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Education and Market Development for the Bar Code Industry

Market Tactics #1, The Information Age

In today's age of of mass media hype, it is difficult to get your message across to the potential customer. They have become accustomed to slogans and half-truths. A lot of money is spent spent hiring marketing professionals (no, the term is not an oxymoron) to counteract this problem.

One way to get someone's attention is to offer something regarded as valuable at a price they can't refuse, i.e. free. Value perceived by the potential customer is not necessarily expensive in cost, but may be expensive in time or experience. Information fits nicely into this category. Other things can  be used, such as pens, letter openers, flashlights, coffee mugs, etc., but they are limited in their advertising message and used only for specific tasks that have nothing to do with the products or services offered. Information directly related to your products and services and in a convenient form is a better choice. If done correctly, it is carefully read and saved for future use. Done incorrectly, it is a waste of time and money.

Type of Information

This is the information age. Everyone collects information, some a little more discriminately than others, but collect it nevertheless. If something can be offered that identifies the useful information with your company or product, you have created an extended life advertising campaign. The secret is to make sure that the information provided is useful enough to be referred to at periodic intervals.

No Commercials

Commercialism is the enemy of information. As soon as the Marketing department decides that the information should only mention the company's products and ignore the rest of the world, its value decreases in direct proportion to the number of times you leave out information that is unfavorable. Please, no snow jobs, only ski resorts appreciate those.

Format is Important

Another way to enhance the value of information is to package it correctly. I am amazed at how many companies produce these cute little brochures that fold up nicely and fit in a coat pocket. They are great for quick attention getters, but how many people do you know that carry these brochures around in their coat pocket for future reference? How many do you know that wear their coat all the time? If you do know someone like this, be very careful around them and suggest where they might go for professional counseling. Valuable information is worth saving, but only if it is convenient to do so. There is no good way to store these cute little brochures, even if they do contain valuable information. They do not fit on the bookshelf, they fall to the bottom of a file folder, you can't find a convenient way to punch them for a 3-ring notebook. The only thing convenient about them is that the vendor can mail them in a standard size #10 envelope!

If you want someone to save the "valuable information" you are providing, give it to them in a format that looks like it was made to be saved. An 8.5" x 11" format 3-hole punched is obviously intended to be stored in a notebook. It can be placed neatly on a bookshelf next to other information that the recipient deemed worthy of keeping. But a small brochure does not fit anywhere conveniently.. You can't leave it laying out, even if it is punched for storage it has to be unfolded and put in the binder sideways, making it difficult to read. (Only a certain class of magazine readers are accustomed to turning pages sideways for viewing.)

You can take it one step further and supply a storage vehicle along with the information, such as a 3-ring binder with your name and log screened on the outside. More expensive, but certainly something that is not going to get thrown away. Even if other information is placed in along with what you provide, the outside cover provides a constant reminder of your company and products.

Books are "In"

Books and booklets offer another format most people find impossible to discard. I have a shelf full of free "books" supplied by various manufacturers over the years That I cannot bring myself to throw away. If the manufacturer thought enough of the information to put it into a nicely bound book, who am I to just arbitrarily throw it in the trash? Especially when they so thoughtfully provided an estimate of its true worth by printing a $35 price in the upper right corner. I must be missing something when I read them because I don't think I would pay that much most of the time.

Books also come in assorted sizes, so there is much more latitude in acceptable formats. One of the best things the software industry did for the world is make the 8.5" high by 5.5" wide format popular. Now you can make a book with twice as many pages. A book with twice as many pages must contain twice as much information, right?

The Best Part

Last, but certainly not least, is the cost. Using today's desktop publishing software, a very nice book (or booklet) can be written an published with a minimal cash outlay. The actual printing cost for a 24 page 8.5" x11" softcover booklet can be as low as 75 cents in quantities of 1000. Certainly less than a buck and probably cheaper than most pay for a slick, 4-color glossy fold-out spec sheet that gets thrown away as soon as you get home from the trade show.

Understanding the Concept

Some are better at understanding the information gambit better than others. I still have my old beat-up copy of "Bar Code Symbology" by David Allias, published in 1985. It contains so much useful information that it is difficult to imagine why everyone does not have a copy. My only complaint is that it is not 3-hole punched to fit in a binder, and too thick for me to punch it with my El Cheapo 3-holer!

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