By Debra Kaye
We are creatures of habit. American families, on average, buy the same 150 products over and over again, which make up 85 percent of their household needs, according to research out of Harvard Business School. So how can you get people to take a chance on your new business and become loyal customers?
The trick is helping customers overcome their initial hesitation and making your new item speak to customers in a relatable way.
Here are five ways to help your product sell itself in a crowded marketplace:
1. Broadcast your advantage. What makes you better than everyone else in the industry? Be clear with customers from the start. Perceived advantage is built on factors like greater prestige, more convenience, superior effectiveness or better value for the money.
Even cleaning products, the most mundane of all consumer necessities, can win using this theory. For example, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers solved the problems that previous spray-on liquid cleaners claimed to, with the added advantage of not damaging the paint on walls as competitors’ products did. The brand made this ability to remove touch marks without damaging walls clear through a TV ad campaign that demonstrated the product at work. This provided positive reinforcement to consumers before they made their purchase.
2. Fit into your customer’s routine. How much effort is required for customers to make the transition from a current product to yours? If the cost is more than its relative advantage, most people won’t try the new product. Febreze seems like one of those success stories — and it is — but even P&G can make mistakes with their branding, as was the case with Febreze Scentstories. In 2004, the company launched a $5.99 scent “player” that was reminiscent of a CD player with five scent discs that changed every half hour. Consumers were confused. They couldn’t tell if the product played music, freshened air or did both. Not knowing how or why they would use it, they didn’t.
3. Work right out of the box. When building new products, don’t add work for the buyer. Make your product work as intended the first time out and every time thereafter. A kink-free garden hose, for example, should be kink free the first time and the hundredth time; a children’s toy should be easy to assemble; and you should never expect a busy mom to spend more than five minutes figuring out how to use a new slow-cooker.
4. Make benefits easy to spot. The more evident the perceived advantages, the more your product will market itself. For example, the clear plastic packaging of 3M’s Command line of removable hooks allows you to see and understand how the product enables you to hang and remove a hook without leaving a hole in the wall.
5. Let customers try it out. Tea bags were first used as giveaways so that people could sample tea without buying large tins, vastly improving the “trial-ability” of brewed tea, and eventually tea bags. Samples, giveaways and store demonstrations are tried-and-true techniques for risk-free experimentation. If you can’t afford to give your product away, offer a tempting discount or “buy one get one” deal. Depending on your product and core customer, you can use sites like Gilt.com or Travel Zoo to make enticing offers.
Local products or services benefit from actual social interaction: an informal gathering in a home where guests can “play” with the product or try the service, a farmer’s or open-air market where consumers can touch and taste what you’re selling and meet you. The easier something is to try, the faster customers will want to buy it.
This article was originally published in The Entrepreneur.