If you’ve been keeping up with the Bright SCIdea Challenge training videos, you’ll have had a chance to think about a range of considerations to make your business pitch, from the problem you are aiming to solve, to the need for your innovation in the market, the challenges of scaling up, and the makeup of your team.
But how do you plan to market and sell your product?
In the first training video, Basics of Business 1: Defining the Market, Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne described how the gap in the market for her product – a fresh gluten-free bread loaf – made it easier for her to persuade retailers to buy the product.
So, it’s important when you have an idea to study the market carefully to make sure the key defining feature of the product or service you intend to sell is not already available.
You may well already know the term unique selling proposition (USP) – that’s the thing you have that no one else is offering.
Branding and naming your product
One of the most powerful selling points of your product will be its name. It may seem obvious, but the most important part of this process is keeping things simple, and to make sure it is distinguishable to your product. Think of NHS GP at hand, Air Wick, or Deep Heat – all companies that have chosen names can clearly describes their brand and/or product or service. The easier it is to link the brand name to your business, the easier you will find it to market yourselves.
The way in which you chose to brand your business will also depend on your audience. Selling your product to industry and the general public will of course be very different. For example, industry will look at how efficient and cost-effective your product is – it doesn't need to look pretty.
Who are your customers?
That's why before you can market your innovation, you need to identify who you are marketing it to.
It may be a consumer group. This group could be as broad as parents of young children or as specific as recreational mountain bikers. Or perhaps you are planning to sell direct to industry – for example, a new chemical process for separating a mining aggregate or a piece of equipment that improves production efficiency in a factory.
What matters is that you identify your target audience and where to find them. This video from Entrepreneur has some useful tips for identifying your audience.
Let’s take a consumer product as an example. We’ll say you have somehow developed a self-cleaning nappy. Good luck finding a parent who wouldn’t want some of those.
Your target consumers are parents of very young children. So, the majority of your customers will be about 18 to 45 in age. Some online research shows that the most common age group in the UK for both women and men to have children is 30–34, so this will comprise the biggest share of your customers in this market. The price of your product will have an effect on your customer base, too.
You can be sure that the vast majority of this demographic uses the internet. And you can reasonably assume that a large percentage of your target audience will have a social media account. Getting a little more focused, it’s likely that many potential customers will follow the feeds of parenting bloggers.
Harnessing social media
One way to reach large numbers of your target audience when your product itself does not have a big social media following is through influencers. These are people like bloggers, vloggers, or Instagrammers, who have a large audience interested in a particular area – for example in tech, fashion, DIY, or indeed parenting.
Plan which influencers to offer samples to for review. What could be better for promoting your self-cleaning nappy than a post that lands in the news feed of subscribers to ‘Channel Mum’, ‘The DADventurer’, or ‘Slummy Single Mummy’?
This will need to be accounted for in the profit and loss account you’ll learn about in Basics of Business 4: Managing the Money. No useful influencer will make a blog, vlog, or other post about your product for just some free samples in return. Promotion is often a blogger, vlogger or Instagrammer’s main source of income, and today even giant multinationals like Google and Nike use influencers to engage with their customers.
At this point, a reminder of what you learnt from Patent Attorney Darren Smyth in the third training video, Basics of Business 3: Taking your Product to Market – it is essential that you protect your innovation before you disclose it, so you shouldn’t actually put your product or service in the hands of influencers or any other advertiser yet. Just be ready to explain to the panel how you aim to market your product if they ask.
One way you can get your product out there, potentially without spending a penny, is by pitching the story of your product to a relevant publication. Each publication has a different policy, and many will refuse to cover your story without securing paid advertising, but there are also many scenarios where a publication will mention your product – for example, as part of an article about self-cleaning technology, or a roundup of emerging innovations in childcare, at little or no cost – or as a gesture of goodwill (usually in the hope that you will advertise in future).
Think about the different publications your product could be relevant to and how they might cover them. SCI’s members’ magazine C&I might be interested in the technology behind a self-cleaning nappy, while Gurgle Magazine would be much more interested in how much easier it makes changing them!
Many publications have a forward features schedule, which outlines their areas of interest over the coming months. You can often source these from the publication’s website, or by contacting them directly. If you are able to propose some coverage that fits in with something specific that a publication is planning to cover, you stand a better chance of having something included.