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Gadget Gurus

Let tech trendsetters spread the word about your product.

When consumers are in the market to purchase a new tech gadget, whether it's a digital camera or a computer, they often seek the advice of tech-savvy friends or family members who constantly have their finger on the pulse of what's cool and useful. Global PR agency Burson-Marsteller has dubbed this group "tech-fluentials."

Who exactly are these tech-fluentials? The term refers to technology-driven opinion leaders--those who try products and technologies first and then chat about their experiences online via blogs, discussion forums and the like. A Burson-Marsteller study estimates 86 percent of tech-fluentials are sought by family, friends and colleagues for advice. (As the resident tech-fluential in Entrepreneur's editorial department, I can attest to this.)

If you're attempting to reach this market to boost sales, Peter Fader, marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, warns that tech-fluentials aren't as easily persuaded as regular consumers. "They're pickier, they do their homework and they know what they like, so it's a much tougher sell," says Fader. According to the study, 97 percent of tech-fluentials say function is a key driver in their purchasing decisions.

Fader adds that marketing to tech-fluentials works best when your technology needs explanation, or is particularly complex and pricey. "The more radical the [product], the more consumers are going to seek advice," says Fader. "If consumers can see [your technology] will improve their life in some measurable way, they don't need an expert to tell them that. But if it's something that works in a subtle way, they need someone to [assure] them it's worth the investment."

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This article was originally published in the September 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Gadget Gurus.

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