How to sell a product or service when you have no brand

How to break into an industry when no one has heard of you

When attempting to start to sell our new services (digital marketing services) I was struck with a harsh reminder, how difficult it can be to sell a product or a service (especially a service) to customers when you have no brand.

We have built our coffee company’s brand (Aquaspresso) up quite nicely over the last 8 years to the point where most customers we interact with on a first time basis have heard of us or know of some company that uses our services. It hadn’t dawned on me how beneficial “brand recognition” can be when you are selling your product or service, until we launched our digital company a few months ago.

When we launched our digital agency (Digital Results) we had ,and still today, have no brand presence – we are essentially a nobody in a VERY flooded space. Digital Marketing must be one of the most saturated industries in South Africa if not the world especially when it comes to reaching one’s audience as all the digital agencies are naturally trying to find their customers online.

I however still have a strong belief that one can build a brand and find customers in the process, in a crowded industry. I’ve been experimenting with a number of distribution/sales tactics over the past few months and here are some of my learnings (mainly from failed experiments)

  1. It’s less important what product you sell and more important how you reach the person (if you have a saturated medium in your industry, whether it be Facebook, Adwords or something else, simply try a different medium where your customers are likely to be (cold calling or cold emailing STILL works btw). There is almost always a channel where your competitors aren’t active (Youtube, is often in a lot of industries, that very channel)
  2. Low Risk >> Low Price ; Overcoming the risk factor of doing business with you is usually far more important and valuable than being cheap. I had almost forgotten that one of the biggest reasons that customers chose to rent our coffee machines rather than our competitors’ in the early days was that we were offering month-to-month contracts where our competitors were offering 3 year rental leases (people often chose us over them even though they hadn’t heard of us and our prices were higher)
  3. “Time spent” is a risk consideration as well. We were offering free trials on our digital products in the first months which weren’t successful as customers still had to go through a meeting with us, implementation, etc. If you can find a way for your customers to use your products or service in a way which is as risk-free as possible and takes minimal time/effort on their part, you are giving yourself a big chance to succeed.
  4. Guarantees – In a field of little trust their are huge opportunities. Almost every company we have spoken to, had been burnt at some stage by a digital company promising the world but delivering nothing. What better way to overcome this industry bias than by offering a money back guarantee (yes it’s risky but if your service and product is good AND you believe that people, on the most part, are fair and don’t intentionally go out there to take advantage of companies, then money back guarantees can be a great way to separate yourselves from competitors. We have recently started offering a money back guarantee and have immediately seen how effective it can be
  5. Niches are king – One of the oldest bits of advice, but still one of the most important to heed is to start in a niche. Starting in a niche somehow automatically gives you more authority than your competitors who are “the best at everything”. People automatically assume that a car insurance company who ONLY serves women, will serve women better than a company who serves woman and men. When you go after a niche you can either choose an industry niche or a market segment niche – both are effective and important

Every industry is different but in many ways all industries are alike. Cracking the brandless sales pitch is a big goal for me and I continue to learn new things each day in this mission.

Brand building of course is important but you have to start somewhere!