How to market your complicated “thing” (with examples)

Patrick Icasas

Patrick Icasas

Patrick Icasas is a Filipino-Canadian writer based in Mississauga, Canada. He's a writing geek, a B2B geek, a marketing geek, a tech geek, a sci-fi/fantasy geek, and, well... he's just a geek.

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Have you ever tried to explain your business to someone, only to get “the stare?” You know, that glassy look, which means they’ve either tuned you out or are confused into a state of silence? 

Many entrepreneurs experience this awkward moment, but it’s especially common among entrepreneurs with “complicated” niche businesses. You try, and you try, but somehow the other party just can’t get it despite all of your explanations. What you’re offering may be beneficial, but when poorly positioned, your messaging will be off the mark.

Unfortunately, not every business can be easily summarized in a one-sentence elevator pitch. (How many times have you heard a product get called “the Uber of _______”)? If you’re getting that reaction from someone you’re talking to in person, how can you expect your prospects to understand it in the digital space?

Fortunately, there are ways to get customers on board without cheap, misleading tactics or having to dumb your brand down. Let’s take a look at some of them!

Focus on your customer’s problems

Since the dawn of business, this has been the central factor in a successful brand. Even food hawkers in medieval England were killing it by asking customers, “Art thou hungry? Behold, a meat pie!”

Focusing your marketing on solving your customer’s problem (or their Jobs to be Done) ensures that your marketing is results-oriented from the get-go. You’re there to give them what they need, without any of the waffle they don’t care about. People always have problems that need solving, and they always will. The difference is that these days, their issues can be so narrow and situational, it’s difficult to find a suitable mainstream solution. 

That’s where you come in. If you’ve positioned your brand in such a way to tackle their unique problems, then you should be able to address this audience directly in your marketing.

W3IP Law, an intellectual property law firm, does this very well. Do you know anything about intellectual law? Neither do I. But looking at the webpage above, we don’t need to, because they’ve got it covered. Most consumers don’t (and don’t care to) know about the ins and outs of the law, let alone this specific sector of it. W3IP Law solves this by putting their value proposition on its website upfront and dead center: 

“You’ve got ideas. We protect them.”

It’s simple and direct, but that’s not all. This same web page offers clues as to how W3IP Law can help: “Protect, Respond, Commercialize.” This messaging provides enough information to know how the firm can help you, without putting you to sleep with legal gobbledygook. Simple and effective; it’s a masterpiece in web design and copywriting. 
Focus on how your product solves your customer’s problems in its unique way. This approach distinguishes you from your competitors, offers more value, and makes you more memorable — especially in a crowded market.

You’d think you couldn’t reinvent the ladder, but you’d be dead wrong. Take the Murphy Ladder. Murphy Ladder identified common problems that ladder owners experience (hard to store, difficult to maneuver, instability), and explained how their product solves every single one of them in a hilarious, three-minute YouTube video. But your unique value proposition doesn’t have to be a feature of your offering, either. It could be your price point, which is far lower than your competitors, for example.

The next time you doubt how marketable your product or service is, remember that Murphy Ladders created and sold a niche ladder in an already crowded ladder market.

Make an exciting promise — and deliver on it

What do successful entrepreneurs have in common? They’re all passionate about their product. So are you. You wouldn’t put in those 60-hour weeks otherwise. Your challenge is to share that passion and imbue your customer with that same enthusiasm. 

You won’t spark passion if you focus on complicated, nitty-gritty details. Instead, promise (and deliver!) something that will excite your customers. Make the benefits clear and obvious, so they’re eager to try something new: you.

Remember when you tried to learn Japanese and gave up after a couple of months? Meet Benny Lewis. He’s a well-traveled Irishman who has mastered seven languages and can speak conversationally in many more. Who wouldn’t want language skills like that?

His language-hacking course, Fluent In 3 Months, is a bold promise with a bold guarantee — a money-back guarantee. Hundreds of thousands of people have flocked to his site, drawn by the idea of boosting their language skills in a relatively short amount of time. 

Can he deliver? Well he counts Tim Ferris among his happy customers, so you be the judge! Remember: If you’re trying to marketi a “complicated” product,  always consider the entire customer journey — not just the point of sale. Happy customers will inevitably explain to their peers what you do and why you’re awesome, in ways that they’ll understand (so you won’t have to). Excitement and self-improvement are powerful offerings. 

Keep in mind there’s something more  powerful than excitement if you can’t  deliver — disappointment. If your product doesn’t say what it’s going to do, your betrayed customers will leave bad reviews. This can do incredible damage to your brand. 

Who could forget Fyre Festival? The supposedly-luxurious music festival, founded by Fyre Media CEO Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, was put together to promote Fyre Media’s app for booking musical talent for events. It was aggressively (and expensively) advertised,  promising beaches, Instagram models, and famous faces. Naturally, tickets sold for thousands of dollars each.

Visitors arrived at the event to find everything lacking. Food, lodging, security, and even the actual performers were either massively sub-standard or missing altogether. Even water wasn’t available. There was a vicious social media backlash, the event wound up canceled, and Billy McFarland was arrested and sent to prison for fraud. 

This is obviously a dramatic example, but you get where we’re going with this. If you can’t deliver on what you promise, think twice before putting out misleading statements. 

Keep your message simple

What do you do when you hear too much noise? You cover your ears. 

Customers do the same thing with your (and everybody else’s) marketing. There are too many Google Ads, YouTube pre-rolls, social media posts, emails, brochures, and landing pages vying for attention — some even from the same company. Do you really think a customer will pay attention to a rambling explanation of how your product works? 

Over explaining or using jargon to explain what you’re offering will drive your customer away. You’ll just get that blank stare I was talking about. 

Try simplifying your mission statement down to a small number of points. Again, focus on either the biggest problem it solves or its biggest benefit. Your product might solve multiple pain points, but prioritizing one or two will keep your message clear for your primary audience. This is much more effective than trying to reel in secondary customers at the cost of clarity.

Tell a story

Storytelling is a fantastic way to ease the customers into your complex offering. It also carries the critical values of relatability and emotion. Sell yourself by telling a story, and you can introduce new concepts simply in a way that feels natural. Research has shown that messages delivered as stories are 22 times more memorable than a straight list of facts. Now that’s a fact! Or should I say, that’s a story? 🤔

Explainer videos are a perfect vehicle to share this information. These are short, two-to-five- minute videos that weave a narrative around your product or service, often including some simple animations and a proxy character your customer will subconsciously project themselves onto.

Production company Yum Yum Videos is notable for creating a fantastic explainer video about, well… explainer videos. It’s short, concise, filled to the gills with information, and yet simple and memorable. It’s the ultimate explainer video explainer video, if you will. Using the medium of video to explain the medium of video is also a fantastic way of establishing Yum Yum as an authority in the field. While we’re on the subject of video — yes, it can be expensive. But who says you have to start with Hollywood-level special effects? A lower-budget, more intimate production value might even benefit your brand. It’s what got many YouTubers where they are today.

You also don’t have to stick to video or even focus solely on your product. You can tell stories about your brand to create a personal and relatable image. Your competition might have the same products with similar features, but they won’t be able to copy your journey.

This is how Sara Blakely first marketed SPANX, a revolutionary women’s undergarment that, at the time, was the only one of its kind.

Starting out, Sara would often tell prospects and media about how she came up with the idea. When getting ready for a party, she decided to cut the feet out of pantyhose and threw them on under her pants. While doing this, she noted that “this should exist for women!” She then used her $5,000 in savings (saved up from selling fax machines door-to-door) to start the company. This story immediately made her relatable to the customer. After all, fashion faux pas affects us all. As a result, Sara’s story became SPANX’s story too, humanizing the brand. Today, SPANX is sold in over 50 countries worldwide. What’s your story? Does it need to be heard?

No matter what you’re selling, don’t feel like your “thing” is too complicated to explain. All you have to do to market your niche offering is:

  • Focus on your consumer’s problems: get to really know your customer.
  • Make your offering enticing and deliver on it. 
  • Keep your messaging simple: narrow and focus your offering.
  • Tell your brand’s story: make it relatable and appeal to their human side. 

Before long, people will know your complicated “thing” so well, you won’t need to explain anymore. They’ll just know what you do. That’s because you’re the one who does it best.

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