It sounds like the dream scenario, doesn’t it? Marketing a product with no competition. But this apparently ideal situation brings with it a number of challenges. Ellie Jackson explores some of the issues and solutions.

It’s not unusual, especially in our relatively complex B2B industries, for us to be charged with marketing products with no true competition – or where the alternative is a combination of in-house build and various point solutions with dubious integration, involving the technological equivalent of sticky tape.

While a crowded market isn’t easy to work in, being a ‘category creator’ brings its own hurdles. For starters, people don’t typically issue RFPs or RFIs for things that they don’t realise exist. Perhaps they grudgingly accept their current unsatisfactory workaround, or perhaps they don’t give it any thought at all.

Another common challenge is being inaccurately compared to a better-known or understood option. Perhaps you find yourself regularly saying, ‘well no, we’re not really that,’ or yet again you’re fudging the category choice for some industry awards because, ‘there isn’t one that quite fits for us.’ And before you know it, you start defining yourself by the way you differ from others – by the things you aren’t, rather than what you are.

One of the real kickers in all this is that you might well find that you still have competition for share of voice – online or in the media. This can itself contribute to a lack of understanding about where you sit and what you deliver.

Perhaps the toughest of all is what I call the ‘disbelief challenge’. This is sense that people often have that if something like what you purport to deliver were possible, that someone would have developed it before now, or that lots of people would be doing so. One client recently reported this response, even following a demo of their product – it just seemed too good to be true!

All of a sudden, being out in front can seem somewhat lonely.

I’d love to say I have all the answers. I don’t. But through years of experience with variations on this problem, I have uncovered some approaches that help. Here are my top five:

1.Education (education education)

We believe that the job of marketing and PR is to create effective conditions for selling. Sometimes that might be building a firm’s reputation, but sometimes you have to take a step back and focus on educating the audience on the existence of the problem and the availability of a solution. Taking the time to focus on audience education tends to pay dividends in the long-run.

See how we followed this path with RLtec (now OpenEnergi)

2.Show, don’t tell

Arguably, this is always a good approach to audience engagement, but it is especially valuable in the context of a category creator, to fight the challenge of being put in the wrong-shaped box. Be very specific about the benefits of your product, and – if possible – show that in action. That’s exactly how we managed a campaign on ransomware for RES.

3.Let others tell your story

This naturally follows from the point above, but nothing validates your story more effectively than having others tell it. That’s what worked so well when we accelerated eToro’s growth in the UK. In the B2B world, this means working with clients to find approaches with which they (or their corporate comms teams) can be comfortable (which doesn’t necessarily have to be a standard press release or case study, but which could be something more creative like a co-authored article or participation in an event). And it doesn’t need to stop with clients. Working effectively with the analyst community for your industry can yield real benefits here too.

4.Focus on storytelling

We’ve talked before about the power of storytelling. There’s little better for breeding engagement. A good story gently teases the audience in, fostering real engagement, meaning you are far less likely to lose someone clicking away through disbelief before you’ve had a chance to prove that what you say is true. See here how that worked for Malwarebytes.

5.Have patience

Not popular, especially with CEOs, I know. And not something I like to have to tell clients. But the reality is that sometimes, as a category creator, you do need to accept that audience understanding will not change overnight – at least not on most companies’ budgets. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push for success from the off, but know that you’ll probably have to come back to your education campaign more than once.

There’s every chance there’ll come a time in the future, when others have seen what you’ve achieved and taken steps to emulate it. Then your focus will have to shift to defending and differentiating – and you might look back fondly on this time before the market woke up to your possibilities!

At Aspectus we’ve worked with many companies across tech, financial services, capital markets and energy, helping them to position themselves for growth. If any of these challenges resonated with you and you’d like to explore how we could help, book a 30 minute consultation with Group Director Ellie Jackson below.

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