How to Market Sharing Products and Services
You should participate in the sharing economy. To do so, you must understand the principles behind companies like Uber and Airbnb. Why do people choose to share their cars and spare bedrooms? To understand this, you have to think about how we consume stuff in a non-shared economy.
People waste. They don't want to waste, but they do it anyway. "No, I would never purchase a pound of chicken and then throw it away," says the befuddled consumer. Yet, a month later, they stumble upon that gross old chicken in the back of the fridge, and into the trash it goes.
This goes far beyond food. Someone wears a particular shirt for one day a week, leaving it crumpled in a laundry bin for the other six days. Pots and pans gather dust in the back of a cabinet for months at a time. Books are read once, or perhaps never, before receiving a life sentence at the bottom of a storage bin.
Take a moment to think about your own stuff. If you are not a monk, you likely have a whole bunch of it that you rarely use. Stuff is the perfect word to describe this detritus, because it's all a vague blur of possessions you want to hang on to. Think about the other billions of people in first world countries, gathering belongings to be used every now and then.
Now imagine a company that creates a sharing service around one of these things. Perhaps this fictitious company maintains a catalogue of fine suits and tuxedos for your once-a-year black tie event. Leave the closet full of Tom Ford for the billionaires, you'll be fine with a shared tux. Think about how many people purchase clothing, from wedding dresses to beachwear, that they will need for a small period of time. This is just one example of the sharing economy in action.
Do you see how much further sharing can go? The sharing economy has just begun, and if you are reading this article, you are lucky enough to be in at the ground floor. You can make a lot of money by participating, but don't look at it from a greedy perspective. See it as an opportunity to reduce waste in the world and make people happy.
After all, this article shines a light on an uncomfortable truth. People waste. Waste is bad. How does humankind reconcile their desire for a modern quality of life with the need to support billions of people on the planet? The sharing economy provides a way, both for the world and for each individual person, to solve this pressing issue.
This is the message you should focus on in your marketing. The sharing economy isn't some weird fad, it's an opportunity for your customers to enjoy the finest things in life at a fraction of the cost. You can help your customers get more out of every dollar they spend. They may even decide to share their own stuff, eventually turning a profit from your service.
The traditional business methods put people in competition with each other. These old companies and their customers say "What can you do for me?" The sharing economy says "What can we do for each other?" If this message resonates with you, you will have to work to make it resonate for your customers too.
The honest truth is that many people still see sharing stuff as a scary idea. They don't want to get into a car called by Uber, no matter how many studies say it is safe. It is a big shift to move from private ownership of everything to sharing stuff all of the time. Your task is to get people to try it out.
Even one try can get somebody hooked. When they arrive at their destination post-Uber in one piece, and perhaps a bit faster than a traditional cab would be, they start to see sharing differently. How can you get people to see sharing in a new light? Can you convince them to try it in a different market, just once, with you? If the answer is yes, and if the service is good, you will quickly grow a customer base.
The best way to get started is to think about what you want. If you could stop owning one thing, and could call it up Uber-style when you needed it, what would you pick? You can expand this exercise by asking your family and friends the same question. Write a list of potentially sharable items and start thinking about business ideas from there.
In the end, you have to fully embrace the concept of the sharing economy. It is an all-encompassing lifestyle. You will have to be all-in to convince your customers and to build a critical mass of users in the early stages of your company. It won't be easy, but you can do it. Get out there and share.