New technology markets and paradigm shifts have traditionally been risky bets since they can require tremendous amounts of capital and time to develop. For example, consider how many years it took for the market to move from radio to television, or fully accept personal computers on every desktop. The leading edge was too often the bleeding edge.
Yet, now the evidence is clear that the world has changed. Many customers now actively seek out new technologies, rather than waiting for many others to try it first. Technology is changing faster than ever, and new things usually function as advertised when they are released. Steve Jobs proved it with the iPhone, and Elon Musk can’t produce his Model 3 fast enough to keep up with demand.
Bold entrepreneurs now can credibly talk about entirely new markets such as the Internet of Things (IoT), genetic modifications, and privatized space travel. However, such changes don’t yet happen automatically, so it still takes proactive strategies to create new demand where none now exists. Here are seven techniques to improve your odds of success:
- Sell the market concept before building a product. Today, with instant and pervasive Internet communication, you can sell your vision via social media, blogging, crowdfunding, and videos before you spend big money building prototypes and pivoting as you learn. This will prep and size the market, and significantly increase your chances of getting it right the first time.
- Highlight positive social and environmental impacts. For example, if your new product has the side-effect of reducing pollution, this adds immediate value and supports a long-term goal among customers. Too many founders still focus their product design and selling efforts only on direct paybacks to the customer.
- Incentivize your team to think “outside-the-box” continually. You set the limits and the culture for your team based on how you reward creative thinking or penalize people for failed experiments. It starts with hiring the right people and building relationships with the right experts, analysts, and investors. Then really listen to what they have to say.
- Work to build a compelling story around your new idea. Customers need to see personal and social benefits around a new solution, not just a new technology. The change must also include long-term benefits, as well as short-term. Expressing a unique story about your new idea will differentiate you from your competition and will make your idea memorable.
- Use social media and traditional media to build demand for change. New markets don’t create themselves. People need to be influenced and educated to change consumption habits, expectations, and buying patterns. After you have built the initial demand, follow with developing your product’s messaging and branding. Concept marketing is critical.
- Build momentum with an integrated marketing campaign. All the elements of change required for the new market must be addressed consistently, not just the product elements. A successful campaign must not only capture people’s imagination but must have the right integration to move people to a new frame of reference and new thinking.
- Acknowledge and position competitors around you. Competition is an indicator that what you are creating has an established need; so while it may seem odd, drawing attention to similar solutions will help establish your market. Position competitors positively around you, and continue to find ways to keep yourself ahead of the crowd with both product offerings and thought leadership.
Elon Musk, for example, opened all his battery patents to competitors, with the expectation that this would expand the market as well as build the support infrastructure for his Tesla electric car market. He highlighted the positive environmental aspects, as well as the high-performance and remote maintenance elements of his vehicles. New markets don’t have to be disruptive.
Thus, new entrepreneurs have an alternative to the tried and true approach of linear thinking, cost reduction, and more new features. Maybe it’s time for you to step out of your comfort zone, think more broadly, and pursue a new market legacy for maximum fun and profit.