Gaining Traction in Emerging Markets: 10 Keys to Early Sales


Marketing Strategies for UAV, LIDAR, and Emerging Automation Markets

With this year's show coming up, we looked back at the success of AUVSI Xponential 2017, the conference for unmanned technologies, drones, and robotics. The show featured more than 650 exhibitors and more than 200 courses covering the future of unmanned systems in energy, defense, automotive, wireless communications, and other industries.

Exhibitors and attendees, from optoelectronic component manufacturers to lasers and system integrators, had many common questions:

  • How soon until market viability?
  • Which technologies will win?
  • What are the political and regulatory barriers?

There’s no doubt that the demand exists for these technologies, and applications are widespread. It’s a matter of timing, acceptance, and path to product launch.

Significant investment has already been made by Google, Tesla, Uber, Ford, John Deer and others. Contract manufacturers looking to support the needs of these companies and others must decide:

  • Go all in with a single approach or put multiple irons in the fire?
  • How soon is too soon?
  • Is it scalable and profitable at high volume?

Here are 10 things to consider:


10 Keys to Early Sales in a New Market

  1. Set an innovation budget — Set aside a portion of both your development and marketing budgets for emerging markets, to balance long-term and short-term. For example, if R&D is 10% of revenues, maybe budget 3% toward autonomous vehicles. If marketing represents 5% of revenue, 1% is a suitable budget to promote innovation.
  2. Sell the big picture — Dedicate your marketing budget to activities that advocate for your idea, not a product.
  3. Join the conversation — Earn your seat at the table with your ideal customers by participating in technology discussions early.
  4. Make time for learning — At conferences like AUVSI Xponential, participate in roundtable discussions, and ask smart questions. Walk the floor, explore alternate technologies, form an opinion.
  5. Continue the discussion online — Join LinkedIn private groups, and make connections.
  6. Test and evaluate — Determine how you’ll get publishable data to prove reliability and performance. University lab? In-house simulation? Pilot test with beta customer?
  7. Form an opinion — Support your view with a technical white paper. If it’s too early for data, or you have multiple technologies you’re developing, publish “considerations” for selection or design.
  8. Understand the patent landscape — Remember that conferences like Xponential may be a disclosure event; consider a preliminary patent application.
  9. Pounce on PR ops — If you’re exhibiting, look for every panel, product demo, and product announcement opportunity available, even if you’re showing a technology or capability and not a product.
  10. Don’t forget multimedia — If you’re pre-prototype, use animation to explain your approach.


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