Rightly said, future is unknowing and unavoidable – it is filled with wide ‘many’ opportunities and unknown dangers and threats. Despite this truism, marketers and business professionals will have a peculiar and definite interest in the future. Maybe, we can say the ability to predict the future trends – in terms of technology, product features, product design, pricing and the ‘invisible’ opportunity – are rewarding and spell magic to invoke seller’s interest.
And, this naturally asks an informed marketer to conduct a SWOT ( Strength, weakness, Opportunity,Threat) analysis of the market situation prior to investing his funds and time in the ‘futuristic’ marketing. An optimist will be excited and look for an opportunity to ‘sell’ while a pessimist will be paralysed, even though, only for a short while. In my experience, future presents a challenge to a capable marketer. Such marketer would look forward to it and plan to win over the situation with his existing or to be acquired traits.
In the year 1997, I was selling a futuristic product and did well – a new technology – Key Telephone Systems (KTS) in an Indian market Mumbai dominated by poorly organized sector that was flooded by grey market products and much cheaper option – EPABX. Definitely, it turned out to be a ‘challenging’ situation that required concept selling skills beside product marketing. It required lot of grit and optimism to penetrate a market which was not responding to KTS ‘high’ rich features that score over any EPABX brand. “The market evolves, changes, transforms to the better” – these are the beliefs a marketer carries with himself when sets out to a meeting with a prospective buyer. Most of the time, it is not a straight answer of ‘NO’ – as the buyer, though wants to buy a futuristic product, he is not convinced about utility of the new features. This is the First problem – lack of understanding and implementation of new rich features by the customer. Herein, it is ‘concept selling’ that is adopted as an effort to explain the ‘advantages of latest features’, that are not available in EPABX. Sometimes, it works while most of the time, such explanation is met with reasons like concern, caution, negativism ( Do I require it??) or lack of budget – eventually the sale does not happen.
Naturally, the business owner is aware that it is not so easily ‘saleable’ due to lack of buyers – so, he cushions good high profit margin in his pricing – Second problem – prices do not match international standards – allowing competition from grey market flooding and selling at 50% cost of the legally imported ones. An intelligent buyer will argue and sometimes will accuse the ‘sincere’ marketer that he is trying to cheat him. Resistance to change in buyer sets in and the sales efforts are wasted.
So, how to do we sell a futuristic product? Well, it is a combination of traditional marketing methods, undying perseverence and unconventional thinking. Primarily, we gather knowledge as to where the new business premises are being constructed and get details as to who will be occupying them etc – whether it is a MNC bank, or company flushed with funds? This information is available with architects so we are in touch with leading architects and do not mind sharing the business profit as a commission for providing leads. In India, government sectors – it is the same typical way – bribe or corruption – though, it is not ethical – it gets an entry into the market serving as demo piece for other to see and enable us to sell more. This is the Third problem – marketing ethics.
Lastly, the Competition with other makes is severe as the buyers are not many and the well informed buyers take complete advantage and negotiate at very low prices. Fourth problem: Profitability.
In essence, these are some of the main problems, requiring to be solved, that I can mention ‘off the cuff ‘ , but there are other problems like new business break-even, accurate costing ( as customs duty changes rampantly), ‘corrupt’ customs clearance, lack of product/ model availability (internationally) , difficulty in recruiting capable sales force, data mining to get ‘leads’, etc that makes “futuristic marketing” challenging and rewarding too.