When you are solving a “big” problem, or have developed a product which is trending – VR, AR or machine learning, to name a few – then creating a buzz around your company is easy. However, if you are part of the other 90 percent who are selling an “unsexy” product which solves “small but essential problems” for specific consumers, you will need to think outside the box about how to get people hot under the collar about what you have to offer.
Just because your product isn’t shiny and exciting doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. A cashless payments portal, accounting software or ecommerce tool could help mom-and pop business owners dramatically boost sales, improve customer service and streamline day-to-day business. But while I wouldn’t go as far as calling these product “grudge purchases” – like getting new tires or re-roofing your house – people are unlikely to post a Facebook or Twitter comment boasting about their SaaS investment, as they might with a car, house or hoverboard.
To help those businesses that have Saas products, I spoke to various experts about the best ways to market an unsexy product.
1Understand the problem you are solving
The first step in being able to convince consumers that you have created something important, is truly understanding why your product is important for different users.
Once you truly understand the problem you are solving, you can clearly express this to potential users in a language they understand.
Matt Hodges, senior director of marketing at Intercom, suggests leaning on the “jobs to be done” theory to clarify why consumers choose to use your product to solve a problem.
To really add value to consumers, you need to look at what jobs your company is completing for them, and get to the root of why they choose your product above others for that specific task. This will then provide the value proposition to express to them in marketing campaigns.
“Rather than building a better version of what already exists, take the time to truly understand the problem and then build a solution based on that. This will help you really resonate with buyers,” said Matt Hodges. “You have to unpack problem before you try to solve it. Really understanding the market and customer pain points first, will then help development and also market placement.”
This can be done by hiring researchers. Another means of gaining feedback from customers about product is through conducting interviews via phone or online.
“I personally conducted more than 200 interviews with potential consumers trying to understand the problem,” says Ardi Iranmanesh, co-founder of Affinio. “Rather than putting words into their mouths, we tried to figure out how customers explains their own problem. What keywords do they use to describe the pain points? We then use these exact words when we describe our company and how we can help them.”
By truly understanding the root problem you are solving for consumers, you can then use this information in all of your marketing and communication, speaking to them in real terms about real differences you can make to their lives.
2Speak to users in a language they understand
Once you understand who is using your product, and the difference it can make to users’ lives, you can then focus on conveying your message to these people in a clear and concise manner.
Instead of focusing on the technology which enables you to solve a problem, focus on the problem being solved.
“I am a big believer in no bull and no fluff. You shouldn’t try to dress your product to be better than it is,” says Hodges. “Use simple language to describe features, which is completely free of buzzwords. Explain to the user in simple terms which they understand the value which the product can bring to them.”
If your target audience are small business owners, the chances are that they are already constantly having to learn new skills to manage a business in the modern digital age. They shouldn’t have to read a dummies guide to programming to understand how your SaaS tool can make their lives easier.
Tobias Lütke, founder and CEO of Shopify argues, “It is your job to take a ball of technology and make it accessible. SMB owners are incredibly smart and hard working, and people underestimate the amount of skills which they need nowadays. All of our founders used to be merchants. We acknowledge that it’s hard and don’t pretend it’s not. We just take a big amount of complexity and reduce it.”
Knowing your target user, having a real knowledge of their average day and the challenges and strains which they face, allows you to speak to them on a more personal level.
Mike McDerment CEO and founder of Freshbooks states: “It is important to explain value using units of measurements which really resonate with busy people. Instead of spinning their heads with industry buzzwords, explain to them how your tool could free up two extra hours per day of free time. That’s time to watch a movie with their partner, take their kids swimming, or sit down at the dinner table with their family.”
3Create a buzz around your whole company rather than just your product
Just because your product itself might not have the “wow’ factor,” doesn’t mean that you cannot make your company interesting to the general public. It is your product which users pay for, but it is your dream, mission and values that they are buying into.
Offer your community a behind-the-scenes look at the company. Rather than only sharing information related to your product, create stories which convey your aims and values, and share the journey which you and your team have taken to arrive at this point.
“Human beings are hardwired to retain information through stories and pass it on. If you can tell a story, the retention rate will be higher and will be passed on faster and further,” says McDerment.
“You need to make yourself interesting at all costs. Create novel and quirky stories to grab eyeballs, and then share them with the media and on social channels.”
At FreshBooks, McDerment and his team have created a number of stories which portray their central values. From making every new employee spend their first month in customer service, sending employees on blind dates to improve communication, hanging hangover kits on doors after conference events, to running free shuttles from the airport to conferences just to make the experience easier for attendees, the company creates experiences which share the fact they hold customer service at the company’s core.
However, Jamie Petten, director of marketing for L-SPARK warns “Flashy stunts create a good moment, but it’s just a moment. What will really be impactful and memorable is building a community and sharing quality stories about what your company is and has been doing on its journey.”
When it comes to gaining media coverage, you have a much better chance of being covered in a leading publication sharing business advice, founder stories, interesting insights about company culture or tips for how to improve processes and workflow, than you do if you focus on your product.
Instead of trying to wow a general audience with fluff and flair, experts state that it is best to hyper-target specific audiences with content which resonates with them. Ben Yoskovitz, co-founder of Highline Beta says: “It’s about finding the people who find your product sexy. Highlight who these people are and then sell your mission to them in a clear manner.”
When it comes to marketing functional but not particularly exciting products, there is no point trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes with buzzwords and sparkle; the trick lies in truly grasping the root of the problem you solve for different users, and then explaining the value to them in language they understand.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Ask These 3 Questions To Determine Where To Spend Your Marketing Budget
Stretching your marketing budget is imperative, especially when there aren’t that many marketing rands to stretch.
As you grow your business, it’s important to be creative and efficient with your money. When it comes to marketing, there are a number of cost-effective ways to spend and save your money. So, if you’re worried about marketing on a limited budget, here’s some helpful info to know.
First, great marketing is about highlighting wants and needs and attaching them to desired outcomes. It’s possible to do that regardless of budget — and every company’s strategy will be different.
For example, when my consultancy worked with Dollar Shave Club to grow its platform beyond viral videos, we focused on establishing a unique voice, which led to creating an editorial component. When we worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his fitness and nutrition products, we focused on creating a core mission and understanding why he was involved in the product. And when we worked with Four Sigmatic to market its coffees and teas, we focused on customer acquisition and retention.
3 Questions that Cut Through the Clutter
Those projects all started with the same three questions: What is the value and purpose of your product or service? Who is your target audience? And what is the best platform on which to reach them? That’s where you’ll want to invest most of your attention before you determine where to spend your money. (Notice my word choice: Your planning is an investment; where you spend is a cost.)
1. In general, we prefer to use digital campaigns
It’s easier to track what works and what doesn’t. Plus, digital creates multiple opportunities to engage. Think of it this way: 10% of your audience will buy, 10% won’t and 80% will be on the fence. Would you rather have one shot to convince that 80%, or multiple? By retargeting through something like Facebook ads or Google, or even creating a distribution channel like an email list, you can communicate repeatedly.
2. If you don’t have an audience, spend money fishing in small ponds where you know you can get a bite, and then set yourself up to communicate repeatedly
(This is where creating content as a form of acquisition or building an email list can be incredibly valuable.) Depending on your product or service, this could mean a very targeted ad to a small audience on Facebook — rather than attempting to reach millions — or setting up a pop-up shop, or getting a spot at a local farmers’ market.
3. If you already have an audience, turn them into super-fans who will bring their peers into your universe
Identify previous buyers and give them direct access to you through focus groups or calls. Reward them for their time with product or a gift certificate. When you show your consumer that you care about and appreciate them, it not only increases the likelihood of repurchase but also helps them personally invest in the soul of the business. Not to mention, their insights will help you understand why they bought and how to replicate that process.
Whatever you do — and no matter how big or small your budget — keep finding better answers to the core marketing questions and your success won’t hinge on any one platform.
Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?
How do you market your company to this generation?
According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.
They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.
So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?
1. By being transparent
Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.
Related: Investing in Young Entrepreneurs
Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.
Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.
2. By offering options
A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.
That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.
3. By being forward thinking
We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.
On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.
1. By being transparent
As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.
2. By offering options
Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.
Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.
Related: The Z Generation
3. By being forward thinking
They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.
The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.
Free Sample Marketing Plan Template
You don’t need an MBA to write a marketing plan for your business. While no two businesses are alike, all solid marketing plans need to provide specific information. Use this sample marketing plan template to get you started on the right foot and cover all the essential information.
Your marketing plan should provide a comprehensive blueprint of the business, its market and associated market activity, its position in the market, target and expected customers, offerings, competition, solutions and contingency plans.
Using a sample Marketing Plan Template can save you a lot of time in creating your own marketing plan.
Download a Sample Marketing Plan Template
Use the free templates below to help make sure you’ve covered all the important bits:
Recommended Marketing Reads:
- Smart Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses
- Mega Guide to Online Marketing
- Marketing Toolbox for the Entrepreneur
- The Ultimate Marketing Tool Library for Entrepreneurs
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