By Martin Zwilling
New technology markets and paradigm shifts have traditionally been bad bets when seeking investors, since these were known to take decades to develop, and cost lots of money. For example, consider how many years it took for the market to move from radio to television, or fully accept personal computers on every desktop. The leading edge was too often the bleeding edge.
Yet now I believe the evidence is clear that the world has changed. Many customers now actively seek out new technologies, rather than wait for many others to try it first. Technology is changing faster than ever, and new things usually work when they are released. Steve Jobs proved it with the iPhone, and Elon Musk can’t produce his electric cars fast enough to keep up with demand.
Bold entrepreneurs now can credibly talk about entirely new markets, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), genetic modifications, and privatized space travel. However, such changes don’t yet happen automatically, so it still takes proactive strategies and key actions to create new demand where none exists. Here are the specifics that I recommend to improve your odds of success:
Sell the market concept before building a product. Today, with instant and pervasive Internet communication, you can sell your vision via blogging, crowdfunding, and videos before you spend big money building prototypes and pivoting as you learn. This will prep and size the market, and greatly increase your chances of getting it right the first time.
Highlight positive social and environmental impacts. For example, if your new product reduces pollution or world hunger, this adds immediate value and confirms a positive long-term strategy for customers today. Too many founders still focus their product design and selling efforts only on direct paybacks to the customer.
Incent your team to continually think “outside-the-box.” You set the limits and the culture for your team, based on how you reward creative thinking, or penalize people for failed experiments. It starts with hiring the right people, and building relationships with the right experts, analysts, and investors. Then you really listen to what they have to say.
Work to build a compelling story around your new idea. Customers need to see personal and social benefits around a new solution, not just a new technology. The change must also include long-term benefits, as well as short-term. A compelling story can make or break your ability to differentiate your solution from dozens of others.
Use social media and the media to build demand for change. New markets don’t just happen, or create themselves. People need to be influenced and educated to change consumption habits, expectations, and buying patterns. Product messaging and branding need to follow later, after the initial demand has been built. Concept marketing is critical.
Build momentum with an integrated marketing campaign. All the elements of change required for the new market must be addressed consistently, not just the product elements. A successful campaign must not only capture people’s imagination but must have the right integration to move people to a new frame of reference and new thinking.
Acknowledge and position competitors around you. It may sound counterintuitive, but when you are creating a new market, competition helps legitimize it and increases the size of the pie. Position competitors positively around you, and continue to find ways to keep yourself ahead of the crowd, with both product offerings and thought leadership.
Elon Musk, for example, opened all his battery patents to competitors, with the expectation that this would expand the market as well as build the support infrastructure for his Tesla electric car market. He highlighted the positive environmental aspects, as well as the high performance remote maintenance elements of his new technology. New markets don’t have to be disruptive.
Thus new entrepreneurs have a new alternative to the tried and true approach of linear thinking, cost reduction, and more new features. Maybe it’s time for you to step out of your comfort zone, think more broadly, and pursue a new market legacy for maximum fun and profit.
The writer is a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and Angel investor. Published on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, Huffington Post, and others.