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An Alternative, Inexpensive Way to Penetrate the Market For a New Product

by: Geoff Ficke

My consulting firm receives an average of 2 new product submissions from entrepreneur’s each day. Last year we viewed almost 700 such offerings. They ranged from the silly to the spectacular. The majority of these concepts actually possess some commercial merit. Nevertheless, fewer than a dozen of these will ever make it to market.

There are many reasons for the paucity of successful product launches. The process is challenging and many people are not up for the fight. Many people dream that their idea or concept can succeed, but at no risk or expense to themselves. Still others have recklessly expanded valuations on their product and thus, expectations that are not realistic.

From this deluge of creativity there are always a handful of gems that have all of the essential elements necessary for success. The one constant, however, is almost always capital; or the lack thereof. A certain base level of working capital is always necessary to market launch, license or create a strategic alliance for a new offering.

We have been successfully using a guerilla strategy for years that mitigates the level of investment to expose a product to the marketplace and secure a positive “Proof of Life”. This strategy has proven successful over and over and minimizes the costs of a full-scale inventory build before the chances for success has been fully vetted. Our goal is always to minimize risk until we have a clear positive green light from buyers and professional decision- makers in the product’s category.

We just returned from a Home and Garden Show in Orlando where we employed this strategy to successfully launch a garden tool. We secured a 10 foot display stand from show management (the smallest and least expensive in the show). For about $200 we had very professional vinyl signs created at a local franchise shop.

Our client had a friend with some creative photography talent and we utilized him to shoot stills of the product in action in a nice garden. The client’s wife did the voice over and we edited the photos into a video loop that we ran continuously for the duration of the show.
That brings us the most vexing question: How do you display product when you haven’t built inventory? We regularly have to address this issue. We have our graphic artist create art for the product based on creative direction that we provide. This art is the basis for the package that contains the product, a counter display and sales collateral.

We have one or two pieces of the actual product made. IMPORTANT! This must be a production quality prototype. It must have all of the features and benefits that factory production pieces will offer. Do not take shortcuts here.
These few pieces are the demonstration models that we use to dazzle the buyers.

The next step is to look bigger, a whole lot bigger, than we really are. We do this by using a boutique display presentation. We use the graphic art to create two, three or four counter displays. These are done at local printers, hand die cut and assembled. The front facing of the display contents are dressed with the graphics but are actually empty of product. Behind the front tier of graphically dressed, but empty product boxes, we have blanks to make the display appear full. Usually all dummy display contents are glued down.

The sales collateral is printed based on the creative we utilize on the display and unit carton. The brochure has embellished copy points and expands more fully on the unique features and benefits the product offers. Also included are pricing, terms, conditions and contact numbers.

The process I described saves our clients tens of thousands of dollars, shortens the process to market entry and confirms market potential, or very occasionally the possibility of failure. During these shows we also pre-sell based on a future delivery date that we have verified with our factories. These orders are often the basis for a funding round, or factoring of the purchase orders.

The essence of this strategy is simple: Our client’s may be the smallest entity at a trade show, but they have positioned themselves to be introduced among the big boys at a fraction of the cost most new products incur during market introduction. Executed properly, these strategies result in unleashing new excitement and energy to support and propel the invention into stores.