How to get a product to market: 5 tips for start-ups
Got a great idea for a business? To get your invention or new service to market successfully you’ll need the right approach. Here, Emma Jones of Enterprise Nation gives us her guide to getting your product in front of the right market for your business.
One of the most important jobs when starting out in business is to get your product in front of a group of customers who are interested and likely to buy.
Many of the businesses that we’re seeing start in the UK are niche businesses. That means they have a clear product or service to sell, to a clearly identifiable audience. At my start-up classes, StartUp Saturday, I’ve heard of new businesses starting selling clothing to tall ladies, an app for scuba divers, and HR services for award giving bodies and many more.
The great feature about these businesses is they know exactly who their customers are, which makes getting your product or service in front of these customers so much easier.
So if you're thinking of taking a product to market, read on to find out how to get your product in front of the right market for your business, or click on the links below:
- How to do market research
- Putting together a go-to-market strategy
- Marketing a new product or service
- How to launch a new product
- Into the future: understanding the product life cycle
How to do market research
Research your market online and off by searching industry reports, speaking to potential customers, and surveying your existing online community.
What you’re looking for is information on your customers; how do they like to buy, what do they currently buy, what are they reading and who are their influencers.
You also want to carry out research on the competition to see what they’re doing well and research your price point (i.e. at what price will you sell your product).
Here’s how to go about the research:
Industry reports - look online for reports about your industry or sector and check if there is a Business and Intellectual Property Centre (also known as a BIPC) in a local library near you. This is a great resource where you can book in and speak to a research specialist who can help you locate information on your market and its trends.
Hit the high street - go out and meet customers through doing a pop-up or market, or simply head to your local high street, armed with a clipboard. Ask customers what they feel about the product; it’s colour, price, size, authenticity etc - you can’t beat getting instant feedback face to face.
Ask friends, family and followers - reach out to your existing online community (on Facebook and Twitter) and ask what they think about the product. Consider using online survey tools such as Surveymonkey and Wufoo to get the answers. They are free tools (when sharing with less than 100 people) but the information they can offer is priceless.
Putting together a go-to-market strategy
With market research in hand, this will influence your strategy and plan on how to go to market. Draw up a document to cover these key points:
- How many customers are in my market? (UK and worldwide)
- How do they like to buy? For example, do they prefer to buy products through an online shop or website, or offline in shops?
- Who are their key influencers? What blogs, magazines and other media outlets do they read? And do these sources influence their purchasing decisions?
- What is my customer currently paying for a similar product?
- At what price can I deliver my product to them, taking costs into account?
- Am I adding an extra dimension to the product that means I can charge more? For example, is the product that you’re offering of a higher quality than your competitors?
- Who else is currently serving my market?
- What are your competitors doing well? And what are they not so good at?
- Is there potential for a partnership either with your competitors or a media outlet?
The answers to these questions will form your plan as to where you should sell, at what price, and to whom. So the more clarity you have on this, the more success you will have from the outset!
Marketing a new product or service
When it comes to marketing your product, the research you’ve carried out on what your customers are reading/visiting/listening to will all filter into your marketing plan.
There are many marketing channels available to start-ups, but some of the key ones are:
Trading marketplaces, social media and websites are a great resource for the small business owner when it comes to marketing your product.
With product in hand, consider getting to market through marketplaces such as Etsy, Amazon and ASOS Marketplace as they all offer a route to a very large group of customers looking to buy!
Build your own home on the web with template websites and consider email marketing as a regular way to keep in touch with existing and potential customers.
Once you’ve done this, you should take the time to create profiles on the major social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest). This will help to raise your business’s profile and enable you to start chatting with your customers to get an idea of the services and products that you should be producing in the future.
Press and PR
Many start-ups have been launched through being featured in the target media outlet for their audience. So being featured in any relevant magazines and newspapers, or having a feature on a local TV or radio show that’s relevant to your market could be a great way to kick start your business.
Before you approach anyone about this, take some time to consider what makes you special and then connect with journalists that write for your target audience.
When it comes to reaching out to journalists, make sure to follow them on Twitter, search the #journorequest hashtag and send press releases complete with interesting stats, quotes and top quality imagery.
And if a journalist calls you to follow up on the story, drop everything else you’re doing to respond!
Events and awards
Have the press come to you through hosting events and winning awards. These channels help to build credibility and enable you to invite customers to an interesting occasion, which in turn increases their loyalty to your brand.
But while these channels are great for spreading the word about your brand and product,the ultimate for any small business owner is to have customers do the talking on your behalf!
Although the degree to which people will recommend your business to their friends and families will be down to the particulars of your brand or product, there are some tactics that you can employ to help get your name out there.
For example, rewarding loyal customers with refer-a friend deals, and making it as easy as possible for them to spread the word through running social media activity such as Twitter chats or Instagram competitions, could help you to stand out from the crowd with a quality product, packaged and promoted in a way that makes your customer want to share it with their own network.
How to launch a product
Once you’ve taken all of these steps, you’ll be ready to release your product to your customers.
But there’s more to releasing a product than uploading a new listing to your online store, or displaying them in your shop window (although both of these are still very important!).
If your product’s going to be successful, you need to take the time to plan out a proper launch for your new product to make sure that it stands out from the crowd and gets off to the best possible start.
Let’s take a look at how to launch your product to your customers:
What is a product launch?
A great way to get your product off to the best start is with a product launch. It gives you the ideal opportunity to invite press, customers, and influencers to try out your new product - and get everyone talking about your business at the same time.
For the launch, think of a location that’s both convenient for, and attractive to, your audience. Aim to secure that location (on a start-up budget) by bartering with the owner to ask for the space for free, in exchange for you bringing in an interesting crowd.
With location confirmed, use online event tools such as Eventbrite so you can invite attendees, manage the guest list and easily make contact after the event too.
At the launch, introduce the product, but also consider inviting in a guest speaker too. The more ‘hooks’ you can offer your audience to attend, the better.
Have a photographer set up for the night (this can be a friend or local college photography student if you want to keep costs down) to capture footage and images that you can then share through social media with those who couldn’t make the event.
I’ve seen food brands launched in local restaurants, photographers launch themselves through an exhibition, and fashion designers get their product to market through a high-street pop-up event. The key is to remember that you have to stand out from the start!
Into the future: understanding the product life cycle
With your product now safely on the market, and hopefully selling well, there’s no time to rest - it’s time to think of what’s next!
You may have launched with one product and now want to increase your range or collection - or you’ve identified a market that’s been underserved so want to launch more products for this market but that serve a different purpose.
Whatever your objective is, seek innovation from many sources and constantly take feedback from customers to understand how your product should evolve to meet customer needs and demands.
For the next product, you might benefit from a collaboration or partnership, so it’s good to be open to these sorts of business relationships at all times.
Or maybe it’s time to sell into the big retailers which will require thought around how to scale up and finance an increase in production. Maybe there’s appetite for your product from overseas so there’s opportunity to go global and enter new markets too.
These are all options available to the product business that has a plan and strategy from the start. Seek support and advice from experts who can help you with areas from outsourcing to pitching, financing and exporting. Your product is only as good as your last sale and it’s critical to keep making them!