions, we’ve exhausted the market before even entering it.

When you make discount, the best practice is creating new customers or new sales opportunities. If your promotion is borrowing customers from yesterday or tomorrow, then you might need to reconsider about it.

3. Does discount brings you more profit or more revenue?

One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in my work is that profit is different from revenue.

Let’s suppose your promotion campaign increased sales revenue by 20%. Should you feel happy? relieved? safe? Absolutely not, you should think “What about the profit?” While revenue is important, the profitability of a campaign shouldn’t be neglected. At last, the ultimate purpose of most companies is making money.

Although promotions can easily increase the revenue, making a profitable discount is harder than you thought.

Let’s break it up in a simplified example. Imagine we are selling a 100$ product, the normal sales volume is 100 pieces. Suppose now we make a discount of 20% and sell 50% more instead. Do we earn more money?

You’d be fooled to give a conclusion quickly because the profitability depends on cost too. If the variable cost is 70$/piece, we are actually losing half of the money.

revenue and profit

It is, therefore, important to understand your bottom line to make discount that doesn’t harm your profits.

To-Do and Not-To-Dos for Your Technical Product Website

My last article talks about common misunderstandings towards good technical product website, and how to use simply 5 steps to assess yours. I do recommend you to go through it. You will have a better understanding of not only your website’s performance, but also your clients.

However if you are not that enthusiastic about the web design stuff, and just want to spot some to-do and not-to-do things, this post is a shortcut.

This simple image shows basic contents to add, and rules to consider for a business website. For technical product there are extra considerations, but let’s start from simple things.

<Image Credit:>


Your product is the star of the website, not the company, not the stakeholders and definitely not the CEO himself. It will be different if your goal is to attract investors instead of selling products, but then it’s a better idea to have a separate corporation website. Trying to serve two bosses – investors and clients with the same website usually goes wrong.

Make sure your product is very prominent , and people can have a good impression of it in the first 10 seconds landing to your homepage. It means you need to briefly introduce your product and its unique benefits above the first scroll of the homepage.

Seeing the product helps too , so don’t hesitate to add a nicely taken (but still realistic) picture. If your product is very complex and conceptual, and you find difficulty to explain it within several words, adding a intro video can be a better option.

Many companies put company values, CEO motto or happy employee pictures on the homepage. Think it again before doing that, because your clients don’t know you yet, it probably isn’t the best moment to talk about your values. They come here with specific needs, show them how your product can fulfill their needs. Company morality can surely help to build trust, but it’s better to put them on a separate page called “About Company”.


Product website is not only about introducing products, after all it’s about making business. Make sure that your clients constantly understand what to do next , and make the the conversion process barrier free.

The idea is simple, but everything can go terribly wrong when it comes to technical companies, for whom sales lead time is exceptionally long, and closing the deal needs many human efforts. Companies know a “Buy Online” button might not work in this case, and they are driven to the opposite extreme – hiding everything behind a same contact us web form. This practice sounds lazy and inconsiderate, because it provides little information about when, from who, how the feedback will come, and gives client no way to preview or control the process.

There are simple ways to make your website looks welcoming without giving out too much purchasing details.

  • Share as much inessential information as possible . If you don’t want to share the price, then just keep the price itself as secret. Let people know what packages and options they can choose; give them some anticipation about the price level in the market; use a customer comment to reassure them. There are many creative ways to do this. Don’t write “Contact for price” only, it scares off many clients.
  • Give client control and anticipation . Tell your client what will happen after he fills the form – when will he receive the feedback? Should he anticipate a sales call? Will some technical engineer talk with him regarding his project? How the sales will proceed? Give client power to control the process – how does he want to be contacted? To whom he wants to talk to?
  • Provide contact form alternatives . Not every client likes the idea of waiting the feedback passively. They might want to email or talk to you right away. Make sure leaving at least one email and telephone number on your website. There are many other options too, such as a LinkedIn account of client support, a live chat tool or a live demo request. People want to talk to people, not to web forms, so it won’t harm to be more human.

Selling is not the only Call-to-Action to have. You can use different types of Call-to-Action to capture leads at different stages of the purchase. White paper download can capture first time visitors who shows interest in the topic. Newsletter signup can capture leads who want to keep a long term engagement. Online demo request shows a client starts to consider your product. There are many signs that indicate a lead is evolving along your business process. Capture these moments using CTAs so you can generate many leads, as well as get enough information to make wise decisions.


One thing that I’ve learnt in technical marketing is the importance of peer approval. Engineers, who may not be easily moved by advertising hypes or well polished demos, can usually be convinced by several words from peers or an authority figure .

There was once a prospect who had requested many efforts from us – customized technical demo, support on a project, benchmark comparison with several competitor products. We tried everything but the case was still no where to be closed. I almost gave up until someone decided to let one of our users talk to him instead, and the deal was closed the second week.

It was not an accident case. The same magic happens several times. It seems clients have their own way of communication which can not be replaced by efforts from vender side.

Adding customer testimonials to your website is a perfect way to gain trust. So how to get and use testimonials to achieve the best performance.

  • Always ask for feedbacks . The best way to get effective testimonials is to accumulate them from usual communications. Deciding to put testimonials online next week, and asking your customers to write them for you is not a good idea. First, they might refuse to do this for you. Second, you might get very bad testimonials. When I say “bad”, I do’t mean customers will say bad words about your product. Oppositely, they will say too much good but general things about your product that the testimonial can’t touch anyone .

When you ask a customer write a testimonial under no particular circumstance, he really wants to help you, but the only thing he can make is something like “X company is a very good company – people are good; products are good; support is good; everything is good.” This testimonial is too general that it doesn’t answer any particular question, thus it won’t trigger any particular interest.

The feedbacks that you get everyday, however, are collected under specific circumstances. The customer might found a feature is particularly useful in one project, or a technical support is extremely helpful with the new installation. Collect these small pieces first, and ask for permission when you want to use them. You will finish with more effective customer testimonials.

  • Avoid sales pitch like testimonials. The magic of testimonials lies in the objectivity of the comments. There is nothing worse than a testimonial that sounds like the customer took some advantage from the company, and try to sell the product. It sounds suspicious and usually evoke negative impression.

A product has its strength and weakness, a testimonial should focus on the strengths, giving a large amount of specific examples, but it shouldn’t avoid the obvious weakness, or even twist the facts. Yes, a good testimonial can also talk about weakness, as long as the customer can explain how he made made the tradeoff.



Is Your Technical Product Website Good Enough ? Check it in 5 steps

My last article talks about why companies of technically complex product should market online. I will use several articles to illustrate main blocks of online marketing, and explain how to start it with success.

A good point to start is your company’s homepage. Not only because it might be the only online channel for the moment, but also because it will be the kernel of your whole online marketing system.

When I tell companies to upgrade their websites, people often roll their eyes and say, “I see where this is going. I know those old website stuffs, and we have a pretty good one. Why don’t you just skip this one, and tell me more about the Facebook.” The truth is very little company have good enough homepages to back up their marketing activities on Facebook, or anywhere else.

Of course it’s easy to spot some obviously bad company websites. The ones that were developed 10 years ago when the companies were founded, featured with old fashioned graphical design and outdated information. I call this innocent mistake, because people can see it and make the upgrade as soon as they are ready.

Many more bad websites are in a less obvious but much more dangerous way. “Your website is the name card of your company and product, it should have an impeccably professional look.” that’s probably what your web design contractor told you when he updated your website to the modern standard. You are content with the professional look homepage, but it’s a huge trap here. Many companies fell here, and never go to the next level.

People don’t go to your homepage to admire the professional look; people go there to find useful information. The look is just a plus which gives your content more credit. Web designer can tell you the most popular colour trend, but he cannot tell you what to say about the product to convince the clients, nor he can tell you how to support clients technically on the website.

Company homepage is not a name card, it’s a operation system holding the business wisdom and logic of your company.

– For clients, the homepage is a store held by trustful owner, where he find product information, get trustable advice, try the product and get feedback from other clients.

– For general public, the homepage is like a library, where they search for industrial insights. They come and go freely, but they will come back to you when they need a product because they trust your advice.

– For your product users, the homepage is like a user club, where users get together, exchange ideas and find help from experts.

Company website holds so many business roles that it should be informational and flexible enough to satisfy different people’s needs. It should also have enough business value to help you capture prospects and facilitate sales.

Now, follow the steps below to check if your website is informational, flexible and has enough business value for online marketing.

Step 1. Don’t open your website yet. Take a pencil and a piece of blank paper. Now imagine yourself as a client – you need a similar product, but you are not sure if it’s the right one to buy.
– Note down the major steps you will take to investigate the and purchase the product.
– For each major step, list down the information needed to help you make purchase decision.

Step 2. Now open your website and walk through the steps on the paper. Can you find information needed? Is it easy to understand? Is it logically organized? What additional information can make the offer looks more favorable? What improvements can make the investigation smoother? Write down your discoveries.

The trick here is to think from the prospective of your clients. Focus on what they want instead of what you want to give them. It requires deep understanding of clients. If you feel difficulty with this exercise, try to talk with some real clients, or co-workers who have more opportunities communicating with clients.

Step 3. Repeat a similar process, but this time, pretend that you just bought the product. On a blank paper, write down major supports needed to start implementing the product. Visit the website again and check if you can easily find information and support.

Repeat this several times pretending you are different types of user, and thinking about their different needs for support.

Step 4. Pretend yourself as someone similar to your client’s profile, but has no immediate need for the product. Write down what information can nurture your trust towards the company. Don’t focus too much on the product itself, think about something interesting or educational. Check on the website if there’s something beneficial for you even though you don’t need the product.

Step 5. In this final step, you are not going to pretend to be someone else, just your normal self. Go through the website again and think how you can capture more business value. Is there anywhere your prospects can give you their contact information? Is there someway they can recommend your product to other people? Is the purchasing procedure clear enough? Is there any roadblock that discourage them to contact you?

After completing the 5 steps above, you will have a clear idea about your website’s performance. Reorganize your notes, and try to integrate them in future upgrading projects. Work together with your web design contractor (or in-house web designer), instead of giving your product website’s whole fate to someone who is professional for design, but really don’t understand or care about your product. Follow my advice, and I’m sure you will get much more benefit from this than any visual update.

Marketing for Technically Complex Product

Each industry sector has its own rule of doing business.

Telecom service relies heavily on selling new bundles to old clients. My mobile service sends me daily messages: proposing a discounted iPhone package, a faster connection, a 2-hour free call plan… I’m always amazed by their imagination to repackage old things and put it as a new product on the shelf. I call this method Lego marketing.

Online shopping malls are good at understanding client’s preference and make up-sells. I keep receiving emails from amazon since my last order, recommending all the best-sellers on technical sales.

However as the product becomes more technically complex, these fluffy tactics disappear, and we go back to the good old business way. No place for fancy promotions and hearty small talks. We meet the real persons and show them the real things – features and figures, the only things important in engineer’s mind. “Let the technique speaks for itself” is the motto of my engineer manager.

Marketers are considered tricky and technically weak by engineers, and we certainly don’t want to be associated with such low profile.

That’s why before I came to my good sense, the most audacious marketing move that I ever did was sending out an email to remind users about maintenance fees. I still remember this email. The main body was a long list of new features, and the bottom was “By the way, we have upgraded the 7/24 technical support exclusively for maintenance users”, which I thought was a diplomatic way to say “Pay your maintenance or we’ll stop your service”. Now you see how engineers tend to avoid marketing, or bring up the money talk generally.

I wanted to know why engineers hate marketing, and asked this question to several other engineers. The answers I got are very interesting.

“But we shouldn’t lie to clients, making promises that we cannot technically achieve”

“I’m here to create value, not to dance in party mascot”

These are two common misunderstandings of engineers towards marketers: cheater and clown. I cannot figure out why they think like that, properly they are victims of bad marketers or stereotyped Hollywood movies.

Good marketing is opposite of all these. Good Marketing is about building the real transparency of the product, helping clients make wiser choice and delivering the value that engineers have worked so hard to create. It is important for telecom service and bookstore, but it is even more important for companies who provide technically complex products. I’ll just mention 2 important reasons.

1) Technical clients need more information and longer time to purchase

If you are selling boiler equipment, or structural design software, you can hardly close a deal in weeks, even months is an optimistic estimate. Just because the product involves too many technical specificities and too much value that client cannot risk to take impulsive decisions. Client needs longer time to collect information, compare options and discuss involving multiple roles.

You might count on your product to shine through the proposal or technical demonstration, but the competition starts long before your sales rep pick up the first call.

With a simple search on google, product information that anyone can find is beyond imagination — specification, online manuals, product in action videos, reports comparing similar products, good and bad reviews from clients… All these contents contribute to client’s decision making.

Without enough marketing activities to create good rich contents and build that trust, you can imagine the product at unfair disadvantage in the competition.

2) Technical clients need more after-sale care

You might naturally think people who have bought your product know perfectly well how to implement and use it, but that is far from truth. It’s not rare case that only when calling for renew fee, we realised that the software has been somewhere to collect dust since the last engineer who could use it left the company. It’s sad to lose a life-time client, but it’s heart-broken to see the value that we’ve created is wasted.

If you’ve already created the product, why not take a further step to educate people how to use it properly? Why not build something to let your users find support and help from not just you but other users?

One excuse is it’s “good to have” but not “urgent”, and since there are tons of client queries to answer, let’s do it next time.

Another one is building this system seems effort and money taking, but we can’t easily measure its performance as counting the number of support tickets.

There’s certainly something to change in our habitual way of thinking client support. Solving more queries don’t necessarily means providing better service. It can also mean clients can’t find information themselves so they have to ask you for help. There are probably other clients who don’t bother to ask you, and switch to another product instead, just like the company which stopped using our software because new engineers don’t know how to start learning it.

Building a content system is not easy, but the benefits is huge.
– It provides natural marketing to both prospects and existing clients. People will trust you and your product, just because they get good advice from you.

– Your users start to support themselves instead of sending you all the questions, so you save your valuable time.

– Once the system is made and contents are created, they will stay and help more and more people, your influence will get an exponential growth.

That is what marketing looks like. It’s all about building trust and delivering value using knowledge.

But do I need a marketing specialist to take care of all that or can I do it by myself?

Ideally, yes, there should be a technical marketing specialist understanding both technique and business, leading a whole team to create content, to make marketing materials to build marketing channels and to run marketing campaigns. But let’s be realistic, unless you work in a top 500 company, or a start-up SaaS, it’s unlikely that you’ll have this privilege. More likely there is no such team, one person (probably you) occasionally takes some time to update the new feature descriptions to your company’s homepage.

In this case you, technical engineer, will be the only hope. Take the responsibility and be the hero for your product. I will show you in future posts that, after learning a little bit of marketing knowledge and skills, you can be the perfect marketing leader for your product.