January 12, 2016

Marketing Research Chart: Tactics marketers use to introduce customers to new products

SUMMARY: In anticipation of the upcoming MarketingSherpa Summit, where these popular topics will be explored, we continue to analyze the results of the 2015 MarketingSherpa Marketing Practices Survey. Read on to discover which tactics are most popular with marketers to help customers discover new products, and what lessons marketers have learned along the way.
by Dr. Liva LaMontagne , Editorial Research Manager

The idea that the discovery process is an important step in a brand’s competitive strategy is hardly new — Ian MacMillan and Rita McGrath asked marketers two crucial questions in their 1997 Harvard Business Review article: "Are consumers aware that you can satisfy their need? Are they aware that they even have a need that can be satisfied?" They added that brands can create a powerful competitive advantage if they can make consumers aware of a need in a "unique and subtle" way.

As you may already know, we have conducted two surveys — a marketer and a consumer survey — looking to compare what consumers say they want and what marketers actually do, to help us build content for the upcoming MarketingSherpa Summit.

In a previous Chart of the Week we looked at data from our marketer survey for ways marketers can improve the shopping experiences for their brands’ customers. This week we take a look at ways today's marketers attract new customers to try their products, or introduce existing customers to new products.


Through September 15-28, 2015, MarketingSherpa conducted an online survey with 455 marketers from its subscriber list.

We asked marketers, "How do you help new customers learn about your products or existing customers learn about new products? Please select all that apply."

The top five ways were:
  • Online advertising (60%)

  • Search engine optimization (57%)

  • Producing online content directly from brand — e.g., blogs, social media, videos, forums (56%)

  • Encouraging sharing on social media accounts (47%)

  • Encouraging word-of-mouth from friends, family and colleagues (45%)

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

We also asked marketers, "What have you learned about helping customers discover your products?"

Some of them allowed us to quote them with their names and titles, but others will be unattributed.

The following four main themes emerged from their answers:

Providing helpful content at the right time

"Be found where they are seeking solutions or are open to possibilities. Don't interrupt — interact."

"We experience noticeable boosts in purchases when we develop regular content that promotes our products. The focus of the article is on a useful topic for gaining or honing a skill our customers desire, and our products are positioned as some of the resources that can help them along the way."

"There's no point in holding back on the information about a product. Even if [customers are] only in the research stage, having access to user manuals can be key in their buying decisions."

"We provide tips and tutorial articles that help [customers] see their problems solved for others, making them understand we can solve their problems, too." (Wes Currier, Developer, wesFX Design and Development)

"Our customers' lives are extremely fast paced, and their attention span or available time is limited. It is important to not only make the customer aware of our products but of how our products benefit them in a clear and quick message."

Diversifying ways of reaching out

"Giving [customers] multiple ways to learn about our products is the key. Not everyone consumes information in the same way so offering a variety of avenues ensures you will have a way to reach [every] individual looking to learn about your brand/products." (Jill Henry, Email Marketing Manager, DENTSPLY)

"Increase volume from any traffic source — social paid sources, referral traffic and organic search."

"Sharing in all the places your customers are — which can be across several communication channels — is essential."

"First, what Google giveth, Google can taketh away. So, diversify your acquisition channels. If you're killing it on SEO and the [algorithms] change on you — guess what? You're screwed. It's just plain good practice. MESSAGING is the killer app for us for the foreseeable future (email, SMS, notifications, etc.). We're going to great lengths to de-risk organic acquisition. Funny thing is, the more we succeed at it, the better our SEO signal becomes. It's a counterintuitive growth strategy."

Increasing third-party credibility

"You must offer high-quality products and quickly address concerns to inspire third-party endorsement. It is less about what a brand says about its products and more about what the public says about a brand and its products. Companies must be transparent and live up to their products and services."

"Reviews are playing an even more important role today ... prospective clients want to read about positive experiences about the brand they may potentially engage with." (Bob Singh, Business Owner/Director, Bloomtools)

"Encourage them to ask for the experience from satisfied users of [your] products." (Humberto González, Marketing Manager, FUTECO)

"We have engaged ... a social media sharing rewards platform." (Tim Dubitsky, UX Lead, Give to Cure)

Targeting and personalization

"Long tail product discovery is the easiest to attract the right customers to your website. Your conversion rates will be higher. Don't worry about the masses. Target." (Dawn Kole, President, Digital DNA Marketing)

"Target specific personas in specific verticals."

"[Facebook] ads are great because you can target by interest." (Mike Zenga, Principal, ZR)

"Different customers take different paths to product discovery and targeting those groups is important, but difficult."

"Customers appreciate personalized recommendations and that, of course, leads to business growth!" (John Zylstra, Chief Marketing Officer, Honica Zylstra Designs)

"There's nothing more important than speaking directly with customers. You'll uncover new aspects of your product you never thought up, which can lead to better, more customized product development ideas." (Joanna Eliopoulos, Digital Marketing Manager, Clickback)

To sum up, marketers are trying to help customers discover new products by investing in online advertising, SEO, producing useful content, encouraging sharing on social media and word-of-mouth from family and friends. Marketers also strive to attract customers to discover their products by targeting specific customer groups, personalizing their product offers and diversifying their communication channels.

Next week, we will examine the results of our Consumer Purchase Preference Survey to find out how U.S. consumers prefer to discover new products.

Related Resources

Enter the MarketingExperiments’ (MarketingSherpa’s sister company) fourth annual copywriting contest for a chance to win a MarketingSherpa package, which includes a free ticket to MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 and a stay at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Deadline for entries in January 17, 2016 and official rules are here.

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Discovering New Points of Differentiation (by Ian MacMillan and Rita McGrath, Harvard Business Review)

MarketingSherpa Consumer Purchase Preference Survey

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