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How do you market the solution to an unknown problem?

Article:  By Dennis Keay

Try as we might, it’s impossible for us humans to know everything, and so solutions to our problems are always limited by the boundaries of our knowledge and experience…and sometimes we don’t know where or how to look for that knowledge and experience.  Here’s a classic example of what I’m talking about:-

Henry Ford was born in 1863, in the days when the horse and cart were the main mode of transport. The first car ever made was in 1886 by Carl Benz. As an entrepreneurial young man, Ford could see the car’s potential as a fast mode of transport…much faster than the horse…but the majority of the world didn’t even know it existed. Ford knew that man’s desire was to get from place to place faster, and is credited with saying, “If I asked a man what he wants, he’d say, ‘A faster horse!’”

So the quandary is, how do you find solutions that are beyond the bounds of your experience, especially since technology is advancing at such a rapid pace?  How do you find solutions that help you leap frog your competitor?

We know that new inventions are being created all the time, and can represent ground breaking opportunities for early adopters. Identifying those opportunities and acting on them is where the gold is…and yes, you do need to manage the risks when introducing new unproven technology. But sometimes you can discover technology that has already been proven in a different country or in a different application, and you’re simply applying it in a new market or application.  Let me give you an example…

The laser was invented in 1960, a scientific invention, developed without a specific problem to solve. Pure research! It was originally written as LASER, an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. It was a solution in search of a problem.

Nowadays lasers are part of our everyday life! They’re in laser printers; optical discs; barcode scanners; metal cutting lasers; surgical lasers; laser alignment systems…they’re everywhere! They’re even used in DNA sequencing! Those who were first to harness the power of this new laser technology in the various markets immediately had a competitive advantage.

The Marketing Dilemma – Marketing the Invisible

Now imagine you were the inventor of the laser, and you knew it had certain capabilities but you could barely imagine what future problems it could solve and where it could be used.

How would you go about marketing it?

Who would you market it to?

Would you go to industrial chemists, the metal cutting industry, the music industry, the military, medical researchers…?  And what would you tell them they could use it for?  DNA sequencing? Say what? And which of their problems would you tell them it could solve, or which opportunities it could open up for them?

And, even if you could tell them…would they believe you…or simply say, “I don’t know of anyone else using it, so, thank you, but no thank you.”?

This is certainly a marketing dilemma. We have a client with this dilemma…but more about that in a moment.

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Things have moved on in leaps and bounds since invention of the laser. There are other technologies that are new to market which may solve problems you don’t know you have, and which may represent commercial and strategic opportunities that could leap frog you well in advance of your competitors…but how do you know? How do you find the providers of that technology and expertise if you don’t know it exists?  If you’re an entrepreneur, that’s certainly a dilemma you may have.

We have a client who has cutting edge manufacturing capabilities and equipment, with a team of geniuses (high-tech nerds), with deep expertise across a range of industry sectors. Everything from medical device development, aviation and electric vehicle applications, and artificial intelligence…and they’re introducing new technology from overseas, not yet seen in Australia.  They help take innovative ideas from the minds of entrepreneurial inventors from concept stage through to pre-production and commercialisation. Fascinating stuff!

Their dilemma is complex. First, they need to connect with appropriate entrepreneurial inventors, and then, how do they demonstrate to their entrepreneurial target market that they can offer a “laser-like” game changing technology that can take the entrepreneur’s concept into a high-tech, eloquent, game-changing reality? One of the problems here is the lack of a common ‘vocabulary’ and understanding. One may talk in ‘nuts and bolts’ and the other in ‘bits and bytes’ with different baselines of experience.  How would you explain Year 12 maths to a Year 3 student?

Your Competitive Edge?

If you’re a follower rather than an entrepreneurial leader, the risk is that YOU could be leap-frogged by a competitor who adopts new technology that you don’t even know exists. You may be left behind! Let’s take the case of CNC laser cutting machines…there’s now around 3,000 metal-cutting laser businesses in Australia. The early adopters got the jump on their competitors, but then everyone else HAD to follow suit or they’d become uncompetitive.

How about a different example:  Do you know that Kodak, a company once at the forefront of photographic technology, invented the digital camera, but they didn’t think it would go anywhere, so they shelved it. Then competitors from electronics companies saw an opportunity, developed the successfully marketed the digital camera, and leap frogged Kodak…who missed the market opportunity and went broke! Doh!

Your Dilemma

I’ve talked about our client’s dilemma in finding appropriate entrepreneurial clients, and I’ve talked about your potential dilemma as an entrepreneur, seeking a way to bring your magnificent brain-child idea to reality. I’ve been pondering how to solve both of these problems or dilemmas at the same time. I’ve got a range of ideas of how it could be approached, including networking at various industry events; demonstrating capability at trade-shows; using various forms of social media; brainstorming who else may have the problems that they’ve already solved for existing clients and approaching them directly, plus a few other more creative ideas up my sleeve.

Perhaps we can help both parties?

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for a company such as our client, you can reach out to us and we can look at introducing the two of you. This could be the first step in your laser-like competitive-edge journey.

You can contact us at .

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