The Pre-Release White Paper Conundrum

December 2, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: White Paper Writing, WP Marketing 

When you’re a large software company like Microsoft, getting lots of developers on board at an early stage in the development process is an essential step for a subsequently successful product launch.

But getting preliminary information out such as a development white paper, presents a marketing conundrum. Do you release early information about a product to help your developer base be informed and develop supporting products, but know that in doing so you are informing future prospective customers of the capabilities of the product that might cause them to delay their current purchases?
Case in Point: Microsoft’s latest white papers related to Windows 7, Microsoft’s next generation replacement for the much ballyhooed current version of Microsoft’s operating system, Windows Vista.
These papers not only provide developers with new capabilities of Windows 7, but also give more savvy Windows power users an ability to analyze whether the new operating system version will be worth their time and money to invest in that upgrade down the road.
What’s the harm, you say?
Simply put, as soon as your customers realize that a new product is on it’s way, they will stop any purchases of your current version, killing your sales quarter.
So how do organizations release critical information via a white paper to a development community without altering the buying behavior of future customers?
The answer lies in using code names that only the development community will know.
Intel would use the names of rivers, cities and towns in the Northwest. Apple used animal and inanimate object names. And these names would change so that the name used at the beginning of the development cycle was different by the end of the development cycle.
Either way, the use of code names would confuse both the media and end user customers, but would present be a unique language among the development community. In doing so, the number of potential customers given early information about a new product would be kept to a minimum, resulting in a minimal loss of current sales.
While this works for technology-related products, I wouldn’t advocate its use for less sophisticated consumer products. That would be a secret too difficult to keep under wraps.
So in the end, with the use of code names in a technical or development-related white paper, it is possible to do marketing justice to both your development community and customers.

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