Instead of pitching offerings, build an idea universe around your customer.

I just helped a $2000 Coffee client figure out how to get past the ‘pitch what you got and see what sticks’ paradigm.

This client, who works in an exciting area of tech entertainment, is well-versed in idea pitching. In fact, he and his competitors live and die by pitching the hottest, latest thing to buyers.

What’s the downside? I’d say the frustration of “having your idea rejected because, well, because the buyer is grumpy” ranks at the top of the list. Followed by “pitching an idea, only to find your nearest competitor just ripped off your idea and is pitching it for a buck fifty less”.

Having worked with a variety of CMO’s in my long advertising career, I offered up a fresh, blindingly simple solution: don’t pitch an idea – instead, pitch your understanding of the client’s customer, and the idea universe that customer would like to be surrounded by.

Idea Universe?

Understanding a particular consumer (demographic, psychographic, worldview) opens up a big palette for you. It allows you to think of the sort of products or services this consumer would love to wrap him / herself in. Take it one step further,  and you can begin to see how this consumer would use certain products in the course of their day.

Yes, this is simple stuff. But here’s where it gets interesting.

If you can imagine your consumer using your product, you can probably imagine extra things your product could do that would surprise and delight your consumer. A cellphone is great. A cellphone that eliminates a calendar is better. A cellphone that lets you watch hockey while your wife is shopping, priceless.

Once you’ve ideated these little innovation gaps, you can pitch a product that (if your client buys in) fills the gaps.

Voila – you’ve created a product that is not only unique, but is unique in a way a consumer appreciates.

Start with the consumer

It’s easy to skip past the consumer in this equation. Or easy to imagine what you think the consumer might like. Any savvy client will sniff out your ruse and send you packing.

My advice is to get the consumer picture right first. Know your consumer as well as you know your best friend. It will make you stand out like a diamond among your competitors.

How to get the inside track on your consumer? Obviously, getting on the phone with folks is the best form of research ever. But it’s a bit tricky if you have a potential field of a million consumers.

I believe you can do well in this regard if you use two tools. First, a search insight tool like Dtermin will help you understand how many consumers are looking for any one feature or theme online. And second, an insightful polling tool like Wantoo will give you the ability to actually ask consumers what they’d like to see in a product like yours.

Imperfect? Certainly. Better than pitching a product based on a hunch? Definitely.

Marc Stoiber is The $2000 Coffee’s marketing expert. He's also founder and CEO of Your Ultimate Speech, author of Didn't See It Coming, marketing prof at Royal Roads, prolific public speaker on brands, and (in his spare time) a marketing consultant.