What to look out for when selling non-traditional products

By being taboo, the need for a product is felt many times over a simple product. It becomes vitally important to work with existing consumers, to occupy their minds and to live in their shoes.

16th Apr 2020
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There is an inherent revulsion that we feel as humans, when certain topics infringe upon our mental safety limits. Whether it is a conversation at work, with family, or friends, there always exists boundaries that we adhere to. We can discuss a condom campaign with our friends, but rarely with our families. Products like surrogacy, hair revitalisers, morning-after pills, adult diapers, sexual enhancers, etc, are all seen as taboo. And it’s even tougher to run a business venture in this space.


Taboo

As an entrepreneur in the adult diapers business, I have witnessed firsthand the queasy faces and uncomfortable silences that one can be faced with while trying to create a conversation around the category. I can break the most important principles down into four macro-points.

Consumer mindset

A taboo product is still serving a need. Additionally, by being taboo, the need for the product is felt many times over a simple product. Thus, it becomes vitally important to work with existing consumers, to occupy their minds and to live in their shoes.


The lack of conversation does not mean lack of product. And the only way you can continue growing in the face of ridicule and lack of empathy, is to continue to build upon your product’s ability to solve a real need. You should be obsessed with your users, and how your product adds value to their lives.


Keep improving on your product and identifying the right moments for the conversation about the product based on his/her life. Consumer trust and support will be the best brand endorsements that you can ask for. Once you have this, keep building on it.


Consumer knowledge trumps all. 

Patience

The patience to learn, to teach, to answer questions, to wait out category growth, to weather roadblocks to conversions, to drive conversations, to overcome user avoidance and to bridge communication gaps. An overwhelming amount of patience is needed to run a business venture on a taboo subject.


From explaining concepts repeatedly, to continually working towards opening people’s minds, whether those are prospective investors, distributors, employees, agencies, or partners, to simply patiently earning respect, this is a long journey. You are expected to be on the fringe, not mainstream.


Thus, the onus is upon us to continually educate the market, and to demystify or illuminate the message and consumer needs. It also takes patience to work with consumers, to help them fight their shame or resistance towards a product and give them a platform where they feel comfortable engaging with you.

Communication

A mastery over communication is a baseline expectation. You should be able to narrate your brand story succinctly, respectfully and engagingly. Your words bear the weight of an underserved market, and consumers who may wish to engage but are being held back due to societal judgement or shame. 


It is our responsibility to help spread the message and to respectfully deal with a topic that is fraught with connotations. Only the most effective of communications will help you ease this burden. And conversely, anything said flippantly will set your own endeavour back, much more severely than it would be with other industries. Impeccable design, whether comms or product is also needed.


It is essential in a taboo company to pay extra attention to all on-boarding activities, whether the first engagement of a prospect, or the first touchpoint with the product. The mind is against you, so ease the journey.

Talent

All of the above pointers should allow you to galvanise and recruit more followers for your cause. It takes a lot to convince someone of talent to move to a smaller pasture or a more challenging one. It takes even more, to move them into a pasture that everyone avoids. And as we all know, simply nothing is achieved alone.

A stronger team that backs you up, magnifies your effort to educate the market and to serve your consumers. The best people will add momentum to your cause and will allow you to grow faster than you thought. This is one of the hidden positives of a taboo product, i.e, the tipping point can surprise even veterans. And to be a part of the team, who makes a conversation, any conversation, mainstream? Now that’s a challenge worth fighting for.





Starting your entrepreneurial innings and running one on a taboo subject can sometimes feel unfairly hard. What other categories take for granted can sometimes take years to achieve. However, the payoffs are also resoundingly higher.


You get a genuine chance to change consumer psyche on a national level, to have a thought-provoking and honest dialogue with a nation, help remove a taboo and aid millions of customers in attaining a sense of pride or comfort, instead of shame.


Try doing that while selling chocolates.

(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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