Throughout my career, I’ve helped bring new concepts to market. The process has been highly rewarding yet unusually challenging, and I’ve had my mix of failures and successes. To help other marketers improve their odds of success, I wanted to share a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Focus on the problem.
When you’ve developed something special, it’s always tempting to focus on how great it is. There’s only one problem: Your customers don’t really care about that — at least, not without seeing how it helps them solve a problem.
That’s why it’s so important to put your ego aside and adopt a “problem-first” message. You can gain much more attention by talking about the problem you’re solving first and your solution second.
We dealt with this at a company I co-founded, where we developed a new form of word-of-mouth marketing. Because our product brought together concepts from referral marketing, social media, cause marketing and local advertising, we were initially tempted to talk about how innovative the idea was. But only after we changed our messaging around solving the “referral problem” did our growth pick up.
Concentrate on a market niche.
Unless you’re talking to innovators or early adopters, most potential customers are going to need to see relevant proof that your solution works before giving you a shot. I say “relevant” because buyers want to see that others like them benefited from working with you.
This is why focusing on a specific niche early on is key. Likeminded people talk to one another, and if a few of them do business with you, they are likely to bring up your company in conversation. When that happens, you establish trust before you even talk to those customers yourself.
Reduce barriers to doing business with you.
A major barrier to buying your product may have nothing to do with your product itself. Instead, internal changes to process or culture might prove to be the main roadblock. To mitigate this, consider offering a lightweight version of your product that’s easy to buy and use. Ideally, it would be something that your target customers are already looking for.
At Skyfii, where I currently work, we offer an omnidata intelligence solution that helps businesses measure, predict and influence customer behavior. It’s a complex product. To make it easier for customers to get started with us, we often sell our more straightforward guest wifi product or a basic consulting package first.
Understand that competition can be a good thing.
If you’re the only company who does what you do, then the entire burden of evangelizing this new solution falls squarely on your shoulders. That’s a burden that not every company can bear. Yes, competitors may keep you from gaining 100 percent of the existing market share. However, competitors help evangelize and legitimize your solution, which grows the overall market.
At a company where I worked on growth marketing, competition actually helped us early on. The company built Facebook games that supported charity through actions gameplay. The charitable concept was new, but social games were not. Our job wasn’t to convince people to play social games (something we left to bigger players); instead, we focused on developing a more meaningful game experience.
Keep messaging consistent.
If a potential buyer sees one thing in a presentation, a different message on your website and another variation in an advertisement, they have to mentally reconcile all of those messages. Chances are, they won’t engage with you. The more novel your concept, the more important it is that your marketing message be clear, concise and consistent.
As a marketer, this something I’ve learned the hard way. I’ve come up with plenty of clever campaign messaging. I found that while an intriguing message might improve the specific performance of an advertisement, the overall campaign might suffer because the language wasn’t clear throughout.
Marketing a new concept is rarely easy, but it’s always interesting. No two situations are exactly alike, so the most important lesson is this: Things will never work out the way you plan. Always be willing to experiment, document what you learn and, above all, be persistent.
This article originally appeared in Inc.