People often ask me how they can generate demand for their product or service. Truthfully, there is no cookie-cutter approach that works for every type of business other than to be completely customer- focused. We don't really "sell" anymore as much as we facilitate "buying." By facilitating buying, I mean that as an entrepreneur your main job is to create a product that adds value to a crowded marketplace. Customer engagement arrives in a variety of ways. Building something people really want or need is the best way. Building a better (often much better) mousetrap is another way.
Most people (and businesses) appreciate tools that make their lives easier. Responding to needs in the market is a shortcut to revenue. Building something for a niche market, or building it because you think it's a good idea is a bigger risk. If you are raising venture money, you can be certain that investors will be asking about your total addressable market and for strong evidence of your differentiation.
Be an observer of what works and what you find engaging in the marketplace. For example, implementing a CRM solution just a few short years ago was something of a nightmare. It was expensive, required a number of IT personnel and the business stakeholders had to be able to define what they wanted. Have you ever sat down and tried to define your wish list for a product? It's not easy and often you don't truly know what you want until you see what you don't want. In fact, all of these issues have carried throughout the software industry as long as we've been building software.
Along come the clever folks at salesforce.com and they decide it would be a lot better if all of this important technology could be stored in the cloud and that their clients could focus on making money. Salesforce.com can be implemented quickly and still tailored to the unique needs of most businesses. They now own the market for customer relationship management. They've also engineered it to suit all the users of the platform -- managers get the reports they want, and it's easy for salespeople to use.
As you design your next offering, remember the best way to generate demand is by ensuring your products or services improve tasks your clients undertake every day.