Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo on Flickr
We all have those moments where we say: “This is a great idea!” And everyone around you (except that one guy that says “No” to everything) says you are right. “This is it! This product will make it for us! I can’t believe no one has thought of this before!”
You do all the necessary steps: patent application, finding a contract manufacturer, deciding on the final design, and you even get all the details of the packaging sorted out, (basically, all the fun stuff.) Now, the only thing you need to do is to “sell” this thing. After all, for most of us marketing is an afterthought, something you’ve got to do. If you have a great product, marketing does not have to be super. You just have to get the word out there. Good products will sell themselves, right?
For every great new company that came out with a ground-breaking product or service, there was another company that thought and even acted on that idea before but could not make it work. OK, maybe not every company, but 9 out of 10. Don’t believe me? Do some research on the best new product companies, and I can assure you they were not really ‘new.’
So, if marketing is not supposed to be an afterthought, and you do indeed have that great new product/service, then what do you need to do?
Here are few good tips for you:
1- Perfect your message around benefits, not features: Most of the analytical, scientific and even creative minds that come up with a new product love what makes that product unique. Those unique features are usually easier to define with technical data than its true benefits. For example, a new diagnostic test might give you results with 99.99% accuracy. But what it really provides people with isn’t an accurate result, it provides people with peace of mind. A new gadget for your kitchen does not dice the potatoes better, it makes you look like a kitchen goddess or god and helps you cook faster.
So, sit down and come up with the list of benefits your product provides, and then choose the main one. The rest can also be promoted but the message should be around that one major benefit.
2-Identify Your Market Entry Strategy – Smartly: Unless you have unlimited resources and a lot of time, you have to make choices when you plan your market entry with this product.
- Who are you going to convince to get your product into the market?
- Do you have to go to the end user directly and make them buy your products directly?
- Do you have to find distributors that will get your product in front of the right people?
- What market segments are you going to target first?
- What kind of distributors will you need to find first? What do you need to do to get it in front of those people?
- How are you going to convince those distributors to carry your product?
- If you are trying to go directly to consumers to sell your products, are you sure you want to do that? Often, selling directly to the end user requires you to build value and infrastructure as a retailer (and that requires a different platform then being a product company. Why do you think most big brands don’t sell direct to the consumer?)
Once you ask those 325 questions, and then answer (honestly), you will decide on your true market entry strategy ….
3-If You are small, using guerrilla tactics is OK: If you are a small company, you can afford to make mistakes. After all, compared to the large guys, you’ve got to have some advantages of your own. Your speed, agility and resourcefulness are very important advantages. Contacting potential distributors as prospective customers, asking questions, understanding what pushes their buttons and what exactly they need are perfectly OK. Researching your competitors, seeing what distributors they work with, what trade shows they go to (and going to those ones as attendees) is perfectly OK. It is, in fact, encouraged. Before you start going out and spending money with fancy business cards, trade show stands and brochures, understand the market, its dynamics and all the players. You want to be under the radar as long as possible before you decide on your plan and attack.
4-Use internet marketing & social media to your advantage: Just like social media, blogs made everyone a publisher, taking away the advantage of big brands that controlled the media with their big money. The internet and all its tools gave the small, upcoming brands an opening to get their names out there using fewer resources. All you need is one or two really creative campaign ideas to reach a critical mass for market exposure. But you have to be smart, and you have to be creative. Do good research and find out what other small up an coming products became successful in a similar or complimentary industry. What they did do that you can learn from? Find this, then do it.
5- Be ready to deliver: An unfortunate mistake many small companies make is that they do everything it takes to be successful but they are not ready to deliver the products and service if they do become successful because they don’t have the infrastructure or the scale-ability. If you are not ready to sell 10,000 products, then don’t work to get the distribution partners or the exposure that can bring you that sale. Instead, focus on growing organically. If you are working hard, and wishing for the best, then at least have some plan on what you can do when that becomes true.
Launching a successful product or service takes just as much time and effort pre-launch as it does post-launch. Do your homework, have everything lined up and it’s no guarantee that your launch will be a success, but it will give it a much better chance of being successful.