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Archive for June 8th, 2011

How to Market a New Consumer Product Idea – The Mindset Required

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

How to Market a New Consumer Product Idea – The Mindset Required 

This will be the first in a series of self-help articles that will be of use to aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and small businesses who seek to market a consumer product, idea or service that they have conceived. As a Product Development and Marketing Consultant I am approached every day by people desirous of, but not knowing how, to open the myriad doors that they must confront in order to get an idea, concept or prototype to store shelves. The process can appear overwhelming. It is not, but it is not for the faint of heart. 

The first issue any driven entrepreneur must confront is their personal reality. Do they have they temperament, drive, fearlessness and creativity to get into the most competitive game on earth; a game played with the goal of influencing consumers to buy their product and not the competitions. What is their current home and financial reality? Is the wife, husband, or significant other on board with the project? These types of questions must be answered honestly. 

If the above realities are not truly roadblocks, then another major issue must be addressed. Does the owner or conceiver of the product want to self-market or need to secure help in order to achieve stated goals? This is another “reality” consideration. Consider each option: 

Self-Market

The main reasons to pursue a self-marketing option is that there are no, or limited resources available to pay for professional guidance and the entrepreneur has a history of successfully overcoming challenges that would halt others. Ask yourself a question: If you are not mechanical, would you attempt to give your car a tune-up? Or, are you a person who knows nothing about car engines, but decides to read a book on the topic and learn how to complete the task? If your answer is the latter, you are a candidate to possibly become a successful self-marketer.

Consulting Help

The benefit of hiring competent, experienced Marketing Consulting and Product Development help is to save time, money and mistakes. In order to successfully get a consumer product to market dozens of steps must be undertaken and successfully addressed. Professional help in any field is paid to perform services. Whether you engage a plumber, accountant, landscaper or Marketing Consultant you will pay for service rendered. In every case you need to vet history, experience and references before contracting for services. Always speak to at least three candidates before deciding on which to use. Never hire without receiving a Gantt Chart with action items that will be accomplished in specific time spans. 

After you have carefully considered all of the aspects addressed above you will have a better idea of the best course open to you. You should know at this point whether you are ready to plunge into this exciting, but intimidating world of entrepreneurship. I have one further caution: put your dreams in storage! 

During my 35 years of working with micro-businesses and inventors the one predictor I have found to be absolutely solid is what I term the “dream quotient”.

This is easily spotted, usually during the first phone or e-mail contact. It goes something like this: “Let’s make $500,000,000 together”. Or, “I have a billion dollar idea”. Another goodie is: “I have an idea that I want to sell (or license)”. How about, “I don’t have any money, I want you to be, or to find me a partner”. 

The person that leads off an introductory meeting with this type of statement is a dream merchant. Successful entrepreneurs do a bit of dreaming, but they convert dreams to reality by hard work and commitment. There are no shortcuts allowed on the road to success. Grandiose projections, licensing an idea that has not been developed or selling an un-worked concept to a funding source is the cluttered thought process of a person with no prospect for success. 

No matter your financial reality, there are options and routes that can lead to success. They will take hard work, some outside of the box creativity and total commitment. Keep focus on your goals. Do not dilute effort with multiple ideas or products. Always know and understand this: you will hear many more “no’s” than “yes’ “. Marketing success is achieved only by those who do not let the plurality of “no’s” overwhelm their lust for the paucity of “yes’ “.

Securing Professional Help – How to Market a New Consumer Product Idea

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

Securing Professional Help – How to Market a New Consumer Product Idea 

The last article in this series considered the mindset and attitudes required to be a successful marketer of consumer products and services. We discussed whether to utilize professional Consulting firms or to take the plunge and self-market your project. Here are some ideas on securing talent on a local, regional, and possibly pro-bono basis. 

Professional Marketing Consulting and Product Development firms are hired on a contractual basis. They will offer a menu of services, everything from Brand Development, constructing a customized Marketing Strategy, managing Graphic Arts for packaging and Sales Collateral, Trade Show participation, Sales coverage and web-site construction. Some firms offer comprehensive services, other are highly specialized. 

A Professional Marketing Consulting and Product Development firm should be able to offer a strong value proposition. Savings in time, money and mistakes should be the benefit received from contracting service from these Companies.

There are other options to consider. 

Local Universities

Colleges and Business Schools have become very involved in entrepreneurial activity. Some schools are immersed in this area and their Business Schools offer majors and minors in entrepreneurial studies. Students can be assigned to work on independent projects for extra class credit and will assist in writing business plans, research, demographic studies, discovering vendors and sources of offshore supply and brand development. Contact the Dean of the local business school for entrée to a student to be assigned to your project. 

SCORE

This is the Service Core of Retired Executives, a group related to the Federal Government’s Small Business Administration. There is, as always with the government, a process to be followed before being assigned to a mentor in this program. SCORE is national and can be useful for simple, mainstream projects. 

Trade Groups

Many industry specific trade groups offer mentoring programs that will benefit start-up companies and entrepreneurs with projects of interest. Be careful here! You will want to have appropriate intellectual property protections in place (Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, Trade Secrets, etc.) in place before you detail your product or service. 

Business Incubators

Many Chambers of Commerce promote small Business Incubators precisely to discover, nurture and grow local small businesses. The primary goal of these programs is to create employment opportunities. They will have a Venture Capital ethos and require a level of sophistication and detail that many early stage concepts will not possess. 

Government

Many cities, counties and regional state associations have been formed precisely to encourage and mobilize small business growth. Once again, when dealing with the government, be prepared for a phalanx of bureaucracy to navigate. 

Networking

This might be the best way to overcome the earliest, most formidable obstacle to getting started. I know it was for me, it was for Aristotle Onassis, and it can be for you. You have to be in position to meet people that can help. It can be through a relative who belongs to a club where the members are in related businesses to your opportunity. It might be at the Lions, Rotary or local Chamber of Commerce meetings. Maybe you need to spend some time volunteering at local corporate sponsored charity events such as golf or tennis tournaments and 5K races. Sometimes just asking a friend to organize a luncheon or coffee meeting can open the door enough to get your smallest toe in the door. 

The key to success for every entrepreneur I have known, and there are a bunch of them has been to talk to everyone they can about their product, idea or concept. People love to help other, truly ambitious, honest, hard-striving people. It makes them feel good and valued to be able to help others to succeed. If you are driven you will be able to secure professional guidance whether you decide to hire experience consultants or choose alternative resources.

Successfully Approaching Marketing Professionals – How to Market a New Consumer Product or Idea

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

Successfully Approaching Marketing Professionals – How to Market a New Consumer Product or Idea 

Many inventors and entrepreneurs are so excited about their concept that they neglect to learn, or practice proper business etiquette when soliciting marketing or investment assistance. This can ruin their opportunity, or at the least set prospects back sharply. The following are some simple rules to follow when making initial contact or presentation of your exciting new product or marketing concept. 

Never Utilize Mindless Platitudes

My Company has been developing consumer products and marketing consulting for almost four decades. There is no bigger turn-off than to just meet a potential new client and hear something like: “I am going to put the Mattel Toy Company out of business with this new plush toy (or board game, or articulated doll, etc.)”.

Another golden oldie cold shower is, “This is a multi-billion dollar opportunity”.

We see this tried every day and it is a disqualifier. 

Be realistic, humble and factual about the opportunity you present. Professional marketers and venture capitalists will appreciate and are more likely to reward the sober tone. 

Always Tell the Truth, Never Embellish

The marketplace of ideas and new product ideas is huge, uber-competitive and non-forgiving. If you stretch the truth, embellish facts, or omit important facts that will affect your proposition two things will surely occur, they always do: You will be discovered. You will be dismissed. 

Be absolutely clear and truthful about everything you represent as factual. I cannot tell you how many times we have met entrepreneurs with great product ideas and we dismiss them out of hand because of obvious methane in their story. It is far better to detail a competitive disadvantage your product might possess and offer a solution to overcoming the handicap than to gloss over and try to mitigate the flaw. 

You Get One Chance to Make a Great First Impression!

I interview entrepreneurs for a living. I have certain screening questions that I use to separate the wheat from the chafe. Every venture capital firm, investment banker, consumer product marketing professional and licensing agent I know utilizes the same verbal qualifiers, or disqualifiers depending on how they are answered. The goal of your first contact is to get a face to face meeting with decision makers. 

Do not try to close a deal on the first call. Do not hard or over-sell. Never attempt any type of sale or screening technique on an e-mail if you wish to be considered serious. Present yourself as a professional person who has a project that is well-vetted, serious, offers unique product features and benefits that will benefit consumers and retailers and that you would be appreciative of a meeting that should be of interest to all parties. 

Do Not Detail Your Perceived Value of Your Project

Why? Because you do not have a clue what the REAL value of your project is. I have never read a non-professionally written business plan that offered an inkling of an iota of the true value, if any, ensconced in the project. You may have a wonderful idea. But without Execution, Cost of Goods balance, a customized Marketing Strategy that employ’s unique Branding concepts and Consumer Product Features and Benefits that can easily be conveyed to consumers in a cluttered marketplace even the best product will not succeed. 

Have a Great Elevator Speech

You will need to be able to excite decision makers in a brief few minutes of time. An initial call is always cold. This is the time to plant seeds of interest, not reap a harvest from a virgin field. The same principles that apply to the Executive Summary section of your Business Plan should apply to the Elevator Speech. Respect the time of the decision maker. Interest him (or her) with product features and benefits, a very brief summary of your due diligence and be prepared to answer questions, hopefully, if you have excited a level of interest from you target these will come. Remember, your goal should be to meet. 

Ask Questions

After an introduction and a short, tight Elevator Speech, you will be asked questions if there is any level of interest from your target. Assuming you have done your homework and pass the screening exam you will have the opportunity to ask questions of your target. Do not get too detailed and specific. Save that for the time when negotiations commence, and that is still a long way off. 

These are only a few of the most egregious flaws and shortcomings we see every day as our Marketing Consulting firm reviews projects. We get very interested in unique products. We only get truly excited when the entrepreneur is as good, or better, than the product they present.