Senior marketer and brand enthusiast This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. leverages years of experience in....more

The Power of the Secret Sauce: Keeping the Proprietary Part of Your Product Proprietary

Back in the 1980s & '90s exhibitors fought hard to keep attendees with cameras off the show floor as they would catch them taking pictures of equipment; presumably to steal proprietary techniques to manufacture competing machines. Today, with the Internet, smart phones and easy access to global purchasing, the concept of keeping a trade secret is becoming much more difficult.

Equipment manufacturers have asked me, “How can we promote our product without divulging information about what makes our equipment better?” It’s obvious that proprietary products and services have a unique value, which gives them a competitive advantage. But copycats are abundant and competitors will quickly acquire access to your proprietary goods, re-engineer them. . . even improve on them, and then offer their duplicate product to your customers at possibly a lower price. This is the world we live in.

There isn’t one single answer to their question, rather two major concepts I suggest to successfully market your products and services without divulging proprietary information.

1. Boast that you have a “secret sauce.”

Consider your proprietary information as your “secret sauce” much like CocaCola has with their protected recipe. You, too, can treat your proprietary information as something so special. Designate members of your internal organization as the champions of this secret, and they will reinforce it to the outside. By not exposing all details about your products and services, you create a heightened anticipation in the marketplace. It’s analogous to that old adage, “If you want to capture someone’s attention, whisper.” Here are some suggestions to make it happen.

  • Standardize your written product descriptions. Whether it’s on a sales sheet, webpage, email or even press release, you need to guide your marketing, sales and service people to use only a very well crafted (even “canned”) product description and be consistent. Within that content, be very clear and specific about everything you can that isn’t the part that’s the secret sauce and then proudly announce that you have better outcomes because of the proprietary part of your offering… focusing on benefits and results.
  • Advertise your values as a company and results of your product. Present only the benefits and outcomes of your offering. Watch this newly released video of how Steve Jobs did it when he came back to Apple in 1997. That was a time in history where competition was fierce and stealing trade secrets commonplace (e.g. “Pirates of the Silicon Valley”).
  • At tradeshows, demonstrate and show your offerings, but create an obvious (maybe even flashy) wrapper or shield around the area of your product that holds the “secret.” Be boastful that your product has something so special that you HAVE to wrap it up to hide it from competitors, and coach your staff to be proud that they absolutely cannot divulge the information.

2. Out-innovate and out-deliver your competitors.

The second way to combat the loss of your unique value is to be persistent in continually integrating new value and benefits in existing products or services while developing new products and services to remain prominent in the market. Simply commit to a strategy of staying one step ahead of potential competition.

Chasing competitors with cameras away from your proprietary information is not an option. But you can use the above strategies to prolong the time it takes them to get access to your “secret sauce.” While doing so, create mystery and intrigue about your product and brand to the marketplace and crank up the innovation and delivery efforts, which will most likely increase your revenue and share of market.

Subscribe to PFFC's EClips Newsletter