Creating a News Release

October 21, 2009

Distributing a news release is an opportunity for your company to announce a new product, service, technology, or collaboration with another vendor to the media, investors, and customers. For our National Instruments Alliance Partners, we hope that you take advantage of these opportunities to tell your story in a meaningful way.

Some things to keep in mind

Your news release should announce something fresh and newsworthy and have an eye-catching headline that summarizes the main news and is benefit-oriented. Editors receive hundreds of news releases daily, so you should refrain from creating releases that are merely disguised advertising. It is much more effective if you focus on your company’s new developments and relate those developments to popular industry trends. Not only should you think about your news, but you should consider how it relates to the media you are targeting. Research the publications on your distribution lists to ensure that you are sending the most appropriate news to each outlet.

A Helping Hand

If you are planning to distribute an NI Alliance Partner news release, the NI Corporate Communications Department can help by reviewing your release for technical accuracy and appropriate content as well as providing quotes from NI spokespeople. Please send drafts of your NI Alliance Partner news releases to pr@ni.com.


Alliance Strategies – Part 5 – Systems

July 6, 2009

Products – Systems

Some Alliance Partners produce solutions into standard systems. Note that NI still classifies these companies as “Solution Partners,” because they channel NI products, rather than “Product Partners” that co-market a complementary tool. The concept of turning repeat projects into standard products is definitely a good one, but you should avoid the temptation of creating generic systems. Saying that your system “Will Test Anything” is not credible or compelling to the user. Instead, consider marketing a series of specific systems. The series may rely on a common architecture, but the individual models are more compelling and actionable.

As opposed to a tools-level business that relies on mass marketing to generate numerous sales leads, a system-level business requires more market research to proactively target customers, rather than waiting for customers to contact you. Advertising and sending direct mail to large databases is often inefficient. It is quicker to simply identify your potential customers and contact them directly. Here is a hint – do not solely use the Web and search engines to market yourself, but rather, use them to proactively identify customers.

Also different than the tools-level business, the sales process is not typically transactional but rather a complex, long sales process. It is actually more similar to a services business. However, pricing strategy is quite different. Often, a services business builds a project on a time- and material-basis, but systems should be priced according to customer value and what the market can bear. Because specific customer requirements often differ, you may want quote standard system plus customization. Many skilled system suppliers often leverage the sales opportunity by offering a subscription component for ongoing maintenance and support.

Working with NI

As previously mentioned, the NI business model is optimized for mass marketing and selling tools. Therefore, while we both sell products, our processes may be completely different. It may be tempting to market to the NI database, but for the most part, our database is full of “do-it-yourself” engineers. That is not to say that NI is not interested in marketing, but we recognize our emphasis is typically about how your system is a great use of our tools, rather than solution-level marketing to end users. Still, any publicity is good publicity, so you should certainly pursue how NI marketing campaigns and activities can highlight your system. For example, NI seeks solution-level collateral for its Web site, vertical events, and the Alliance Partner news section of Instrumentation Newsletter.

Similarly, the field sales organization is primarily tasked with tools-level selling. Don’t expect an NI DSM to sell (or even know about) your system. However, please use DSMs as a resource, not as a sales channel. Rather than wait for them to call you, proactively contact DSMs regarding your target accounts. They can tell you if NI has already made end-roads into the account. You can offer to bring them along on your sales visits. They should likely be interested and can provide you with credibility and local backing.

In some instances, NI may have a business development manager dedicated to your industry area. If so, they can assist you in your marketing and sales efforts and act as a liaison for working with the NI sales and marketing organizations.


Alliance Strategies – Part 4 – Products

July 1, 2009

Products – Tools

The Alliance Partner program also includes “Product Partner” companies that offer tools-level products complementary to those from National Instruments, such as cameras, motors, stages, sensors, and more.

In addition, Alliance Partners package their expertise into National Instruments LabVIEW add-ons and toolkits. Often, the most successful Alliance Partners tend to be more vertical with significant value added, not generic routines. Besides, if your product is truly general purpose, NI is probably developing a similar product already. Before developing such a product, you may want to consider whether it is really something you want to produce or keep as a competitive advantage. Often, a toolkit can become a calling card to sell your services.

Another consideration is whether you are actually prepared for the product business model. Becoming a tools supplier requires a different approach to R&D, marketing, sales, and support. Selling tools requires mass marketing techniques. You need data sheets, demos, a Web presence, and more. Selling tools also requires a short sales cycle, so you need to invest in Web and tele-sales. Be sure to price your tools to include marketing and support costs.

Working with NI

The good news is that NI sells and markets at the tools-level, so it is easier to integrate and leverage our business development efforts. You can start with marketing your tool on ni.com. Your Alliance Partner profile should include your product description. If it is an NI LabVIEW add-on, it automatically shows up in the LabVIEW Tools Network. Third-party advisors, such as Motion Advisor and Camera Advisor, also may be applicable.

Product partners also can take advantage of marketing at NI events. For example, you can exhibit at NIWeek, NI Technical Symposium (NITS), and NIDays to interface with NI customers looking for the latest tools from NI and its partners.

For specialty tools, contact the product marketing manager whose product closely aligns with yours to discuss co-marketing plans. Recognize that the product marketing manager’s primary goal is generating leads for his or her products, so co-marketing should be a win-win situation. For example, use a direct mail campaign or Webinar that cross-markets to both your database and an NI database.

While it is tempting to think that the worldwide NI sales organization can become your virtual sales force, it is probably too much to expect sales to remember your product. NI district sales managers (DSMs) are busy trying to keep up with NI product releases. Rather than sending the DSMs your literature, make sure you are listed on ni.com. This way, the NI sales organization can find you too. You also can talk to your respective product marketing manager to learn how you can participate in his or her sales training and information as a way to get the attention of the NI sales force.


Alliance Strategies – Part 3 – Specialist

June 29, 2009

Services – Specialist

Specialists differentiate their services offerings by positioning themselves as the market expert, rather than a market generalist. In doing so, these companies limit opportunities to that niche but can better focus their business development efforts and often charge a premium for their services. To effectively market your specialty, you must track your customer’s market forces and watch for evaporation. Here is a hint – simply stating that you are a National Instruments LabVIEW expert is not enough. Even calling yourself an expert with the NI LabVIEW Real-Time Module or other specific NI products is not sufficient. Think in terms of your customers. Identify your expertise in their terms, not National Instruments terms.

In many respects, business development for a specialist is the same as a generalist. Both are service-oriented business and require appropriate sales and marketing techniques. However, specialists do have something more specific to align your marketing and sales efforts around. You can network within your niche through customer references, vertical publications, and vertical trade shows. You then can better sell your unique value to a known customer list. Hiring salespeople is still difficult, but at least it is a differentiated expertise.

Working with NI

NI customers and NI salespeople often consult our online directory to identify companies with particular specialties. Therefore, it is imperative that your Alliance Partner profile includes specific information about your services. Please note that you can create separate service descriptions for each of your specialty areas. Be sure to include keywords for your specialty to increase your search relevancy.

Additionally, figure out the product marketing manager who has the most to gain from your special expertise. You can produce unique technical content; NI is always looking for success stories, particularly with newer products, that it can turn into technical articles for the Web, trade publications, and more.

As a specialist, you also have more opportunity to network with NI salespeople outside of your geography. Through your efforts with NI marketing, you can build your reputation in other geographic areas. You can also ask your local NI sponsor to introduce you to other NI salespeople in regions you would like to conduct business.

You might even consider partnering with other integrators. By differentiating your niche expertise, you can position yourself as complementary. Let them know you can subcontract your expertise as part of a larger project.


Alliance Strategies – Part 2 – Generalist

June 24, 2009

Services – Generalist

Marketing a service is difficult because the offering is intangible; there is not a specific product with a set of features and benefits you can readily market. Instead, you need to develop and market your service brand. This is largely your identity and reputation, but you can make it more tangible by developing a consistent look and feel for not only your marketing material, but also for your documentation, quotes, customer communication, software user interfaces, system enclosures, and more. Even your project methodology and the way you conduct business can help develop a marketable brand. Once this becomes more tangible, you have something to market to the local community through local trade shows, events, and more.

Sales for a services business is all about relationships. You must constantly network with vendors, customers, and the community. Most generalists heavily rely on their entrepreneurs to lead sales efforts. Hiring traditional sales people is difficult because there is not a tangible product to sell. Therefore, it often takes the credibility of the entrepreneur to convince the customer that he or she can commit the organization to complete the project. However, in a services company, it is the entire staff’s job to sell the company. Everyone who interfaces with a customer should be able to give the ‘elevator speech’ on his or her company’s capabilities.

Working with NI

Because marketing intangible services is quite different than the vast majority of typical NI product marketing, most engagement happens at the local, not corporate level. Undoubtedly, the biggest marketing benefit at the corporate level is the Alliance Partner directory on ni.com. With more than a million Web site visits each month, it is critical to keep your Alliance Partner profile complete and accurate. If a customer is looking for a local consultant or integrator, it is likely that he or she consults the Alliance Partner directory.

At the local level, NI provides numerous opportunities to network at its local events, user group meetings, seminars, and more. Attendees meet local NI regional marcom, find out what is going on, and learn how to get involved. In addition, you should stay in regular contact with the local NI sales organization. Keep sales posted on your opportunity and project status. What is the status of your project proposals? How are your current projects going (both good and bad)? When does your next project begin? Overall, it never hurts to keep the sales organization informed, so sales employees can keep their eyes open.