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How Can I Market an Unknown Product?

I've read about Chobani and other companies that have successfully marketed unknown or under-the-radar products (i.e., Greek yogurt) to a broad consumer base. How can I go about doing the same?
Karen Leland answered March 1, 2013

One of the great things about the Internet is that it has leveled the playing field. Today a startup, small business or one-man band can become a player in its field through the use of smart online marketing. Here are three examples.

Tweet your way to the top.
Consider what areas of expertise your product is associated with and tweet about it. Ask yourself:

Consider the case of Natural Food Exchange in Reading, Massachusetts, which carries the largest stock of gluten-free products in the state. The company, an independent natural food business, used Twitter to provide expert information and advice on celiac disease -- a condition that necessitates a gluten-free diet. In addition to its educational tweets, the company would intermittently do product tweets mentioning specials on its gluten-free products.

Create a special day, week or month.
Every year McGraw-Hill publishes Chase’s Calendar of Events, a book containing over 12,000 entries highlighting a special day, week or month. For example, etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore founded National Cell Phone Courtesy Month (July) and has used the event to promote her books and business with great success, gaining coverage in USA Today, among others. Considering the topic related to your product, ask yourself: What type of event could you create that would support your product? Should the occasion be exciting and entertaining or thoughtful?

Once you know the event you want to create, you can make it official by submitting it to Chase’s Calendar of Events for inclusion in the next book.

Three to four weeks before your event goes live, write and distribute a tip-oriented press release announcing the occasion. Email your release to niche blogs or publications that would be interested in the event and submit the release to your local newspaper -- informing them that you are the founder of the event.

Conduct and promote an online survey.
Today’s media landscape is chock-full of cottage-industry businesses vying for media and consumer attention. Over the last few years, surveys that relate to the subject matter of the product or service have materialized as a popular way to bring a brand to light.

For example,, an online provider of travel deals, conducted a survey about travelers’ Fourth of July plans. The survey resulted in over 200 million media impressions and coverage by Good Morning America, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and MSNBC.

The good news is that you don’t have to hire an expensive data research firm to conduct a full-blown study. You can easily create a simple survey by using Survey Monkey, LinkedIn or a whole host of other free or low-cost tools.

While the above options don't represent the full spectrum of marketing and branding activities you can use to bring an unknown product to the public’s attention, they are a great way to get the ball rolling.

Karen Leland is an author and president of Sterling Marketing Group, a marketing and brand-strategy firm based in San Rafael, Calif. Her book, Ultimate Guide to Pinterest for Business, is available at and other booksellers. Find Leland on Pinterest