When a Great Product is not Enough – What to do if you Have to Educate your Market

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Educate your market

This article was originally published in 2016.

Having an amazing product is not always enough in today’s fast-paced, high-consumption economy.

The trick is getting consumers to buy into your idea and for many businesses that means having to educate them about your product, how it works and how their lives could be improved by it.

The question that follows then, for most startup founders and entrepreneurs, is ‘how do we get our consumers to not only understand our innovation or product but buy into it as well?’.

Anthony Nathan, co-founder and CEO of TMARA, which provides market adoption strategies for startups and new innovations, says the first step is to sell the possibility of a new lifestyle, which is what creates market pull.

Educating your market is more important for startups that are offering something new

Walking in your customer’s shoes

“Most startups fail because they focus rather on promoting their unique product features and benefits, and then are flummoxed as to why the market fails to adopt their innovation,” he says, “These innovators are predominantly product-focused, but need to put themselves in the shoes of their target market, and guide (or educate) the market to a full understanding of how to extract the full value from their invention. Not an easy task for most innovators,” Nathan says.

In a follow up to our previous article on how market adoption can get the market to embrace your disruptive innovation, Nathan shares insights with SME South Africa on how educating the market was the push that helped companies like Uber and AirBnB change the world, as well as 5 steps you need to follow when planning and implementing a strategy to educate the market.​

If you are doing something new – educate your market

Educating your market is more important for startups that are offering something new, Nathan says.

“In other words, only those with an innovation which truly diminishes a limitation for the market must step up the education component.”

Nathan adds that non-innovative startups, and those that are copycat product or services, albeit better versions, are dealing with a market that already knows how to extract the value from that type of innovation.

Sell the lifestyle first then the product

The sequence, Nathan says, is educate the market first on the new lifestyle, then market your product as an enabler of the new lifestyle and finally sell them with a value offer that counts.

“Marketing is like putting the corn out in the field for the ducks to come and sit (we need sitting ducks) – The market recognises what the corn is (marketing) and you are just preparing them for the sale (to take a shot at them – being the sitting ducks they are),” he says.

Have a reason ‘WHY’

“Strategy must always answer ‘for what purpose?’, ie. educating your market, for what purpose? You want your market to fall in love with a new possibility, that only your product can enable,” Nathan says.

He illustrates the point with an example: “Henry Ford knew that the market faced a lifestyle, that was limited to around a 5-mile radius max. – that was the greatest distance you could travel by horse, bicycle, etc on a daily basis to your work. His invention would increase this to 30 miles. However, he had to first educate the market to the possibilities and benefits of a 30-mile radius lifestyle, then to get them to fall in love with it before he could start selling serious numbers of cars.”

Decide who you need to educate, so that they will educate other

Don’t let emotions cloud your strategy 

While the benefits of educating your market are pretty self-evident for some entrepreneurs, there are a few factors that cloud the waters for many. Emotional involvement with the new product or service, Nathan says is one of those factors because it sometimes makes people believe the market will just see it – it should be so obvious!

“The market is also blind in a way, and cannot tell you what they want either – if Henry Ford had asked his market what they wanted, they’d have answered “faster horses”, because breaking that limitation was considered, until then, impossible. People generally consider “limitations” as a fact of life. So, should an innovator break it for them, it’s incumbent upon that startup to educate their market as to the new possibilities that would result,” he says.

It’s possible to spread the word on a budget 

With the spiralling costs associated with educating the market, there are cost-saving strategies a small startup without a big budget can rely on to effectively reach out to their consumers about their innovation and product.

Free education, Nathan says, is the path of least resistance and the most cost-effective strategy.

“Decide who you need to educate, so that they will educate others, and so on. As an example, Facebook is heavily dependent on the younger generation to educate the older generation. Start with those who will understand it the fastest and the best. You just need to promote the new lifestyle, and they will do the rest.

“We are wasting way too much money on marketing that has no focus and very little impact, for example, marketing to the wrong target market, or promoting features and benefits that do not bring the requisite value.”

Do these 5 things to get it right

Nathan shares 5 steps you need to follow when you are planning and implementing a strategy to educate the market.

Step 1: Verbalise the first-order benefits of the product and service. Understand that these are product/service specific, and not target market specific.
Step 2: Verbalise to your target market, what limitation or constraint the product or service removes, that consequently opens the gate for second-order benefits.
Step 3: Verbalise the second-order benefits, emanating from the above-mentioned removed limitation or constraint.
Step 4: Appreciate the way the target market was coping with the limitation before your innovation arrived – the old lifestyle, and then verbalise the new lifestyle that will become possible if the limitation is now removed.
Step 5: Develop the plan to sell the new lifestyle, and show the market how your product or service enables the new lifestyle.

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