AKA selling a solution in search of a problem!
Our product is a web-based tool which helps people take and manage meeting minutes. The problem we face is that while most people don't like the way they currently work (normally emailing round Word documents), they don't necessarily know that there's tools out there to help them.
We're going to try a run of Google Adwords shortly, but this obviously won't get us in front of the people who aren't looking for help.
One thing I've been doing recently is watching Twitter for people saying things along the lines of "I hate writing meeting minutes" or other similar negative comments and reaching out to them. During the beta process I found some of our most active users that way.
Does anyone have any advice / ideas on other ways we can get in front of our target market and educate them that there's better ways they could be working?
Good luck on this adventure. I think you have a really cool product. Are you offering a trial or beta version?
In general, I don't think you should sell a solution, or an application, definitely not features, but not even benefits. Try to sell a story, a story about how much this tool helped somebody in particular. People like that.
Obviously there is no perfect answer for your question, but here is what I would do. I would try to meet with top managers in big corporations where lots of meetings take place everyday and tell them my story. Try to offer a cost-benefit matrix, highlighting how much time (time = money) your tool is going to save them.
Once you have a big company in your portfolio, it will be way easier to sell your product.
I agree that a story and/or case study is a good idea. I would try to define your target market. Are you going after small businesses? Medium sized businesses? Mostly offline business? Once you define that, think about and brainstorm where those people go. What magazines do they read? What websites do they visit? How can you creativity get in front of them? If you can find other services that compliment yours, I would consider forming a strategic alliance with another company. This will help your exposure a lot.
Given that you were searching tweets and found some users through there, I think you can creatively find a way to reach more people. Feel free to contact me for further information if you'd like, I love tackling problems like this. :)
Besides +1'ing a few folks above, I think you need to take stock in the vast amount of competition.
Just off the top of my head, I've seen all of the following in the past 60 days:
Note that all these things are either free or very cheap and all are very well known.
"Educating the market" is hard. People don't want to be educated. Thrilled yes, educated no.
So I would recommend developing a strong competitive case against these (and other?) tools. If you don't have major advantages over these products, I don't see the point!
That said, I do wish you luck and as you work on this further please continue to use this forum to bounce ideas off -- I'd love to see this take shape and kick ass! (And so would everyone else here.)
You may want to start with a local organization that has meetings, where you may get in touch with people at larger companies, as they use the product.
So, look for a non-profit that has committee meetings, or project meetings. For example, Habitat for Humanity might, or a local IEEE chapter that is working on planning for a conference. If they see that it helps them, as you gave them a free trial, then it may get back to companies about your product.
You should be very familiar with the products of your competitor, and be able to explain what the strengths are, without putting them down, but then you can use a narrative to show why your product would be better.
You have a potentially viral product here: Your clients are expected to invite their colleagues to your site during the normal course of using your product. Well done.
I've had a quick glance at your site and personally think that you should expand your scope a bit. It looks like your clients only begin using your site after the fact. Also, you might want to handle external meetings (sales presentations, client liaisons, trade events, interviews) as well as internal ones.
The ideal is that potential clients do everything they normally do but use your system to make one little part easier. They then grow the usage of your system as it grows on them. That is why I think that the old "type up minutes in a word document and email to meeting minutes" model could potentially work really well.
You might try tapping into professional project managers; they would likely be meeting note power users. There are several professional organizations running around (e.g. Project Management Institute ); a local chapter might be a starting point.