You see plenty of massive corporations spending big bucks on marketing and advertising. They’re working incredibly hard to build up brand awareness and to encourage you to buy their products instead of the competition’s. Samsung, Microsoft and Apple are a few prime examples of this and the assumption that many people make is that if you want to have that prominent of a presence in the marketplace, you need to similarly open up your wallet and purchase all sorts of ad space.
While it is certainly true that such heavy brand messaging can help consumers know about your company and its products a little better, it is not the only way for you to build sales and develop market share. We’re looking at the context of larger corporations, but the same underpinning philosophy can be applied just as easily to professional bloggers, freelancers and other Internet professionals.
When I was in Las Vegas for CES 2015, I had the chance to chat with ZTE Canada Chairman Lixin Cheng. In the Apple and Samsung-dominated world of smartphones, ZTE has quietly snuck its way into being the fourth largest smartphone vendor in the world, bigger than better known names like HTC and BlackBery.
How did this lesser-known Chinese company accomplish this feat? ZTE isn’t nearly as aggressive when it comes to media buys and you’re unlikely to see a ZTE commercial on television or a print ad in the newspaper. In speaking with Lixin Cheng, I was able to come to a couple of key conclusions.
First, getting hands-on experience with the product is critical. People want to touch, feel and try out their smartphones before they buy them, especially if they’re devices and brands that are unfamiliar to them. As an Internet entrepreneur who may dabble more in digital products, this translates to the importance of free trials and demos for online services or with excerpts for e-books and online courses. A quality product can almost sell itself if it gets into the right hands at the right time.
Second, let your resellers do the groundwork for you. ZTE pointed out that their retail partners have been very pleased with their smartphones and they don’t see any customers returning them. These retailers are helping to really sell the phones for them and, as an online marketer, you can see how the same scenario can arise in the context of affiliate marketing. Incentivize the sale and they’ll push your product for you without a heavy-handed marketing budget. Combined with the first point, this really helps to encourage a grassroots movement for your product and brand.
Third, be a solutions provider that really addresses the real needs of your target customer. ZTE says it listens very carefully to user feedback when designing its products. They’re able to cut costs on features that don’t matter as much and focus their attention on the features that customers really want. Keep the end user in mind and provide some real value. That’s a part of the “affordable premium” philosophy of ZTE.
Spending your advertising and marketing budget wisely can yield some serious rewards and it’s not a venue that should be completely neglected. At the same time, you have to realize that pure marketing muscle alone isn’t enough. Work with your customers and your resellers to develop a really good product that people really want. Let them be your ambassadors and enjoy the passive ROI.