A wise man once observed, “In business there are only two things that matter. These are reality and perception. However, reality only matters to the extent that it influences perception.”
In short, a person’s perception is his or her reality. You may have a product or service that could satisfy the needs of the members of a particular market segment. But they don't know that yet. So, you are left with the challenge of figuring out how to influence their perception.
The first step is to get them to try your offering. And this can be a monumental task. But the following tips may make the process easier.
1. Develop fact-based arguments that explain the value of your product or service.
Use reality to alter perception. For example, our "new cookies" taste the same as what you are currently eating, but they have 50 percent fewer calories and contain no fat. Clearly, the subjective factor here is taste; and taste is a matter of personal opinion.
But a lower caloric content and no fat are facts that will convince at least some people that your product is a healthy alternative and worth trying. So, lay out your argument in terms that are as clear and concise as possible. You are unlikely to be able to hold people’s attention long enough to make a complex argument.
2. Use demonstrations to highlight the value of your offering.
If you need to displace an established incumbent, think about side-by-side comparisons; they can be effective. If the benefits of your product or service can be shown quickly, live or taped demonstrations may be appropriate.
Alternatively, if a demonstration would take too long, but the benefits are visible (e.g., weight loss), before and after photos may be useful. In other situations, conducting tests and presenting the results can change opinions. This can be particularly powerful if an independent third party conducts the tests.
3. Focus on converting a group of early adopters.
When anything new comes along, some people will be more willing to give it a try. You may need to provide significant incentives to induce an actual trial, however. And here, free samples may be appropriate, especially if your product or service is relatively inexpensive, and satisfied customers are likely to purchase it in the future.
4. Target influencers.
If the right people are seen using your product or service, others may be induced to give it a try. For example, manufacturers of athletic equipment frequently furnish free products to high-visibility athletes or teams. Nike will often donate game jerseys to selected football teams as long as the company’s trademark swoosh is visible. The athletes who wear the jerseys are "influencers" and will prompt others to purchase this or another Nike product.
5. Seek testimonials from people whose opinion is respected.
Authors often print endorsements from acknowledged experts in the field on the back cover of their books. The thought is that those testimonials will drive purchases by people who respect the experts' opinion.
In the end, getting your product or service noticed can be a huge challenge. It involves influencing the perceptions of others. However, if you are going to build a successful business selling to people who don’t currently understand the value of your offering, this is exactly what you'll have to do.
These tips can make the difficult task more manageable.