If it can only be so simple: The uphill marketing battle

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old failed flying machine
Not every invention and innovation succeeds. Can you manage things to reduce your risk and increase your success probability?

A few weeks ago, I took on a consulting assignment that has me stumped. Thankfully, I went into the work fully aware of the problems ahead and truthfully advised the client (before accepting the retainer) that the story here could quite likely not end up well.

It is wrong to go into specific details about the client and product here, but I think we will all benefit by exploring the circumstances where there are no simple marketing solutions. If you are contemplating a business (or have one) in these circumstances, you may wish to reconsider your vision.

You have a “better mousetrap” but no one seems to want it.

You spend time, money, and resources developing a new product/service but when it comes push-to-shove, there isn’t any real interest. People take your marketing ┬ámaterials and walk away, or they half-heartedly agree to sample the product but don’t return.

How to avoid this situation: Soft-test your idea with potential clients; and see if you can get some initial orders based on “vapourware” and your vision. You are safest when you can acquire some early orders from paying customers (even better, prepaid orders) before going into serious development.

You are responding to a competitor(s) who seems to be ahead of the game and succeeding in the market.

Here, you may have a defensive need to launch a me-too product; or at least something that is incrementally better. There is nothing wrong with this strategy, if your expectations are realistic. But you won’t score any knock-out punches and your existing clients (the likely logical purchasers of your new offering) may not be terribly interested. Here, you can go back to the first point — if you can’t find some pre-orders or serious interest from people who know and trust you before you launch your product, will things really change after you get started?

When things aren’t right, what should you do?

The adage: Don’t throw good money after bad has value, but equally, if you’ve sunk your investment and capital at the front end into the initiative, do you have to throw things away if it doesn’t quite work the way you expected?

Clearly, if the product/service is draining resources and capital and losing money, you should jettison it. If it isn’t, but you can find a way to keep it in your catalogue and spend limited effort and cash on maintaining it, then you can relax, set your lower expectations, and continue with the project.

In summary, the best time to manage your risk is up front. Before you spend significant resources trying to build the better mousetrap, see if anyone wants it first.

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