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Archive for July, 2009

The Malaise That Most Harms Invention: Caution!

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

by Geoff Ficke

The great British philosopher Bertrand Russell was famous for his pithy observances of life and mans foibles. He was also a great mathematician and his perspective was greatly affected by the certainty and absolutism that is found in the order of numbers and theorems. I have always found that one of his most famous quotes is particularly applicable to the pursuit of invention by aggressive entrepreneurs.

In 1930 Mr. Russell published “The Conquest of Happiness”. One of his most famous quips was, “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness”. I first read this line while an impressionable college student in the 1960’s. It always stuck with me, but has evolved into a broader meaning and I have applied it to my professional life, as well as my personal affairs.

The idea that caution is a stumbling block appealed to me on many levels. Love from afar, the schoolboy crush that would probably never be more than a chimera always seemed pointless to me. Ask the young lady out! The most she could say was no. If she said “yes” the adventure could begin and who knew where it might go. If it went nowhere, you might have enjoyed a teaching experience. If the lass was fun; interesting, exciting, then you were rewarded for overcoming the natural impediment to happiness that comes with being cautious.

As my business career evolved to be almost wholly centered on invention, entrepreneurship and marketing new consumer products I have applied Bertrand Russell’s famous observation about caution to my commercial pursuits. As a young entrepreneur, desperate to start my first business, I realized that these words were a wonderful theme for a young entrepreneur to follow. My adaptation is this: “Of all forms of caution, caution in commerce is perhaps the most fatal to business success”.

Cautious inventors, small business persons and entrepreneurs almost always fail.

I do not counsel recklessness as a prescription for success. Quite the contrary, recklessness is worse that over abundant caution. Prudent aggression, with a well constructed plan of attack that can be realistically executed is the antidote to overcoming excess caution. This path is the surest one to success for aspiring new business opportunities.

Caution often leads to paralyzing over analysis. Successful inventors are action people. They know they will be confronted by vexing problems that must be squarely taken on and overcome. They do this with relish. Each problem overcome is taking them one step closer to the ultimate goal, success. One problem down, what do we face next?

My marketing consulting firm reviews hundreds of new ideas and product submissions each year. Some are silly. Some are just unpolished. Some have potential. A few are spectacular. The ideas that we devote the most support and attention too are almost always paired with individuals willing to make a commitment. An unpolished idea with potential can be more interesting than a spectacular idea with an over cautious owner.

Recently we reviewed a green, environmentally sound, beauty product with a natural wellness benefit. The product was spectacular. We were immediately intrigued with 2 things: the amazing benefits that the product embodied, and the fact that the developer had not already fully commercialized this amazing product. Why was this product not on every store shelf in the world?

Our consultation with the creator of this amazing beauty product was most telling. He was in the 15th year of patent life on this extraordinary item. He was more than cautious, he was afraid of letting go, afraid of success. Over the years he had elicited interest from a number of Companies that could have made him rich and famous beyond his dreams. Sadly, he could not overcome his cautious nature and he will never enjoy commercial, spiritual and personal fulfillment because of this handicap. This is a major waste.

It is a waste not just because he missed out on enjoying the amazing benefits of his creativity. It is a waste because millions of consumers will probably never be able to experience the superior benefits of the product. It is a waste because retailers, wholesalers and international distributors will miss out on sales/profits of this exciting product. Those sales will not be available to support job growth and tax revenues that keep recycling through the economic system and provide opportunities at so many levels of society. Creative agencies and print and electronic media will not enjoy the revenues they would normally generate by providing services to promote the product. Display and point of purchase manufacturers will likewise lose out. Shipping, warehouse and fulfillment firms also will not enjoy the added income stream successful products generate.

I could go on and on. The ripples caused by timid, insecure, cautious indecision are felt throughout the economic system. Everyone loses when real innovation is crippled by paralysis.

I have morphed the original intent of Bertrand Russell’s words. Somehow, I think if Mr. Russell were still with us he would agree that his observance is just as applicable to commerce as romance. In both instances, caution is not conducive to the pursuit and attainment of success and happiness.

Innovation Requires Not Forgetting Your Aim: Redoubling Effort If You Do

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

Successful business owners tend to approach fanaticism in nurturing every aspect of their enterprise. They work longer hours than their employees, take the work home with them, sacrifice leisure and relaxation as they obsess over their competitors and continually seek new systems and innovation to expand their shop. They are rewarded by receiving the respect of their peers, providing a comfortable lifestyle for their families and their employee’s families and participating in the social fabric of the community in which they operate.

The erudite Spanish critic and philosopher George Santayana once wrote, “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim”.

When things go cockeye in any enterprise, the only opportunity the group will have to right their ship is to look at history and recalibrate. What made them successful? What did their customers reward with support? Where did they fall off the rails?

History is resplendent in examples of organizations that lost their way. Those that “forgot their aim” either redoubled their efforts at getting back to their original success path or were consumed by their mistakes. Empires such as the Hohenzollerns, Romanov, Bourbons and Hapsburgs expired as times changed and they didn’t. The Royal houses of Great Britain, Holland, Sweden and Denmark, however, recalibrated in the face of modern democracy and adjusted to the times and still enjoy their thrones and a large measure of popularity with their subjects.

In World War II the Russian army was initially invaded, pummeled, mauled and demoralized by the German invaders. However, the Red Army adjusted, replaced their general officer corps; devised new strategies and weapons systems that were purpose built to fight the Nazi menace. After a grueling series of embarrassing defeats the Soviets finally were able to absorb the Nazi push at Moscow and slowly turned the tide. Changing strategies lead to the Russians seizing Berlin at the end of the war and complete vanquishing of Hitler’s forces.

Contrast this result with the inflexible strategy executed by the Imperial Russian army in World War I. The Russians simply sent waves of under-equipped, starving, freezing peasant soldiers in waves to be slaughtered by well dug in, well armed, well-provisioned German divisions. The disgust that these soldiers felt at being used as cannon fodder lead directly to mass mutiny and the opportunity for Communists to seize the government and control of the army. After pulling back and virtually surrendering to the Germans, the newly entrenched Bolshevik government seized the Romanov family and murdered them.

There are many examples of religious movements, charities and businesses that did not adapt to changing times user tastes or styles. Islam has lasted for centuries while Zoroastroism and Coptic Christianity have virtually become extinct in the Middle East. Animism is on the decline in Africa even as Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity groups convert large numbers of people across Africa.

The Salvation Army and Catholic charities enjoy sustained growth while the United Appeal and Red Cross, while still important, have been hurt by scandal.

The most starkly obvious examples of groups losing their way can be found in the business world. Look at listed stock equities that made up the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the 1930’s. Only Standard Oil (Exxon), Procter & Gamble, Dupont and United Technologies (United Aircraft) remain from the original list of blue chip companies that defined American industrial might. How did so many formerly stellar performers fall by the commercial way side.

The most stunning fall, and most relevant to contemporary observers is General Motors. Former GM Chairman Charlie Wilson once famously said, “What is good for General Motors is good for the United States”. GM was synonymous with American industrial might and was a symbol of American strength, creativity and the good life.

GM was assembled in the 1920’s and 1930’s by the management innovator Alfred Sloan. By taking Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac and creating stair step marketing Mr. Sloan targeted an automotive nameplate at every demographic group. Young families started with Chevrolet and as their economic situation improved they moved up the ladder of brands to Buick and later Cadillac.

The loyalty this strategy created was reinforced by constant fresh styling cues.

GM design was personified by the brilliant craftsmanship and coach design of Harley Earl. Mr. Earl had a signature style that came to scream GM, cutting edge, beauty and created consumer desire for being seen driving GM cars.

As late as the 1970’s over half of all vehicles sold in America were produced by GM. Then a series of events occurred which caught the behemoth corporation flat footed, bloated and unable, unwilling and without the guile necessary to change direction and adapt to changing market realities. A long, slow, inevitable decline has resulted in the implosion of GM, bankruptcy and shedding important component divisions that will forever hamper the company’s ability to compete with more nimble competitors.

GM has failed. It is the butt of late night comedian’s jokes. Sales have cratered and Government Motors is out of most consumers mind when considering a new vehicle purchase. The demise of GM has occurred even as agile competitors from Europe, Japan, Korea and China see their growth accelerating. The necessary value retention, durability, warranty, performance, fuel economy and styling that GM did not address has been committed too with gusto by the competition.

Brands like Toyota, Hyundai, Fiat, Honda, BMW, and Chery have recognized what consumers want and provide these features and benefits at prices that GM could not match. GM did not redouble efforts to provide consumers with true value in exciting packages. The competitors have.

GM is now trying to reinvent the corporation. All Americans hope they can. However, the deck is as stacked against GM as it was against Studebaker, Hudson, Crosley, Nash, Stutz, Pierce Arrow, Dusenberg and Hupmobile.

GM, like so many other enterprises, lost their aim. They did not redouble their efforts to please their formerly loyal consumers until far too late in the game. This is a crippling malady that is most difficult to overcome. The fanaticism of Harley Earl, Alfred Sloan, Charley Wilson and Zora Arkus-Duntoff (creator of the Corvette) has been missing for too long. The Cadillac Cimarron is a symbol of a legacy short on passion and fanaticism and long on lethargy and mismanagement.

Every entrepreneur can take an important lesson from the horrific demise of this fallen American industrial icon. Passion can never lessen. Stay focused while being astute in keeping abreast of changing consumer tastes is essential. As tastes change, you must adjust. The fanaticism you bring to your enterprise will enable you to succeed initially, but redoubling efforts is key to maintaining growth and long term viability.

How Products Evolve From Merely Functional To Super Successful By Luck and Re-Marketing

Monday, July 27th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

An Australian industrial manufacturing Company began producing wooden rings in 1957 for use in sealing containers. The hoops were of no particular import, displayed no obvious breakthrough commercial potential and possessed no apparent use much beyond their original intended application. The wooden hoops, however, had an amazing future once they were transformed from a packaging component into an exercise toy.

The original Australian produced wooden rings were introduced to business partners Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin, partners in a fledgling toy company. Knerr and Melin had founded Wham-O Toy Co. in California after World War II. They gutted out the growth of the business, typically underfunded, always seeking the one “silver bullet” toy that would propel them to success and riches. They had enjoyed modest success with a $.75 sling shot, but not much else seemed to make waves in the toy product universe.

The wooden rings would not seem to offer much in the way of a toy application. But Knerr and Melin were driven and curious. They decided to make prototypes out of hollow plastic and in an array of bright colors. The newly designed plastic hoops were very light and the toy impresarios quickly discovered that their children found an innovative use for the product. They would put the hoops around their waists and move circularly, like a hula dancer. The result was that the Hula Hoop was born and became a fun, exercise fad nationally and ultimately internationally.

Well, fad is really not an apt description of what the Hula Hoop became. There had never been anything like the Hula Hoop. Knerr and Melin began taking the Hula Hoops to Southern California playgrounds and demonstrating the toy for children. They were hooked. This was a colorful, safe, light weight, inexpensive way to have children and families exercise, and not think of it as exercise. To kids it was a fun action toy. To parents it was heaven, too good to be true.

Wham-O sold over 100 million Hula Hoops in the first 12 months the product was on the market. Mr. Melin and Mr. Knerr became fabulously wealthy. The Hula Hoop is one of those classic toys that experiences a revival every few years as a new generation of families discover its simple wonders.

There are products in many industries that enjoy success when repositioned in a completely different way than originally intended. Preparation H, originally a hemorrhoid cream, has been repackaged and used as a base in numerous anti-aging skin care products. Other toys such as Slinky and Silly Putty were morphed from industrial uses. There are many other examples that the creative entrepreneur can use for a tutorial in bridging the span between intended and unintended product use.

Most will never enjoy the success of the Hulas Hoop or the Slinky. However, there is gold to be mined in old products, dormant ideas and home remedies that can be repositioned, repackaged, re-marketed. The key is to find a unique selling proposition and apply it to an element that exists within your personal universe. It rarely will be obvious or readily available. However, if you are curious, stubborn, or passionate you may stumble upon the next Pet Rock or Chia Pet.

Kaston Group Engaged to Create Point of Purchase Retail Display for MakeUpMiser® Cosmetic Accessories

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Geoff Ficke

859-567-1609

Kaston Group Engaged to Create Point of Purchase Retail Display for MakeUpMiser® Cosmetic Accessories

Upcoming Launch to Offer Beauty Product Consumers Breakthrough Tools To Extend Product Usage and Anti-Bacterial Protection

Dallas, TX John Steger, President of The Kaston Group, specialists in retail display and point of purchase engineering, today announced that his Company has been engaged to produce custom designed counter display units for the launch of MakeUpMiser®.

“Nancy and Geoff Ficke from Duquesa Marketing presented the MakeUpMiser® to us recently in Dallas”, said Mr. Steger. “The products have so much utility and there is simply nothing in the marketplace that performs these simple, but essential tasks. We are thrilled to be involved in such a novel project”.

“John Steger is widely recognized as a premiere point of sale specialist”, said Geoff Ficke, President of Duquesa Marketing. “His experience in total store design, department store fixtures and counter display is vast and we are excited to be working with his team again to present MakeUpMiser® to cosmetic consumers”.

“I reviewed a number of potential candidates for our display needs with my marketing consultant Duquesa Marketing”, said Michelle Phillips, President of MakeUpMiser®. “I feel fortunate that we have been able to retain professionals like Kaston Group to display MakeUpMiser®.

MakeUpMiser® expects to present the full line of cosmetic accessories to international retailers this fall and be on store counters in spring 2010. Retail pricing will be announced shortly.

MakeUpMiser® Appoints Award Winning Graphics Art Firm to Design New Packaging Updates

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Geoff Ficke

859-567-1609

MakeUpMiser® Appoints Award Winning Graphics Art Firm to Design New Packaging Updates

Diana Puppin of dp Design to Create New Display and Packaging Branding Art For Cosmetic Accessory Display and Line Extensions

Lancaster, PA Michelle Phillips, President of MakeUpMiser®, announced today that her cosmetic product Company has appointed Cincinnati, OH based Diana Puppin of dp Design to design new graphics art for the upcoming launch of her firms cosmetic accessory products.

“We reviewed a number of creative options for our packaging, sales collateral, branding and retail display needs”, said Mrs. Phillips. “Diana Puppin was an easy choice based on her immediate grasp of the diverse features and benefits of MakeUpMiser® and her extensive body of work in the cosmetic industry“.

“We work extensively in all categories of consumer products”, said Diana Puppin. “We really enjoy cosmetics, the whole beauty category. The MakeUpMiser® is an amazing product line that presents interesting creative challenges and we are excited to have the confidence of Michelle Phillips and her team”.

MakeUpMiser® previously engaged Duquesa Marketing of Florence, KY to handle all aspects of the product development, marketing and launch of the products. “MakeUpMiser® offers cosmetic product consumers two unique benefits that are not currently addressed in the marketplace, safety and economy”, said Geoff Ficke, President of Duquesa Marketing. “We have worked with Diana Puppin in the past and her creativity will be an important piece of the MakeUpMiser® success”.

The patent pending MakeUpMiser® three product line of cosmetic accessories will be introduced to retailers in the fall of 2009 and begin shipping internationally in the spring of 2010.

More on Bootstrap Marketing One More Way to Launch Your Product in a Tight Market

Monday, July 27th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

Every business, organization and individual I know has been impacted in some way, almost always negatively, by the current economic downturn. The ripple effects of slow sales, shrinking home equity, foreclosures and job downsizing has been pervasive. Governments are experiencing record dips in tax revenues. Church and charity donations are logically imploding as citizens attempt to shore up their personal finances and survive the fiscal carnage taking place all around them.

As job losses occur, and I believe more startling, many of these jobs will not be replaced when the economy returns to a more normal footing, my marketing consulting firm is approached with a slew of new business opportunities being presented by fired and laid off workers. Many are former middle managers who have been terminated and received some type of severance package. Their goal is often to leverage this small purse into a business opportunity.

Some have panic in their eyes as they try to find an alternative way to make a living. Some are simply unrealistic. Many think they will need to fund their start-up with an investment round from angel investors. Most have never tried to launch a product before so the process is obviously daunting. The advice we seem to provide most regularly is this: slow down, vet your business plan again and be realistic in the assumptions you are constructing your enterprise around.

The universal issue that confronts entrepreneurs, and always has, is funding. If you have no available funds, cannot put any sweat in the game, or expect to use OPM (Other Peoples Money) in lieu of your own, stop now. There are Angel Investors who invest in early stage startups, however, they are rare, highly targeted and exceedingly choosy as they have a virtually unlimited supply of opportunities available. Most investors use the old three F adage for launch funds: “this type of start up money comes from Friends, Family or Fools”.

So what can the newly driven entrepreneur do to launch a product in a competitive market with only a small amount of working capital on hand.

We typically attempt to customize a strategy including guerrilla and bootstrapping marketing. There is no single definition or road map for this type of market penetration strategy. Much like guerrilla warfare, which is free flowing and conducted based on terrain, climate, force size and enemy disposition, new products should take the approach that there is a chink in market armor, discover it and fill the niche.

Almost always a bootstrap marketing campaign starts at the local level. Every entrepreneur wants to see their product on every store shelf in America from the get go. However, the capital requirements required to support national distribution is huge. By working the home turf the product can be nurtured, tested, seasoned and most importantly proven. The most important day in any new businesses life is the day a re-order is placed. This confirms the first stage of market acceptance.

Here is a simple example of bootstrapping a product that we have utilized numerous times to successfully get a line of product in front of consumers:

Let’s assume you have a gourmet food product that you are keen to get to market. Utilize the services of local private packer and build a minimal inventory.

Be sure to make sure that the packer signs a secrecy agreement that protects your recipe. Make sure that the label meets all government requirements.

Produce a short film production (DVD) with voice over, music optional. Modern recording equipment makes this process virtually zero cost. Shoot the piece (video loop) at home, or on a picnic table and in the lab/commissary of the private packer. Detail the product, how you developed the product, have on air quotes for attribution from friends and others that love the product and possibly show the lab work being done to safely produce the item in a government licensed facility.

If you live in a town that has five malls or lifestyle shopping centers, choose the property that has demographics most likely to appeal to consumers of the type of product you are selling. Then negotiate with property management to rent a cart or kiosk on a monthly basis. January through September you will pay a basic rent. October through December, the holiday season, your rate will soar, but so will sales.

Typically shopping centers are open about 70 hours per week. The cart can be manned by you, family members or hired students with a minimal salary and a commission incentive. The stand can be inexpensively merchandised with point of purchase display, signs and a television running the dvd video loop. Demonstration of the product will enable consumers to experience the features and benefits of your product. If the product is a food product, you will want to sample the product, for instance.

Once sales commence, and proof of product performance is confirmed, the kiosk can be replicated in nearby malls and ultimately in proximate cities. Typically, we plan sales models to enable the expansion of the cart or mall kiosk to additional locations utilizing the profit from the alpha location.

The bootstrap path described above is just one way to launch a consumer product without the benefit of a funding round or a rich Aunt Bertha available to write a big check. Most people do not have rich friends or family to reach out too for investment. The venture capital process is slow, daunting and fraught with tons of competition chasing precious few dollars. Nevertheless, successful entrepreneurs find a way and bootstrapping is often the most available method of getting a product to market.

We have used variants of bootstrapping many times to benefit clients seeking to overcome launch hurdles. Flea markets, consignment, advertorial, local management of national chains, targeted direct response and many more avenues can be crafted to fit the bootstrap model. Most new entrepreneurs have been lead to believe that a heavy capital investment is essential to insure marketing success. Experienced entrepreneurs know otherwise. They know that there are many other, usually more attainable, ways to achieve their goals.

Paranoia Is a Near Necessity For Successful Inventors and Entrepreneurs

Monday, July 27th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

The great Technology entrepreneur Andy Grove was once asked what dictum he used as a basis for running his Company, Intel. His response was simple: “only the paranoid survive”. Mr. Grove grew Intel from a garage business in Silicon Valley into the world’s largest computer chip manufacturer and a lynchpin in the fabulous spread of technology into virtually every home and business in the world.

The tech world of the 1970’s and 1980’s was the center of the greatest entrepreneurial explosion in history. Whole industries were born and the nature of human existence was radically changed, and improved, as new applications were discovered and commercialized by these ambitious pioneers. The competitive nature of commerce has always provided the greatest rewards to the first to market mover. Being paranoid is a worthy and necessary trait that all successful innovators possess and control in their push to get their idea to the market before competitors.

I have known paranoid individuals for most of my life. Usually their paranoia is self-destructive, not a pleasant thing to experience. Some people are paranoid that others are trying to take their wealth, or their wife, or their glory, or that they will be contaminated and made ill. The gamut of fears that paranoid individuals believe they confront is endless. These insecurities can become severe handicaps that can handicap one as life unfolds.

On the other hand, paranoia for an entrepreneur or an inventor is usually a healthy mindset, as far as their work product is concerned. We counsel clients to assume that somewhere, someone is working on an idea that can beat or surpass their idea in the marketplace. Another piece of oft provided advice is this:”time is not an entrepreneur’s friend”.

Paranoia and urgency are first cousins when seeking to launch a new product, service or idea. The fear of getting beat to store shelves by a competitor insures that driven entrepreneurs move expeditiously to perfect and launch their enterprise as quickly as reasonably possible. This is positive paranoia.

Once the product hits store shelves, in order to secure longer term success, a new form of paranoia needs to come in to play. At this time, the inventor must confront the possibility, actually the probability if the product achieves initial success, that competitors will immediately begin the process of knocking off, or duplicating the product. Duplication can be the best form of flattery. However, if a well healed competitor decides that the opportunity is ripe they can flood the market with cheaper versions of the product. You must anticipate and be prepared for this probability.

The key to insure continued success is the speed which the innovator uses to penetrate the market. The first to market mover has the advantage of being recognized by the trade as the “real innovator”. They have introduced the product which defines the category. While knock off products can be cheaper, or come in a variety of styles, they will be seen as followers, not leaders, if the entrepreneur moves aggressively to distribute the item to the widest sales universe.

A second key to cementing a first to market mover advantage is: quickly follow-up the launch item/s with line extensions. Here is another absolute marketing reality: Your product is never the greatest, only the latest”. Buyers will watch sales trends. As soon as your launch item starts to gain traction, they will want to know what new items you have coming to stoke the pipeline.

Retailers always assume the stance of what have you done for me lately!

I cannot overstate the importance of paranoia and urgency as being essential arrows in the successful entrepreneurs quiver. We have seen the unsettling despair that engulfs inventors that see their work, dream and investment scuttled by overconfidence and delay. It is not pretty to experience, but happens far more often than you can imagine. The real waste is that it can almost always be averted if prudent steps are taken to move and be aggressive.

The Surest Ways to “Not” Get Your Idea to Market

Friday, July 24th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

My marketing consulting firm looks at hundreds of new product submissions each year. They come from all over the world and they cover the gamut from brilliant to silly.  Some become successful in the consumer product marketplace. Why do so many fail?  And a more pertinent question is, “why do products with excellent qualities fail even though they have so much to recommend them”?

There is no one size fits all answer to the question. However, there are several threads that consistently appear and act as stop signs when ideas cannot be made to penetrate the very competitive marketplace. The following are the most common examples of deal killing actions or strategies undertaken by entrepreneurs that will snuff out opportunity for success. 

·        The Boaster

“I have a mega-million dollar product. Do you want to partner with me”?

In 35 years of designing, developing, marketing, launching and selling all types of consumer products, I have never met a new inventor who could detail with any justification the real size of their opportunity. The Boaster simply scares off potentially interested sources of funding or assistance.

·        The Know It All

“This product will revolutionize the ___ (fill in the product category).

Marconi, Singer, Watt, Edison, Gates, Ford, Napoleon, da Vinci and St. Augustine revolutionized their fields of endeavor. Revolutionary products, we call them “divergent products, are about as rare as pink diamonds the size of baseballs. Divergent products require creating new businesses, typically in areas that consumers have no current need for. Who needed a computer in the home, before it was invented and applications were perfected? Now the home computer is ubiquitous, inexpensive, work and entertainment vehicles, and indispensible for most people. The Know It All has all the answers for a product or service that we do not yet know we need. He has no idea how difficult and expensive it is to pioneer a completely fresh product category and is almost always naïve and unrealistic.

·        The Plodder

The Plodder loves to brag that he has spent five or 10 or 15 years working on his product. That may be so, and can be acceptable. However, most investors, marketers or licensors will view The Plodder as not fully committed. If there is patent protection involved, the product becomes less valuable each day that patent life is being consumed. Successful entrepreneurs are fully committed, never stop pushing and face down and conquer each barrier that they will confront. They are passionate and aggressive. They know that time is not their friend, as competitors, real and imagined, are working just as hard and hoping to beat them to market.

·        The Dreamer

We meet more of The Dreamer than any other deal killer. This fellow is typically a plumber, teacher, accountant, or makes his living in a way that is a complete leap from his idea.  The Dreamer decides that he can invent a perpetual motion machine or has the technology to make cars run on yard clippings. Three questions unfortunately trip up The Dreamer and we have never had to ask a fourth to burst this bubble.

·        Mr. Other People’s Money

This hopeful entrepreneur does not have any money, typically does not have any due diligence, no art, no engineering, but is most keen to ask for someone else to pony up money for his pipedream. Let’s be clear: there are Angel Investors. However, they are very rare, very targeted and there is little chance that they will have interest in any project where the submitter has put no sweat in the game.

·        The Idea Merchant

The Idea Merchant has an idea. He usually has no background in the field he is exploring. He just has an idea. He wants to sell or license his idea. The Idea Merchant will sell his idea, usually for a huge amount of money, and allow the buyer to enjoy the profits that are always sure to come. The Idea merchant is always wasting his time. There are no shortcuts.

·        Mr. It’s Easy

This fellow does not understand, or respect the effort required to successfully launch a new item. There are simply no shortcuts that can be taken that will not kill opportunity. Mr. It’s Easy is looking to foist an idea or an underdeveloped concept on someone else and still capitalize financially on his under-fertilized brilliance.

·        The Time Bandit

The Time Bandit expects to be paid for going to work and putting in his time each day. However, he doesn’t want to pay for services rendered by professionals with needed specific skills required to prepare and develop a product for market launch. Graphic artists, prototype builders, copyrighters, engineers, model makers, packaging designers, consulting, legal and accounting and production experts may be needed on projects development. It is silly to think that accomplished professionals will provide expertise, time and investment in materials for nothing.

·        The Dazed and Confused

Like the old Led Zeppelin song, “The Dazed and Confused” is, well, stumbling along. He starts and stops. He is trying to game the system, and really himself, by confusing movement with progress. His Business Plan is always a work in progress because he really thinks he can suspend reality and a well-crafted plan is not important for his project to be successful. He can impress decision makers, he thinks, with words. Unfortunately for Dazed and Confused, decision makers always see much better than they hear.

·        Even If I Don’t Build It They will Come

We hear from this gentleman a lot. He has an idea for a new machine, engine, tool or piece of equipment. The device actually sometimes sounds interesting and can be envisioned as having some merit. However, Mr. Don’t Build It has not perfected, engineered, built or demonstrated the unit’s features and benefits because he will not build a demo prototype. 

These are just a few of the general personality types that we meet while analyzing new business opportunities. But they are regular visitors. They defy every quality or trait that we see in successful entrepreneurs. Real entrepreneurs will do anything necessary to perfect their product. They do not seek or take shortcuts. They perform every bit of due diligence necessary to satisfy the most demanding buyers, investors, licensees or distributors. They are thorough, prepared and fully engaged. Most of all they are passionate about their work and the opportunity without being dreamy, unrealistic or bombastic.  

Our frustration is that the non-commercial products, silly presentations, lack of professionalism and poorly thought out approaches for new product submissions we review are comingled with many submissions that have real solid potential. Unfortunately, all they have is potential.

How Do You Choose the Best Marketing Consultant?

Friday, July 10th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

In my life I have never attempted to repair an automobile. I have no facility for mechanics, no interest in fixing things and no curiosity about what makes engines tick. I have simply recognized my limitations as a backyard mechanic and take the wounded vehicle to professionals for proper care.

Most people are similarly limited in certain skill areas, while gifted in others, much like me. My career as a Marketing Consultant and Consumer Product Development specialist has introduced me to 1000’s of potential clients. Most have never undertaken the challenges inherent in Marketing a new product or service, or starting a new business. They often recognize that they need help, but they often need to ask: what is the best way to uncover the right consultant for a specific project?

Here are several tips for securing talent that will save your project time, mistakes and money when choosing a Marketing Consultant:

  • Meet Face-to-Face
  • Look at their work product, PR, past strategies, designs
  • Ask about the products they have launched themselves
  • Ask about patents they might have owned
  • Only deal with specialist firms-if you have a consumer product, do not hire an agronomist or civil engineering consultant
  • Have they won industry awards
  • References are nice, but really, who gives bad references
  • Quality Consultants are Fee Based, discover pertinent fees
  • Make sure they will sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
  • After signing the NDA, describe your concept, prototype, etc.
  • What specific, off-the-cuff strategies does the consultant propose
  • Do the strategies proposed seem cogent, offer fresh perspective

After conducting the above due diligence, repeat the process with at least two more candidates. Keep notes, even record the meetings. Do not allow any high pressure, walk if this occurs. Then collate your thoughts, confide in trusted advisers and weigh the best features of each firm. The choice will be most obvious in every case.

Duquesa Marketing Engaged to Launch New Cosmetic Accessory Product

Friday, July 10th, 2009

 Press Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Geoff Ficke

859-567-1609

Duquesa Marketing Engaged to Launch New Cosmetic Accessory Product

MakeUpMiser® Offers Consumers Two Powerful  Benefits in One Custom Designed Economical Unit

Florence, KY  International consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, announced today that it has been retained to complete product development, and create sales and marketing strategies for the fall 2009 launch the MakeUpMiser®.

“The MakeUpMiser is a multi-use, multi-featured, multi-benefit product that addresses several basic, but annoying problems that confronts consumers of cosmetic creams and lotions with each use of these products”, said Geoff Ficke, President of Duquesa Marketing. “The MakeUpMiser is like many successful products in that the design is understated, the cost is low and the benefits are delivered in an elegantly simple manner that consumers will appreciate and value”.

“I created the MakeUpMiser to address the problems that I experienced daily in my work as a professional medical esthetician”, said Michelle Phillips, President of Lancaster, PA based MakeUpMiser. “I often heard my clients complain about extending the life of expensive products we sold and of their concern for controlling the growth of bacteria in products. I needed the best marketing consultants I could find to present my product to the world, and I believe that I have found the perfect partner in Duquesa Marketing”.

“MakeUpMiser is deceptively simple”, said Nancy Ficke, General Manager of Duquesa Marketing. “The genius of MakeUpMiser is that it delivers so much benefit, savings and safety at such a low price and in such a simple form”.

Duquesa Marketing has over 35-years experience, specializing in consumer product development, sales and marketing. The Company has launched products in all distribution channels in the United States and internationally.