5 Keys to Marketing a Product Nobody Wants

One of the most intense marketing challenges that exists, is effectively marketing products that no one wants. It is a frustrating, head-scratching, mentally exhausting proposition, and one that has ultimately made me a better marketer.

What do I mean by “a product that nobody wants”? There are many, if you think about it. Funeral services, for instance. That’s definitely a product that nobody wants.

My ever-evolving career seems to have settled on one such industry. For the past seven plus years, I have served in various marketing capacities for companies in the personal mobility and accessibility industry. I currently serve as Marketing Director for Centerspan Medical. We sell products such as stairlifts – which allow people to safely ride in a seat up the stairs; wheelchair ramps, vertical wheelchair lifts, and the like. Nobody ever wants to be in the position of needing these products; and even those who do need them, resist and avoid them, because of how they force them to confront their own physical limitations and mobility challenges. So how do you build a successful marketing strategy?

cool skiers
We can’t all market lifestyle products that make people feel this cool

We all can’t be marketers working in the fashion industry, entertainment, trendy brands, and the latest technology. These are products and brands that people strongly desire, and contribute to their lifestyle, image, and social status. Marketing products that nobody wants is more nuanced, requires a ton of patience, and a completely different strategy.

Here are the 5 keys to marketing products nobody wants:

1. Know who your audience is.
Chances are, within this particular marketing realm, the end users you are trying to reach are not necessarily the consumers you are talking to. Remember, the end user doesn’t want anything to do with this product. So chances are, it is a caretaker or someone who looks after the end user in some way that would be seeking the solution that you’re offering. It is important to tailor your marketing strategy and messaging with this in mind.

2. Use needs-based, not wants-based messaging.
Clearly, if you’re marketing a product nobody wants, then you’re marketing a needs-based product. It’s a product that nobody wants or even know that they need, until an event takes place that suddenly creates the need for it in their personal lives. So to use my industry as an example, it wouldn’t serve us well to create flashy ads that detail the “Hottest stairlifts of the season!”. That’s not a needs-based message. That’s a wasted message that seeks to instill some level of desirability upon a product that nobody truly desires. Something along the lines of, “We’ll be there when you need us” is a much more effective strategy.

3. Do not remind people of the plight they’re in to be in need of your product.
If you sell water, fire, and smoke restoration services, your target audience doesn’t need to be reminded that they just went through a catastrophic event that demanded a need for your product. Again, using my industry – we never announce one’s frailty or disability in our marketing. That’s a turn off. Instead, we focus on how empowering our products are for those who need them. Seniors who can’t climb stairs any longer, or those with physical disabilities know their limitations. They don’t need us to remind them and point it out. They need us to point to an effective solution.

4. Be there when the need arises.
Mass media can be effective, simply because you are literally reaching everybody, including those who have the immediate need for your product. However, the percentage of your target among the audience you’re addressing is miniscule. Your CPL (cost per lead) is going to be outrageous. So unless you have an enormous marketing budget to work with that allows for some experimentation and broad coverage, you will want to try and target only those who have the specific need you are addressing. This will be a much smaller audience, but hopefully, a much more effective and lead rich environment. What this consists of totally depends on the product that you’re selling. So there is no one-size-fits-all solution. In our business, we use very specific targeting metrics within our AdWords campaigns, seek out communities via social media that contain our target audience, and look for media vehicles that include those who are dealing with the needs that our products address.

5. Get a referral program. Now.
Still, after all of these years and advances in media saturation everywhere, word-of-mouth advertising is and will always be the best and most effective form of marketing there is. People simply take to heart the recommendations of their friends and family more seriously than anything they read or hear from a stranger. In order to foster this type of referral, offering some sort of incentive to your customer is crucial. If you keep your customers happy, and give them a good reason to sing your praises, they will. Plus, they’re in the trenches. They know when someone within their circle of influence is met with a need that your product addresses. Those of us in the world of selling products that nobody wants typically don’t have the luxury of repeat buyers. We sell needs-based products that people purchase and then move on with their lives. It is critical to turn those people into ambassadors for your brand and product.

These 5 things are really just the tip of the iceberg. Do you have other suggestions? Please share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

17 thoughts on “5 Keys to Marketing a Product Nobody Wants

  1. This is a good article. Marketing these types of products and services can be very challenging and difficult. Great insight!

  2. I happen to work in this kind of industry. My company, Wellcare Home Medicals, provides care for dependent adults in their homes. Most of my service users, of course, wiah they didn’t need us. Word-of-mouth marketing has proven invaluable in this respect. Thanks so much for the article

  3. Hey Ben, a very instructive piece. Securing paying customers which is what we get we engage in effective marketing is always a challenge no matter what industry you’re in. Of course, it does get more challenging when you’re dealing with “a product that nobody wants”.
    What makes your 5-point solution more effective is the fact that they’re based on your own experiences.
    The only other point I’ll like to add is to see yourself as a problem solver and not a money grabber. Too often, many of us go into business with the mindset of just making money. As I regularly explain to startup entrepreneurs I consult for, there’s no one out there with lots of money waiting for you to come grab. There are however a bunch of people with real problems that need real, effective solutions.
    So when you go in there as the one with the solution they’re seeking, they’ll handsomely reward you for your help.
    So how do I make this problem solver approach work for me when I’m selling something no one wants?
    It’s all in the approach. I’ll create a site, a forum that gives my target market a platform to share their experience with others in a similar situation. That in itself could be a major part of the solution to the problem many of them are faced with. So when I later suggest other ways of solving their problem(s) by way of selling them my product, the selling part becomes less demanding on me.

    1. Ben – these are excellent points. Being problem solvers is a critical part of what we teach our sales staff everyday, and is a worthy addition to my list. This is very important, since the only reason someone would need a product they don’t actually want, is because they have a problem that needs solving. Thanks for the excellent comment! Hope to see you around!

  4. Of course an expert or celebrity endorsement is also great publicity and viral. And if the product is one that helps people in need, they may just endorse without wanting fee. Also sending a key celebrity a free product sample such as a motorized wheelchair to a star who just broke his leg in a skiing accident as an example

    1. Certainly celebrity endorsements are effective, but they are also astronomically expensive. In a perfect world, perhaps celebrities would offer their blessings for a noble product without compensation. But unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. A celebrity’s product is his or her image, and they charge a premium for it. Even when you see celebrities endorsing nonprofits and humanitarian causes on TV, they are getting paid very well. These organizations have massive PR and marketing budgets, even though they are nonprofit.

      Thank you for reading and offering your insight!

  5. I’m really glad I saw this post, as I’ve just moved to a new area and was wondering how to get the word out that there is a new Sign Writer in town. Signs are definitely needs-based products, but with other companies in the area, I don’t want to tread on anyone’s toes, even though I kind of offer something that those guys don’t do anymore. Message received, understood and tested out straight away. Fingers crossed that I’ve found my best Target Audience. Cheers, Vicki

    1. Hi Vicki – I’m glad you found us as well. I love custom sign writing. That is definitely a lost art, and one that can be in demand in certain places. If your city or county allows for signage to be placed in public right-of-ways, perhaps you could advertise your product by showing examples of your product! Create different creative signs with your name and contact info on them, and place them around town. Again – check out the local codes and ordinances first. But it would be cool if your signs were all unique, advertising your business. That right there will showcase your talents!

  6. Great article, Ben! I think we offer (in service industries) certain benefits such as safety, peace of mind, freedom, a more pleasurable lifestyle…. without mentioning the difficult state they may be in. I can relate in my organizing business. People may not want to pay for clutter removal. But they will pay for a home that brings them joy and affords them the freedom to include other people in their lives.

  7. I like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my web site 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *