Despite scrubbing, your fridge still stinks. No problem, right? You know the secret: Place some coffee grounds in a bowl and let the fragrant grounds absorb nasty odors.
What you’ve done was cleverly “MacGyver” a common product. This type of off-label usage is commonplace, most notably in the medical field. Prescribers often find unexpected benefits to pharmaceuticals, which the FDA brands as unapproved—but sometimes medically acceptable. Yet “off-labeling” occurs in other industries, too, and often to the amazement of product developers, marketers, and sales teams.
Take duct tape. It’s a home improvement staple now, but it didn’t start that way. Instead, it was a Johnson & Johnson military invention that slowly gained popularity as a DIYer’s and fixer-upper’s dream. Today, it’s as available as milk and bread in grocery stores.
Could you have your own version of “duct tape” in your menu of product options? Maybe. And if you do, you may be able to open fresh revenue streams without introducing another item. To max out the mileage on your products, try the following strategies. They indicate if there’s more to what you sell than you thought.
1. Look for tangential uses for your goods and services.
You see your offerings through one light. That’s only normal. But could it be time to see them through different eyes? The baking soda and duct tape examples above prove that goods and services frequently have untapped uses.
Your team might be a little too subjective at first to see tangential product use opportunities. Gain some objectivity by eliciting routine feedback from your strongest, longest customers. You may find some inspiration in what you hear. That’s what happened for CureMetrix, a producer of AI-driven software that interprets mammograms quickly. This example stood out to me since I had a connection working there and I’ve lost several close people to me from heart disease.
With the help of radiologists, they discovered a secondary value to its core breast cancer detection offering: The ability for the algorithm to help detect potential heart disease in women. As a result, the company extended its programming capabilities to evolve cmAngio. Their cmAngio use case, which is still in development, detects and then scores quantifiable cardio risk factors in mammograms. This gives radiologists the ability to get a double-use out of a single mammogram.
So how can you do this yourself? Think about eliciting feedback from loyal users on the many ways they’re leveraging your product. You might be surprised by what you hear.
2. Encourage experimentation among consumers.
In addition to asking clients how they’re making use of your products, encourage them to experiment on their own. This can be done in a number of ways, such as through incentivizing safe “off-label” purposes. Or, you could direct your audience to play around with a product.
Alka-Seltzer does this in a fun way. Bayer’s product development and research team wants to boost the scientific credibility of Alka-Seltzer. At the same time, the company obviously wants to raise sales. Consequently, they’ve devoted a section of the Alka-Seltzer website to cool science experiments.
On the surface, Bayer doesn’t explicitly encourage readers to buy more of the product. Nonetheless, the underlying call-to-action is pretty clear. This is a clever way to ensure that households keep some Alka-Seltzer in the pantry—and not just for spicy after-dinner relief.
Don’t be afraid to herd your customer base in a specific direction. They might need a little help thinking outside the box. If you’re successful, you might generate a new passive income source. Bonus points if you track those “passive” purchases.
3. Go with the flow when an unforeseen trend spikes.
You have a marketing direction for your product. Your whole team is excited to deploy your latest digital campaign. In fact, it’s air-tight. Then, the unexpected happens: A totally different audience starts buying your items. Instead of seeing this as an anomaly, lean into it as good fortune.
Small trends and fads can lead to big business. Just look at UGGs. At its inception, the company was mainly the purview of the surfer set. Somehow, the UGG popularity, comfort, and versatility took hold. Lo and behold, the up-and-coming generations in the 1990s and 2000s brought about an UGG renaissance.
Did the UGG brand stick to its original concept? No way. The company began a major marketing campaign and turned its niche product into a worldwide success. This was a classic tale of moving beyond a product’s original intent. If UGG’s product placement team hadn’t had its ears—feet?—to the ground, they might have missed a golden opportunity.
Always expect the unexpected when it comes to expansion. Your target audience might not be your true target after all, and you have to be ready to soar with the winds of change.
No matter what you’ve built or created, others will always see it in a different light. This could include anyone from a customer to the newest member of your marketing or sales team. Look through their eyes from time to time and listen to what they say. You could have major growth potential on your hands, even without making any major alterations to your product lineup.
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