I just watched Seth Godin's presentation to Google from a few years back and found that it's just as relevant today as it was then.
It's about 40 mins long and it well worth watching, even if you're not a marketer, if not just to see some great presentation skills. The talk itself It contains some really useful thinking for anyone tossing up what to do with all those ideas floating around in the back of your head, and how to get the word out there about them. He talks about how marketing these days is shifting from the intrusive marketing (ie tv ads, junk mail in your letterbox, telemarketers, etc) to "permission marketing" where you get ads relevant to what your interested in, but that don't interfere with what you're interested in. The obvious one being Google's Ad-Words (which I use on this site for instance).
I can hear you now, thinking "That's great. Yep. Ad-Words. Gotcha. Big whoop". But then Seth mentioned that the best marketing is word of mouth, which everyone already knows. But then he talks about how word of mouth happens. It's about having something remarkable - as in "something work making a remark about". In terms of a product or and idea, you can flip that on it's head. Something is unremarkable if you're not solving anyone's problems. And if you don't solve anyone's problem then it's not something that people will talk about. Similarly if your product is middle-of-the-road and pretty much the same as everyone else's, then it's also going to be unremarkable. If it's boring, then no one will talk about it.
Really interesting stuff.
I then ran across a recent post by Guy Kawasaki about the "Tipping Point". The Tipping Point for those who don't know is the idea that if you get a few key influential people to talk about your product then you'll have a success. Why? Well, the influencers create interest amongst the early adopters, who then create enough demand to draw the pack (most people) who then draw in the late adopters. At least, that's the theory. Guy debunks this (using Duncan Watt's thinking) and talks instead about how it's many people talking about a product independently (using the original Mac as an example) that creates the demand and success, not a handful of key people with big mouths. Note that it's "many people TALKING about your product". If your product or idea is unremarkable, then no one will talk about it. Game over. Go home.
Let's say you do start having people talking about your idea, is there anything you can do to try an help that talk along? Jim Benson has posted an interesting idea about running a Social Media campaign. Basically using the various and many-facteted social networking tools out there to promote an idea or product. Will it work in the real world? I don't know - however it does have a few things going for it. It's marketing based on permission not intrusion, it's marketing based on word of mouth and it's marketing based on relationship. Those 3 things alone are enough to make it work. Of course, without the right "remarkable" product, without something that solves peoples problems, then you'll be trying to push water up hill with a straw. It's never going to work.