Enter market sophistication…
Competitive markets are competitive for a reason.
Because that’s where the money is!
However, because there are so many competing products and so much advertising in those markets that it becomes really hard to earn any trust and attention, much less make an actual sale.
If you’ve ever been in a market and thought to yourself, “It’s just so saturated. How are we going to stand out?” then you know exactly what I mean. In these types of markets, selling a product that is similar to your competitors is practically impossible to sell.
That is… if you fail to understand your market’s sophistication level.
Outside the world of hardcore direct response, not many people really understand this concept. Yet knowing this secret will allow you to makes sales from even the most skeptical prospects.
What Is Market Sophistication
First written about in Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz, market sophistication is basically a measure of how mature your market is based on all of the products and ads they’ve seen before.
For example, right now VR is brand new. There are very few competitors and so all they have to do to is claim that their products will allow you to experience virtual reality.
However, as time passes and more and more competitors do the same, prospects will become skeptical of such basic claims and will require a more mature message for them to decide which VR product to buy.
Great examples of this in action are home workout programs like P90X.
You will never hear the core message of a P90X infomercial be just “burn fat” because the fitness market is way more sophisticated than that. Instead, P90X was able to standout because it used a training method call “muscle confusion”.
Why Understanding Your Market’s Sophistication Level Will Jump-Start Your Sales
Markets are not static. They evolve.
As your prospect becomes more aware of all the products and claims made in your space, the more skeptical they become to it all. As time passes and they become more mature, they need a better reason to believe that your product is the right one for them.
In fact, there are 5 levels of market sophistication. At each level, the market needs to hear specific things to believe you.
So by understanding your market’s sophistication level, you’ll be able to create a message that they’ll actually pay attention to and believe in.
If you refuse to do so, then all of your efforts to sell your product will fall flat on it’s face regardless of how much money you put behind your ads.
With that said, lets get into each of the 5 levels of market sophistication.
Level 1: The Claim
It doesn’t get any better or easier than this.
Imagine waking up one day and having practically no competitors at all. There are only a handful of products out in the market at most and so little advertising that your market doesn’t even know these products exist.
Just by you existing and actively advertising your product, you automatically become #1 or #2 in your market.
This is how it’s like at market sophistication level 1.
With no exposure to any products and claims in your market, advertising your product because ridiculously easy to do.
All you need to do is advertise the big benefit and you’re done.
For example, if you’re selling a fat burning pill, you just have to say “Take this pill and burn fat!”
Level 2: Amplify The Claim
A couple of years pass and now there are a good handful of competing products in your market with some advertising to go along with it.
Now all of your competitors are also making the same basic claims you are whether it’s “burn fat!” or “shave yourself!”
By this point though, your market has heard these claims so much that they just don’t even believe them anymore. Even if you decide to outspend your competitors with more advertising, it’s really not going to do much for you.
If you want to standout at market sophistication level 2, you now need to take your basic claim and take it to the extremes.
The most popular example of this is a weight loss program that claims to help you burn 30 pounds in just 30 days.
Of course, the specifics vary and you always want to say the truth. However, at this stage you really can’t hold back. Your aim is to push your products benefits to the absolute limit.
Level 3: The Unique Mechanism
This is where things start to take a turn.
At market sophistication level 3, your prospect has seen and heard just about all the supposed benefits of your product that their ears can handle. They don’t want to hear about your insane claims because they just aren’t believable anymore.
So what do you do?
You switch the focus of your ads from the main benefit of your product to the unique mechanism.
Think about the last time you saw an infomercial. Multiple times throughout the program, they will dedicate a certain amount of time to talking about the “secret” behind why the product works so well.
That’s the unique mechanism.
For example, the “secret” behind why P90X3 works is called “Muscle Acceleration”, which is system of training that maximizes the results you can get with just 30 minutes of training since those first 30 minutes lead to the greatest results.
Level 4: Amplify The Unique Mechanism
The market is extremely competitive and saturated.
At this point, every product out there has a unique mechanism. Some are sticking and others are falling flat on their faces. Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that what is happening at this level is the exact same as what happened at level 2, except it involves the unique mechanism instead of the benefit.
And just like what you did at level 2, you’re going to do the same here.
You’re going to go take the most successful unique mechanism and then take it to its absolute limit.
For example, at level 3, you could have sold a fat burning pill because it used Gacinia Cambogia. However, at level 4, you now have to take it up a notch by advertising it as pharmaceutical grade Garcinia Cambogia.
However, just like what eventually happened to making huge benefit-focused claims, the same will happen eventually to this tactic.
When that happens, you get to market sophistication level 5.
Level 5: Market Identification
At this level, unique mechanisms are considered to be “gimmicks” and there are so many products and so much advertising that shouting out radical benefits is considered spam.
At level 5, people don’t believe a word coming out of your mouth.
So the question is, what do you do? How do you revive a practically market where your prospect is so skeptical that they don’t want to hear from you anymore?
The answer is to focus your message on your prospects identity and the emotions that go along with it.
These lead to ads that have absolutely nothing to do with your product anymore. At least when it comes to your headline.
Two of the most famous examples of this are ads…
“Why Men Crack” and “Blow Some My Way”.
Or even this ad for the iPod that allows the image to say everything it needs to say without a single word of copy.
The Next Step
Now that you know what the 5 levels of market sophistication are, go out there and analyze your market.
Start asking yourself things like “what are the biggest benefit-focused claims are my competitors making?”, “What are the unique mechanisms of the best-selling products in my category?”, “Are most of the ads out there focused on benefits and unique mechanisms or are they focused on identifying the prospect?”
Once you’ve done your research, figure out at what level of market sophistication you are in and then go back to your ads to fix them so they reflect the answers you’ve uncovered.
Do this right and you’ll see a near instant jump in sales, even if you’re in a highly-saturated and hyper-competitive market.