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One of the most exciting aspect of starting a new company is taking on the challenge carving out a niche for a something that may not even have a market yet. But, then this leaves the question of how do you market something that’s never been marketed before?

There are the obvious first steps that any business student has memorized; identifying who your customers are and the role that this service and/or product can provide for them. These first two steps are important because if you can correctly identify these elements, then your marketing strategy can almost write itself. If your strategy is a success, then people will find out about your new company, they’ll buy whatever it is you’re selling and you’ll live happily ever after as the founder of a successful start up.

But, what if things don’t work out that way?

What if you were wrong about aspects of your marketing strategy? It’s ok, you can actually benefit from this!

Some of the most popular products in the world started out as some the worst marketing disasters in history. One such notable disasters was the telephone.

Startup Weekend

After Alexander Grahm Bell first patented the telephone in 1876, it was introduced to the public as a replacement  for the telegram and marketed solely for purpose of business communications. The telephone that many of us remember, the one that was used to gossip with friends or  call grandma was not in the original marketing strategy. Early advertisements even went as far as to portray using the telephone for socializing as frivolous and inappropriate.

Startup weekend

Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend

The early marketers telephone did an excellent job sticking strictly to their marketing strategy, so much so that they slowed the growth of their own product. It wasn’t until the late 1920’s, that marketers started to realize the potential in encouraging the social aspects the telephone.

Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend

It was this unintended social use that brought the telephone to almost every home in the Western world. This didn’t happen because marketers thought it was a good idea, this happened because thats how people had been using the telephone all along. It just took marketers nearly 50 years to catch on.

So what can be learned from the mistakes of the telephone? Be prepared for things not to go according to plan and be ready to adapt. Marketing new products should not be looked at in just terms of  failure vs success, but as a process. As important as it is to have a marketing strategy it is just as important to have an open mind and be able to grow with new developments.

*If you like to read more about the history of telephone read get the book                     America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940 by Claude Fischer

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Megan Dodge