Marketing is a science unto itself. People go to school to study it. The books written on the topic could (and do) fill libraries. For inventors, most of whom have never gone to business school, the challenge of bringing their product to market can be daunting — perhaps even more so than the product design process itself!
Well, that’s why we keep this blog. We’ve already shared the 50/50 rule of product marketing. And here we’ll share some tips to help inventors and entrepreneurs bring their product to market successfully. No matter what your product, every marketing campaign should follow three steps. Knowing when to pivot from one phase to the next will help you meet your project goals.
1. Start With a Business Plan
It’s impossible to over-plan your business strategy. Don’t wait until you’ve got items ready for shipment before you start thinking seriously about your business plan: be on it from the beginning (see our piece on the 50/50 rule for more on the importance of starting with a plan).
When laying out your business plan, you’ll want to be as precise as possible in defining exactly who your target market is. You’ll want to get into specific demographics in order to maximize your efficiency when reaching out to potential customers. Think not just about selling to Americans of Canadians: what age group? What gender? People with families? What income bracket? What kind of interests will they have?
The more specific you are in identifying your target market, the better the position you’ll be in to choose the best marketing strategy and get the right kind of attention for your product. You want to zero in specifically on the people that will be most receptive to your messaging. Remember: marketing is all about achieving the highest conversion rate possible within a given budget. Try to avoid wasting time early on trying to get the attention of people who aren’t interested, and focus on those who won’t need much convincing.
Study your competition. See what it is that they are doing, how they are running their marketing campaigns and who they are targeting. Your goal is not to copy them, but rather to look for the niche to fill with your product. Your goal early on will be to eke out a niche for yourself from the existing competition of already-established brands. You can find your access point by identifying the benefits your product offers that no one else’s can.
Work on defining your marketing strategy and identifying your outreach tactics early on. A central aspect of this strategy should be your unique value proposition. In order to craft a powerful value proposition, you need to develop a deep understanding of what your product offers consumers that is not being offered by the competition.
Focus on the benefits your product has to offer consumers, rather than on features. Listing the features is an appeal to intellect while listing benefits is an appeal to emotion. You want to make a kind of emotional connection with your target market, no matter what kind of product you’re selling. You want to connect with them, which means communicating the benefits they will enjoy from your product, that they will only enjoy from your product. The features are what produce the benefits, but it is the benefits that improve the lives of your customers that will resonate with them, rather than a list of specifications.
2. Build Up a Customer Base
Early in the product launch, you want to have established a customer base which can support you as you work on scaling your business up to reach the wider market. There are, of course, numerous strategies for accomplishing this, and the opportunities available for connecting with early adopters and supporters are always expanding with technology.
If possible, a good strategy is often to sell directly to your customers. Early on, this can help you establish that there is a demand for your product, and is an opportunity for you to experiment with different marketing channels (online, print, TV ads, billboards, etc.). At this stage, you want to focus hard on that segment of the population which is most likely to buy your product.
Who these people are will depend upon the nature of your product, and identifying them will be a big part of developing your business plan. Thes early adopters will often be those users who always want to be on the bleeding-edge or who are most interested in the latest thing in whatever field your product exists within.
Getting traction early on can take a variety of forms, many of which can be very cheap. Reach out directly to friends and acquaintances who might be interested. Attend trade shows and conventions. Visit online forums. Take advantage of social media and contact blogs or other relevant media for interviews to get some early (and free) press. And, of course, create a website.
Your initial customer base is not only important as an early revenue stream but as a source of information. You can appeal to your earliest (and most ardent) supporters for feedback which you can leverage as you scale up and calibrate your product for a wider audience.
3. Expand Your Market
Once you’ve built up your initial client base and have started making some sales, it’s time to develop your strategy for scaling. The industry word for this is ‘pivoting’. You need to know when to change your tactics in order to take your business to the next level and continue growing and gaining traction. Knowing when and how to pivot is crucial, and it can make or break a startup.
How you pivot will be determined by your business plan. If your goal is to get your product on the shelves of major retailers, then you’ll need to focus on convincing them to adopt your product. Your strategy will be different if you intend to continue selling the product directly yourself, but to larger markets. In that case, you’ll need to consider how to scale up your manufacturing and distribution system and how to scale your marketing campaign to reach that wider audience.
Be prepared for your presentations. Whether you’re appealing to investors for the capital you need to ratchet up production or you’re pitching your product to mass retailers. you’ll need to be ready to deliver a convincing sales pitch.
The marketing strategies that you employed immediately after product launch may not succeed in gaining you the traction you need to continue scaling your business later on. Word-of-mouth and grassroots marketing, for example, probably won’t cut the mustard they did early on as you move forward. At the same time, the kinds of marketing strategies that can be great for established brands might not economical or even effective for freshly launched products.
Through proper market research and experimentation, though, you should be able to identify those channels which are most promising going forward, which will help you as you navigate towards greater market share. Know your product, and know your targets. Don’t waste valuable time pitching to retailers or venture capitalists who are unlikely to be interested in or supportive of your product. Always be strategic, and target your pitches to those who are likely to get on board.
Of course, having a business plan is only one aspect of launching a product. You’re also going to need to be on top of the manufacturing and, of course, the actual product design itself. Cad Crowd offers a full range of services for inventors and entrepreneurs, from product design and development to rapid prototyping and manufacturing services. Find out how it works, and get a free quote today.