Making the Unknown a Must-Have: Marketing New Types of Products

When you have a little-known or -understood product on your hands, you may need to use marketing to help educate your target audience.
August 01, 2017

Once upon a time, no one had any idea what a smartphone was. Nowadays, we can't imagine our life without them. At one point, some of the most revolutionary products existed in a place where no one understood what they were or why they were necessary. Many of today's most disruptive products and processes—like blockchain and cryptocurrency, chatbots and IoT—are experiencing (or have experienced) that same phenomenon.

That can create quite a marketing challenge for business owners. However, you can apply these lessons from companies that moved from the unknown to the must-have, as well as advice from business owners like myself who are currently working toward that end.

1. Connect your product to a problem your audience knows too well.

Disruptive products emerge because their developers look at their audience's existing problems. This can be the launching point for a product's marketing messages. Your audience might not yet realize that the product minimizes or solves a certain issue.

Starting with what your audience knows can create a comfort and interest level, which can be half the battle. You can leverage this connection to explain how you are going to go about finding the solution.

2. Identify what the competition is doing with their marketing.

There may be others out there who have gone to market with something that is similar enough for you to review how they have described this new product category. In the case of my latest product, there were some chatbots out there that made it a little easier for me to come to market. They had forged ahead with some specific language to describe chatbots that I could benchmark and adapt to my product.

3. Consider collaborating with other companies in your industry.

A side note here is that, for a new product category, it's good to look at what you are doing as a collaborative effort. There's room for many since it's a new area. It makes sense to work together on creating a unified industry language. Finding the right way to describe what you are doing can benefit the entire group.

An audience's trust in certain influencers can go a long way to turning an unknown item into a must-have.

The craft beverage industry is a good example. There was a point where consumers didn't understand what a craft beverage was and why they would want it. Now, it's a multimillion-dollar industry thanks to cooperation among craft beer, wine and spirits makers. Many decided to band together and form the Craft Beverage Education Association so they could define and share insights on how they could explain, educate and market.

You can apply this approach to any product category. Network at conferences that cover larger related industries and reach out across online channels to suggest collaborative marketing and planning efforts to define what you do in a clear and consistent way.

4. Bring your product to your target audience through old-school marketing.

I've reached out to my target audience by visiting them and giving them a first-hand demonstration of what my product does for them. It's an old-school marketing method, but this in-person demo approach is often necessary. You can answer questions immediately, stop the presentation when you notice they are lost and get them back on track, show them how it's used and let them try it out for themselves. This can be a way to create that first, base layer of customers who are excited and want to show it to others.

I couldn't reach everyone I wanted to with these in-person demos, so I also presented the demos at industry conferences. I used livestreaming tools to do the same type of demos across social media channels, as well as created a YouTube video for my website using fun animation and a lighthearted approach. In the process of being entertained, viewers learn how to use what they might have thought was going to be a difficult product.

5. Leverage influencers to help market your new product.

Often, influencers have a good read on how to approach their audience in a way that can open them up to understanding a new type of product. An audience's trust in certain influencers can go a long way to turning an unknown item into a must-have.

Using influencer marketing, I had others share my aforementioned videos on their sites and channels to further my reach. With some acknowledgment, viewers were able to see that I had a product worth considering and exploring.

6. Get technical and helpful.

When your product is tied to new technology or appears to be somewhat complex, it can help to generate content that helps your audience put that product to work in the easiest way possible. If they can't figure out how to use your product quickly, you could lose them.

To solve this issue, consider creating various types of online, downloadable and printable guides. These materials can include a white paper, a technical guide and a user's guide. Think of these tutorials as recipes that provide step-by-step guidance for installation and implementation so users are up and running in mere minutes, and can see the power of what your product can do for them.

Murray Newlands is CEO of Sighted, an online invoicing company, and founder of, a chatbot builder. He is also a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).

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