How To Market And Promote The Unusual

by Tom Egelhoff

This article was inspired by the following email I received.

Hi Tom!

Just a note to tell you that I've finished your book and appreciate all of your wisdom so much! It took me a while to get through it because I conducted Internet searches as I read. You'll mention something (like various organizations) and I have to go look. I have learned so much, both from you and the sources your book points to. It's amazing how much of this data can be adapted to my mission.

Thank you again so much. And since you gave me so many ideas, may I give you one? How about adapting some of your material for people, such as myself, who need resources on promoting/marketing the unusual? I promise you, there's nothing out there, especially for the novice.

Thank you again,
A Happy Marketer from
North Carolina

Thanks for the kind words and the great suggestion. Here's your article:

What Is Unusual Anyway?

In the movie, "Smokey and the Bandit", Burt Reynolds tells Sally Field, "When you tell somebody something - it depends on what part of the country you're standin' in - as to how dumb you are."

In other words, what may be unusual or out of place in one part of the world is perfectly normal somewhere else. It isn't really the product or service that determines what is unusual, it's you and your perception of it. Once you understand this simple premise, the easier it will be to market and promote unusual products or services.

Education Is Often The Key

We all remember one of the greatest money-makers of all time...the Hula Hoop. Have you ever tried it? It's not easy. It takes a small amount of coordination to master it.

Now, think back to a time before the hula hoop. You are the inventor. Would you try to promote or advertise this wonderful toy on the radio? Why not? Couldn't you explain that it is a plastic hoop that goes around your waist and you rotate your hips and it's fun. Sit back and wait for the orders to roll in.

The hula hoop needs to be explained visually. Every day on TV, we see info-mercials about all sorts of products. Some good and some bad, but all need to be visually demonstrated to educate the customer about how to use them.

Some Assembly Required

Please don't misunderstand. Not all products and services require TV as your main media. You may be able to get the message across with photos or drawings with detailed instructions.

I have spent more than a few Christmas Eves' with a page of "some assembly required" instructions to help me build a child's toy. There must be a school somewhere that teaches these people how to leave out that one key instruction. I either have parts left over or it looks like it's leaning one way or the other.

As human beings, it is natural for us to resist change. We must emotionally convince ourselves that the benefits of learning to use a new product or service will make our lives better than going without it. This makes the marketing of the unusual more challenging.

How Marketing And Promotion Work For The Unusual

The secret of marketing, is now and always will be, putting the benefits of the product together with the target market that needs those benefits. Usually through some form of advertising.

The two biggest mistakes in marketing, and even bigger with unusual products or services, is advertising the wrong benefits to the wrong people in the wrong place. Here's how to do it the right way.

Start With The Product Or Service

If I'm selling bread, I don't have to educate my customer about what bread is. I just have to make an argument why my bread is better or has a greater benefit that what you're buying now. With the unusual product I often have to do both.

Start with your product or service. Why was it invented? Does it save time, energy? Could it become a necessity like the telephone? Or a luxury like a camcorder? Can it increase production? Can it reduce costs? Real demonstrated benefits must be shown to the customer.

If the product must be demonstrated, contact the news department (not the advertising department) of your local TV station, and ask a reporter to witness the demonstration. You may just get on TV free. If you do, make a copy of the broadcast, get a release from the TV station, and make copies to pass out.

Features are fine but if each feature doesn't have a corresponding benefit to the customer it's unimportant.

Once these questions are answered, the next step is to match them up with the benefits of your product and the reasons people buy. See previous articles: "Why Customers Buy" & "Developing Product Benefits."

Remember above, we talked about the hula hoop. Early marketing and promotion strategies for that product consisted of giving away free hula hoops. Who was the target market? Was it Mom and Dad? They eventually made the purchase.

In this case the purchaser, the parents, actually became the secondary market. Kids were the primary market. And kids were who they marketed to.

They gave away thousands of hula hoops to make tens of millions of dollars. They held contests, demonstrations in shopping malls. Most promotion was done on the local level. Who was the target market? Every kid between the ages of 5 to 12 had to have one. Soon they drew national attention and the rest is history.

As adults we outgrow our need for children's toys. We change our focus to bigger and more expensive toys but we never quite lose that, "I've got to have a hula hoop." mentality.

Your Three Kinds Of Customers

There are always people who want to be on the cutting edge. They will always buy anything new. They were the first family on the block with a TV, VCR or microwave.

There is also the opposite group who never buys anything new. They were the very last family in the neighborhood to get a TV or a VCR. They will be the very last people to get on the Internet. Their argument has always been, "I want to wait until they've got all the bugs worked out." "I'll buy it when they perfect it."

The final group is the largest group. The group with the open mind. "I can't guarantee I'll buy, but I'll give your message a fair hearing."

Start with this group and segment out the customers most likely to want your product and direct your message to them.

The Message

Even if you are reaching the right market, without the right message you are wasting time and money. Your message is twofold: One, education about what the product or service is. And, two, the benefits of the product to the end user.

Notice I said "end user" not the customer. With some products, the end user may not actually purchase the product. Kids are usually the end users of Kool-Aid® but seldom buy it themselves.

Use a market analysis: See: "How To Do A Market Analysis." to help with your message.

The Target

Once you have developed the education strategy and the message, the target market is next. Who are the people most likely to want this product. See: "How To Find Your Target Market."

The Last Word On The Unusual

Marketing the unusual isn't really too much different than marketing mainstream products and services. The real difference is the amount of education and understanding of the benefits that may be required before the customer is confident to make a decision.

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