How can we get people to learn about our small business? We have a small Internet company (Photonic Developments LLC, that provides products that help people sleep better. We sell glasses that are worn a few hours before bedtime that block blue light. This lets the body start making melatonin before bedtime so sleep comes quickly and deeply. Many doctors prescribe them for patients with insomnia.

Richard L. Hansler, Ph.D., Director, Lighting ­Innovations Institute, John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio



Successfully promoting a novel product takes tremendous insight into the market. You must understand how people in the market you serve differ in their needs and expectations so you can find the group most receptive to the solutions you offer. Reaching this group (your target market) with a message that establishes your credibility sets your products apart from competitors.

Knowing your target market will help you tackle the two challenges you face. First, you must decide how you want your target market to perceive your products relative to the solutions they would normally consider. What exactly do your products have to do to be considered along with your competition? Then, once you are being considered, what exactly do your products offer that is different enough to get them chosen?

Armed with your positioning, you must now identify where your target market turns for information about products like yours. The increased uncertainty surrounding novel products means you have to find ways to increase the credibility of your message. Who does your target market trust? Where do they expect to find credible information about products like yours? Focus on building relationships with these credible sources and crafting your message to fit their communication channels. And stay focused on reaching your target market where they want to be reached.

About the author: David Alexander, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, Marketing Department, University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business