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Archive for July 24th, 2009

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.