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Division of General Engineering

ENGM 3200 - Technology Marketing

Technology Marketing is a structured course for senior undergraduates as a final elective course culminating a minor or concentration in Engineering Management. The course is designed around a company-sponsored student team project. Three-person student teams apply a comprehensive (“soup-to-nuts”) approach to developing a strategic marketing plan for a sponsor. The marketing plan may address a new product initiative, a new market segment, a better go-to-market strategy (channels, marketing communication), competitive positioning, or the elements of the business model (demand, pricing, etc.).

(For an overview of all the types of Engineering Management projects we offer and to learn how they work, see For Prospective Project Sponsors.)

Offered in the Fall Semester

Contents of the Marketing Plan

As a starting point for considering what you’d like the team to focus on, you may find it helpful to refer to the generic outline of the marketing strategy that every team will follow. You can then “cut to fit” this outline to your particular priorities. The market plan consists of three parts:

Part 1: Market Analysis

Market Scanning, Segmentation, and Application Finding. One of the secrets of successful technology companies is that they have managed to find a “natural resonant frequency” between their core technologies and the particular markets or segments they are serving. To find this best fit for their client company, the team systematically scans the market, including markets beyond the company’s immediate customer industry. Often a company will have a marketing plan in place for a technology or product line, but it would like to develop a more limited marketing plan for a particular application, product extension, market segment, or geographic region. In this case, the team identifies and evaluates promising but under-exploited market segments and recommends steps to specifically target the needs and characteristics of the selected segments.

Competitive Analysis. One of the iron laws of nature and marketing is that no two objects can occupy the same position at the same time. With a unique competitive position, companies can avoid the attrition of head-to-head competition, and protect their profit margins from erosion of price wars and commoditization. The team maps the competitive environment, identifies the most significant direct or indirect competitors or competing technologies, analyzes their strengths, strategies, and vulnerabilities, identifies potential sources of competitive differentiation, and formulates a competitive strategy.

The Value Proposition. The value proposition for a product or technology is more than a "pitch" to the marketplace; it is an organizing principle for the design and assessment of all of the company's activities, from R&D to manufacturing, finance, information strategy, human resources, and customer service and support. Without it, the company is in danger of drifting and losing focus. For business-to-business markets, the team maps the prospect’s business processes and ferret out the “leverage points,” the factors toward which to aim the business case. Around these leverage points it builds a value model that allows the company and its prospective customers to estimate the customer's return-on-investment from adopting the product or technology.

Part 2. Marketing Strategy

Product Strategy. Good product management is all about getting the right product with the right features to the right market at the right price and at the right time. But how do you hit your target when the product is early in its life cycle, and potential users lack the experience to offer reliable guidance to the developer? One answer for many early stage products is rapid prototyping - putting early versions of a new product out quickly and at low cost, watching how users respond to it, and incorporating that feedback into the next product “probe.” In a few iterations, the market teaches you what clicks. Where an early version of the company’s offering is ready and the company wishes to test it with an early adopter, the team will develop an “instrumented market probe” (observation, interviews, and other data collection) that will allow it to collect user feedback on how the offering works out in a live setting, its direct and indirect impacts on user operations, and user ideas for product improvement.

Marketing Communications Program. Once they have an offering in hand, companies have to break through the clutter of competitors and the noise they generate to build a distinct, powerful brand. The team helps the company to determine how the market perceives it, what factors influence their purchasing decisions, what its key messages need to be, to whom they should be directed, and how they can be most effectively delivered. Emphasis is placed on highly cost-effective digital marketing strategies and on marketing public relations, the “advertising” of the 21st century.

Collaboration/Channel Strategy. Companies undertaking serious innovation almost invariably find that the lack some of the pieces needed to build a viable position, whether supporting technologies, market channels, customer relationships, or manufacturing capabilities. The team helps the company assess the gaps in their capabilities, identifies and analyzes potential partners, and formulates a collaboration strategy.

Part 3. The Business Model

Market Demand and Sales Forecast. You don’t know when the market will take off, and yet you’d hate to miss the wave when it does.  You have hiring and investment decisions to make, a payroll to meet, bills to pay, investors to answer to.  You’ve got to have some idea of your cash flow.  Forecasting demand or cash flow is particularly challenging when the market is still latent and the technology is still emerging. The team will build market models that allow the company to explore demand and sales taking into account assumed market adoption rates, competition, substitute technologies, and other factors.

Pricing Strategy. What price will the market bear?  For the early stage technology offering and no direct competitors, there are few natural guideposts. Another challenge is developing a pricing strategy that factors in the value to the market and customer preferences while providing for adequate return on the seller’s investment. The team considers the factors that go into pricing - cost, target return, customer value, and competition, then analyzes alternative pricing strategies and recommends a strategy that is sustainable and supports the company's business strategy.

Business Strategy. In this final step, the team builds a “resilient” business strategy that takes into account the uncertainties of the market; the potentialities and constraints of the technology; and capabilities, resources, and limitations of the seller’s organization.  The output is a discounted cash flow business model, based on assumptions about demand, adoption rates, availability of complementary and supporting technologies, competitive entry and positioning, substitute technologies, and the effects of different pricing strategies. The business model is tested for resilience and profitability under a range of plausible scenarios.

For completeness, the marketing strategies will include all these topics. But most project sponsors will be interested in focusing on a few of them. Those priorities should be reflected in the marketing project description.

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Identifying and Developing a Marketing Project

In this section, we explain what characteristics make for a good project, identify examples of some recently completed projects, lay out a template for the project description, provide an example of a completed project description, and explain how to get started.

What makes a good candidate for a marketing strategy project?

Good candidates for a marketing strategy project meet at least one or two of the following criteria…

(a)    They are specific, relatively narrow and well-defined. Teams do best when their efforts are focused – e.g., a new product or product extension for an existing market, a new market segment for an existing product.
(b)   At the same time, they are challenging enough to require fresh, original thinking and careful research.
(c)    They are important to the sponsor (worth spending the effort on).
(d)   The underlying technology is near-market-ready (no technological “black holes!); the primary challenges are in the marketing domain.

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Examples of previously completed marketing strategy projects

To stimulate your thinking, here are some of marketing strategies for a range of technologies that we’ve completed in the past two years:

  • Home health monitoring system for “aging in place” seniors
  • Plug-in electric motor scooter
  • Plasma spark plug to increase engine fuel efficiency by 42%
  • Biotreatment for order-of-magnitude reduction in refinery waste disposal cost

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Project Description Template

  • Company Name
  • Company Logo (if available)
  • Company Background: What the company does, what are its products, who are its customers.
  • Market to be Addressed: A brief description of the market this strategy will target.
  • Specific Issues: Issues you want the team to be sure to address in the strategy.
  • Preferred Qualifications (optional): Any particular major, interest, background, or prior course work by team members.
  • Contact Information: Name of project leader, title, organization, phone, e-mail, website
  • Company Executive Sponsor: Name and title of CEO or equivalent

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Project Description Example: Care Technology Systems

Company Background
Care Technology Systems (CTS) is a local startup, founded in 2011, focused on a product solution to enable seniors to age in place.  The company is set to launch its core suite of products on August 1, 2012.  In late September of this year, the company will launch another product, Active-PERS, which is a motion-sensing Personal Emergency Response System.  It is this particular product which will be the focus of this Marketing Plan.

Market Description
Care Technology Systems is in the business of helping seniors and their caregivers. Over the next 20 years, in excess of 10,000 new retirees will be added to social security and Medicare every day.  Informal caregiving costs Americans $196 Billion per year. Industry analyst Laurie Orlov predicts the Aging In Place Technology market will grow to $20 Billion by 2020. Forrester Research predicts $34 Billion by 2015. Either way, the exploding demographics present a problem that demands a technical solution, and we have the answer.

As seniors age, they are typically looked after by informal caregivers, usually a son or daughter. These care-givers cannot be with the senior all the time, and are usually stressed about whether their loved one is safe and secure. Although a senior living facility would provide that security, it comes at the expense of comfort and at a significantly real expense in dollars ($3-4,000/month). Our product will allow seniors to stay in their homes while giving their caregivers peace of mind that they will be notified if anything is out of the ordinary.

Product Description
Our product, tentatively branded ActiveResponse, is a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) that can be clipped to the waist or worn on a pendant.  Unlike traditional PERS devices, it contains accelerometers which can tell when a fall has occurred, rather than depend on the senior to push a button.

Strategic Concerns

  • Channel Strategy: should we market this ourselves or go through a partner, and if so, who?
  • Market Intelligence: need interviews with particular customers to evaluate pricing and demand elasticity.  Need to determine most effective marketing vehicles/
  • Demand Analysis: based on data from team interviews, what size sales could we expect?  What sales volumes exist in the market today?
  • Competitive Analysis: how do we stack up in the most critical features?  Whom should we worry about?
  • SWOT Analysis: Strength/Weakness/Opportunities/Threats
Project Contact
Project contact’s name, title, department, organization, email address, phone, web address
Executive Sponsor (name, title)

 

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Getting Started on Your Project Proposal

Go to “How Projects Work - Getting Started.” Please be sure to adhere to the proposal deadlines shown so you don’t miss out on a semester.

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