Innovation is a great thing, but it poses a challenge for the retail seller: How do you sell something that people aren’t buying yet? Apple, for example, has faced this problem frequently throughout its history of introducing disruptive technologies, from the MacIntosh and the iPod to the iPhone and now the Apple Watch. Through this experience, Apple has mastered the art of selling innovative technologies, as the successful launch of the Apple Watch illustrates. The first day Apple began accepting orders for its new product, almost 1 million U.S. preorders came in, according to Slice Intelligence. Within the quarter, the Apple Watch had become the bestselling wearable device on the market. For retailers tasked with selling innovative technologies, case studies such as Apple provide valuable insights into how to introduce customers to new products.
Match Products to Problems
As Wired reports, when Apple first decided to develop its watch, the company thought it had a good idea, but its developers didn’t know what it was good for, other than telling time. So one of the development team’s first tasks was to discover what problems a smartwatch could solve. Eventually they realized that a watch could deliver the same connectivity as a smartphone in a way that was better designed for the human body and less invasive on the user’s time.
Brainstorming about what problems your product or service can solve can open up new marketing opportunities by identifying market segments who need what you’re selling, pinpointing how you can help them, and highlighting what benefits your solution brings them. When a customer with a problem walks through the door, you’ll know just what they need.
Appeal to Curiosity
On SellingPower.com, Fortune 500 sales consultant Dr. Donald Moine recounts the tale of how Ed McMahon got his long sales career started as a pitchman on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk by selling empty boxes. McMahon would pique the curiosity of passersby by announcing that he was about to sell ten empty boxes for $1 each. Naturally, his listeners were wondering why anyone would pay $1 for an empty box, McMahon went on, voicing everyone’s thoughts aloud. Perhaps there was more to these empty boxes than met the eye, he suggested. He asserted that the boxes were indeed empty, but recognized that some in the audience might doubt he would presume to sell an empty box for $1. He challenged his doubters to put the box they wanted to buy on top of their dollar. Then, after ten boxes had been paid for, each of his buyers could step forward and open their box to verify that it was indeed empty. By piquing his audience’s curiosity, McMahon inevitably sold ten boxes. He then took the opportunity to pitch the product he was actually selling: a vegetable slicer.
When a new technology gets introduced to the market, consumers naturally wonder what it’s good for and whether it really works. What can you do with a smartwatch? Can a hybrid car get as good gas mileage as a traditional car? Is the picture on a 4K TV really that much better? Appealing to consumer curiosity about these types of questions can help you sell unfamiliar new products.
Answer Consumer Questions
Piquing curiosity is one way to sell something new; satisfying it is another. Consumers often have questions about a new technology’s features or how one solution compares with another. For instance, many TV owners looking for a sound system wonder whether a surround-sound system or a sound bar is a better choice. The Dish Insider’s Guide helps visitors answer this question, comparing how solutions such as Vizio stack up to other options. By helping consumers who have questions about this technology, Dish attracts TV owners who may also be interested in their satellite TV service.
Meet a Need
As the Affordable Care Act went into effect, Zenefits founder Parker Conrad saw that many small companies would soon face an urgent need for new human resource solutions, Conrad told Inc.com. By offering a cloud-based software solution that automated HR for employers, Conrad attracted enough business to turn Zenefits into the hottest startup of 2014. Offering your solution as a way to meet your market’s urgent needs is an effective way to make a technological innovation sell.
Offer Free Trial Demonstrations
Consumers considering a new piece of technology may be wary because they haven’t seen it in action, and they’re not sure if or how it will work. To address this, software-as-a-service providers have found that a freemium sales model (where users start with a free package) can help consumers make a purchase decision. For instance, in an article on Forbes.com, marketer Sujan Patel gives the example of Dropbox, which has grabbed a huge share of the cloud storage market by offering limited free storage space as a way of introducing its premium upsell packages. Giving customers a chance to test-drive new technology can make it an easier sell.