return to homepage

Archive for the ‘Business Model’ Category

The Enduring French Haute Couture House that Inspires & Impresses to this Day in Several Fashion Categories

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

By: Geoff Ficke

The eponymous founder of the House of Lanvin, Madame Jeanne Lanvin was a Parisian couturier who was first admitted to the prestigious Syndicate de la Couture in 1909. At the time, Madame Lanvin had gained a following of wealthy Parisian clients attracted to the children’s clothing she was designing for her own daughter; the future opera star Marie Blanche di Pietro. Her lovely creations were in great demand initially for little upper-crust girls, and then for their gentrified mothers who sought to co-ordinate their dresses and millinery with their daughters style.

Madame Lanvin’s couture business boomed almost immediately and she soon opened a boutique on the ever-fashionable Rue Fauborg St. Honore in Paris. Her modernist styling cues, eye for fabric and color, and elegant detailing appealed to wealthy mothers and daughters from all over Europe. In 1923 the House of Lanvin opened a dye producing factory in Nanterre. This extension of the business accelerated the firm’s ability to provide vivid, novel and the most beautiful fabrics for use in their couture business and for sales to other clothing manufacturers.

As growth continued throughout the 1920’s the House of Lanvin open boutiques dedicated to home décor, fur, menswear and lingerie.

It was in 1924 that Lanvin Parfums SA was formed and in 1927 Madame Lanvin made her most important commercial expansion. It was in that year that she introduced the classic fragrance Arpege. The name was inspired by the sound of Marie Blanche practicing the scales on her piano (Arpege is derived from the word pronounced and spelled “arpeggio” in French). Arpege was an instant commercial success and is still one of the best selling scents in the world.

The great interior designer and artist of the day Armand Albert Rateau had been engaged to decorate Madame Lanvin’s apartment and country homes in the early 1920’s. She was so impressed with his creativity and spatial sensibility that he was commissioned to design the famous La Boule crystal flacon for Arpege perfume. This gorgeous example of luxury packaging has retained its popularity to this day and still enhances the desirability of Arpege as a classic fragrance brand.

In 1907 the well known portrait artist Paul Iribe had been commissioned to paint the likeness of Madame Lanvin and her daughter in a golden image. This rendering has been imprinted on every bottle of world famous Arpege perfume and bath and body products ever sold. The love of mother and daughter is apparent to us over a century later.

The House of Lanvin was successful under the steady guidance and entrepreneurial hand of Jeanne Lanvin for the first half of the 20th century. During this time period, no consumer of haute couture visited Paris without visiting Madame Lanvin’s boutiques to experience first-hand the finest in understated elegance and craftsmanship. The finest department and specialty stores around the world carried her lines of fragrance, couture and fashion accessories on an exclusive basis.

Today, the Lanvin boutique on Rue Fauborg St. Honore is still a fashion shrine. The current head designer Alber Elbaz has maintained the traditions of classicism and excellence demanded by Jeanne Lanvin. Lanvin licensed products are produced to the highest specification and standards of quality and distributed on an exclusive basis. Arpege fragrances are in distribution to better stores around the world and still greatly appreciated by discerning ladies seeking the feminine, understated notes the scent purveys.

Jeanne Lanvin built a timeless brand. She was an entrepreneur with perfect fashion instincts. These sensibilities extended to men’s haberdashery, fur, interior décor,
manufacturing, perfumery, fashion accessories of course her signature fashion house. This innovator was never interested in current trends but always sought to offer design that would convey artistry and elegance for the present as well as the future.

First-Mover Disadvantages Must Be Carefully Guarded Against When a Consumer Product Is Truly Novel

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

Every business school student, entrepreneur or consumer product marketer knows and understands the advantages and importance of being the First-Mover in a given
product category. Even those not actively participating in the space instinctively understand that it is best to be first to market with a breakthrough product. First-Mover Advantage (FMA) has become popularized with the dawn of the internet age. However, the concept has been around as long as we have been packaging and selling goods.

An easily explained example of FMA was the introduction of disposable baby diapers to the consumer product marketplace by Proctor & Gamble. P&G discovered a synthetic fiber then only available in Europe. The acquisition of the proprietary fiber enabled disposable diapers to be massed produced at prices that were exceedingly popular with parents. This created a new category and P&G enjoyed a FMA in the disposable diaper space that the Company exploits to this day.

While we instinctively know why a FMA is desirable and of premium value to a product, we often do not anticipate the pressures that can be applied to such a novel new product. This is called a First-Mover Disadvantage (FMD).

One paramount concern is Free-Riders. These are businesses that study a breakthrough product, its Research and Development, manufacturing processes, formula, marketing, etc. and replicate without exposing themselves to the upfront risks that are endemic in launching any breakthrough item. Imitation costs are much lower than
innovation costs. There are successful firms that specialize in this technique.

The Limited was amazingly successful at replicating the style and the detail of couture ladies fashion dress and suit designs, streamlining production, lowering costs and moving customers from boutiques and department stores to their own eponymous shops. RIM, created the Blackberry, a smashing success, only to be almost fully displaced by Apple and Samsung products that studied, improved and advanced on their technology.

Another FMD is the assumption of marketing risk. It can be expensive and difficult to educate retailers and consumers to the features and benefits of a new product.  Innovators often exhaust their resources in the development and introduction of their product(s) only to expire before they can be successfully commercialized. The initial mover assumes all of the market creation risk. Subsequent Free-Riders can often fill the void with a version of the alpha product and often are more successful.

Technology shifts often create a changing consumer. Remember the VHS video player? The cassette tapes these bulky units played were an entertainment tsunami. That was until the DVD format was developed and introduced. The smaller compact DVD discs and superior quality literally crushed the purveyors of VHS products within months. Especially with technology, you are never the greatest only the latest. Brother’s typewriters, Eastman Kodak and Polaroid are examples to consider.

Incumbent inertia is another FMD to be guarded against. Some management’s become inflexible, rigid or content to operate the way they have always operated even as markets change. Simply search the list of national and regional retailers that has disappeared in the last 40 years. It is stunning. Major department stores have been bankrupted or merged into more aggressive groups. Sears, once the largest and most successful retailer in the world, is on life support as I write this. They could easily go the way of Montgomery Ward, Circuit City, Mervyns and countless others.

Another sign of incumbent inertia is the inability, or conscious decision not to cannibalize an existing product. The Ford Motor Company was the most successful industrial enterprise in history in the first third of the 20th century. Henry Ford was brilliant but inflexible. The consumer could buy a Model T in any color, as long as it was black. As a result, his firm was displaced by General Motors and its brilliant maestro Alfred Sloan. Sloan designed a stair step series of marketing and brand platforms that moved
consumers from Chevrolet, to Pontiac, to Buick, then Oldsmobile and ultimately to Cadillac as they moved from various stages of life and success.

Charles Revson did the same with Revlon cosmetic, fragrance and skin care products. Revlon in the mid-20th century was the most successful beauty brand in the world. Rather than sit on his laurels Mr. Revson introduced the higher priced Ultima II line and then, for exclusive specialty stores, Etherea was launched. Estee Lauder Cosmetics has accomplished the same with her brands stepping to Clinique, Bobbi Brown, MAC, and Origins among others to successfully fill market niches. Contemporary beauty product and fragrance lines of the day like Erno Laszlo, Imperial Formula and Frances Denney atrophied to nothing as they did not innovate and adapt to market changes.

We advise many of our clients when customizing their Business Plan to anticipate the cannibalization of their product by themselves. If an item is successful it will be copied by others. It is incumbent on innovative entrepreneurs to maximize all possible returns on their investment, creativity and hard work. Replicate and reposition your product before others do!

By garnering the smallest niche within a huge category a product can be hugely successful. This FMA may be tiny but it can be lucrative. Just remember that success breeds copycats. Anticipate that you will experience Free-Riders and plan the appropriate strategy to maximize and safeguard protection for your hard work.

A Surprising Number of Consumer Products Leap Categories and Discover Multi-Chanel Success

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

Many, many moons ago, when I was a small child growing up in Kentucky, my mother created her own customized skin care products from items she harvested from our food pantry and refrigerator. These were a type of artisan treatment regimen that had been handed down from her mother and other female relatives. I can clearly remember the distinct and wonderful scent that emanated from the kitchen as my mother milled and blended her olive oil, mayonnaise, lemon and herbal potions.

These products worked. When mom died in her mid-70’s, after a lifetime of outdoor work on a farm and endless hours of self-tanning her skin was flawless. My siblings and I do not believe she ever bought at cleanser, toner, moisturizer, night cream or any other type of cosmetic skin care product from a retail store. Mother was a child of the Depression, and as such, she was raised to be as self-sufficient as possible.

My mother also practiced a form of consumer product category jumping. Her homemade cosmetic skin care treatment was rendered from foodstuffs purchased mainly for consumption by our large brood. I doubt Hellman’s Mayonnaise, A&P Olive Oil or the United Fruit company produced their products with cosmetic usage in mind.

There are actually more examples of this type of product category jumping than one might think. You probably have experienced such multiple uses for products in your own experience. A number of specific products actually have seen sales rise perceptibly as a result of usage that differs from the manufacturer’s original intent.

One of the most famous was the well known hemorrhoid ointment Preparation H. This formula was created by the prolific scientist Dr. Sperti. It was very successful for many years and was considered the leading treatment of its day for this annoying malady. Then a funny thing happened.

Women realized that if it worked on hemorrhoids it might work on facial wrinkles. Voila, they were right and a cult-like following grew to believe Preparation H as the best option on the market to fight wrinkles, fine lines and damaged skin. The product had the added benefit of being inexpensive relative to packaged cosmetic and department skin care treatment lines such as Frances Denney, Germaine Monteil and Orlane.

Another crossover star is equally fascinating. In farm stores in rural communities across America there is a need for a livestock product that can treat horses and cattle that suffer from damage caused by thorns, thickets and rusted barbed wire fencing. The leading product in this space is an ointment called Corona.

A number of years ago I first heard from the mother of newborn baby about Corona. She raved about the creams ability to eliminate her little one’s severe diaper rash. She had tried everything, even doctor prescribed treatments to no avail. Another mom told her to drive 60 miles to the nearest Southern States store and buy a tube of Corona. She did. She was wowed and returned within a week to buy out the stores stock.

I decided to check it out for myself. I visited a Southern States store and asked the clerk how Corona Ointment was selling? He stopped and replied that until a couple years ago it sold only to farmers. But then they began to notice mothers of babies with license plates from distant counties buying multiple tubes of the product. The store was often out of stock on what had been a steady, but unspectacular selling niche product.

We use EZ-Off Oven Cleaner to remove mold from our log home. It works great. It works much better than the much more expensive mold treatment products that the DIY stores stock and advertise.

There are many other examples of products or ingredients that jump categories and enjoy cult status. You probably utilize one or more in your home, work or garden.

The Story of a Bespoke Tailor, Royalty, Commerce and the Introduction of the Smoking Jacket or Tuxedo

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

The modern, ubiquitous tuxedo is a staple of most modern gentlemen’s fulsome wardrobes. How the tuxedo, or “dinner jacket”, was initially birthed is an interesting story and entwines a London Saville Row bespoke tailoring house, royalty and an American investment banker. This confluence of influences has influenced how the well-dressed man presents himself for special occasions for a century and a half since the distinctive garment made its first appearance.

Tailless jackets, then called smoking jackets, first became popular in England in the mid-19th century among the landed gentry and royalty as alternatives to tailed suit coats. Distinguished by satin or grosgrain lapels and striping on the outside of pants legs, these suits were much more informal and less cumbersome than the restrictive, uncomfortable waist coated suits worn by gentlemen of that time.

Their popularity was insured when the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, asked his tailor to make him such a suit as an alternative to the waistcoat. Henry Poole & Co., the Prince’s Saville Row bespoke tailors, were tasked with designing and fitting what would become the first formally recognized “smoking jacket’. There are conflicting stories as to the date of the first iteration of what would become known as the tuxedo was crafted. But Henry Poole and Co. has receipts for such a commission dating to the 1860’s. By the 1880’s the Prince was ordering “smoking jackets” from the haberdasher.

During this period the banking firm Brown and Co. was the principal source of letters of credit for international trade payments. In 1886 the Prince of Wales invited the son of the founder of Brown and Co., James Potter Brown a London-based partner in the bank, to visit his estate at Sandringham House for a hunting party. In preparation for the visit Mr. Brown asked the Prince to advise appropriate dress for the various sporting and social functions that were to be enjoyed. The Prince referred Mr. Brown to Henry Poole and Co. where he was fitted for a proper “smoking jacket”.

During a subsequent visit to the fashionable new resort outside New York City called Tuxedo Park James Potter Brown wore his Henry Poole and Co. crafted “smoking jacket” to an elegant soiree. The suit was immediately praised and members of the resort began to demand to be fitted for the garment from their tailors. The connection to Tuxedo Park stuck and the appellation “tuxedo” for the American version of the “smoking jacket” was born.

The introduction of the modern tuxedo drove the creation of an elegant ensemble to be worn for any formal, special occasion from fund raisers to marriage ceremonies. The suit itself has developed a coterie of specialized accessories that have become almost mandatory to complete the classic look of the well dressed gentlemen. Shoes, stylized shirts and collars, studs, the cummerbund, pocket squares and neckwear specific to embellishing the tuxedo are deemed essential to complete the desired sartorial elegance.

Today, the well-dressed gentleman usually owns at least one black tuxedo complete with the requisite array of appropriate accessories. Colors and accompanying accessories now run the gamut from the elegant to the tacky. Nevertheless, whenever a man dresses in a tuxedo he is unwittingly paying a bit of homage to a successful man of  commerce, 19th century British royalty and the ageless craftsmanship purveyed by bespoke tailors.

British Royal Pageantry Would Be Much Less Colorful Without This 300 Year Old Firms Artisan Products

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

Many Americans are dazzled by the solemnity, richness and dash of Great Britain’s royalty and landed gentry class and their balls, parades, hunts, weddings and state funerals. From Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in the 1950’s to Princess Diana’s wedding and untimely funeral to the spectacular PBS television series Downton Abbey, we are shown glimpses of a world of etiquette, discipline, heritage and beauty far from our own. One firm, holders of Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Warrant, has been ringside for much of this pageantry for the better part of three centuries.

The Toye family was Huguenot refugees. They had fled religious persecution in France and arrived in 1685, settling near what is now Bethnal Green. In France they had been artisans working and crafting lace, silk, embroidery and gold and silver wiring for garments and military embellishments. They continued this work upon settling near London.

By 1784 Guillaume Henry Toye was well established in the trade and had established the firm’s first shop. His grandson William Toye, expanded the business in 1835. In addition to adding a ribbon works, William opened two retail stores near central London to capitalize on the growing demand for uniform and military parade products.

In 1890 facilities were acquired for the weaving of heavy, double-twilled silk products. The trade union movement, Friendly Societies and the Masonic trade was flourishing and Toye seized on the opportunity to accelerate the Company’s growth by serving these customer bases. A banner department was established. Painting and embroidery of the banners proved to increase the desirability of Toye’s products immensely.

The Company continued to grow under the direction of William Toye’s three sons in the first three decades of the 20th century. Then a seeming disaster, the Great Depression hit the United Kingdom in 1930. Despite massive unemployment, poverty and hunger Toye and Co. maintained full employment throughout the Depression.

In 1937 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne. Their coronation proved most profitable for the Company as it required six months of overtime work for the artisan craftsman of Toye & Co. to produce the required banners, uniforms, epaulets, robes and regalia required for the regal occasion.

To this very day Toye & Co. produces a wide range of ceremonial and fashion products. The Company operates a number of factories in the United Kingdom, including a jewelry production facility in Birmingham and a textile production plant near Coventry. The firm operates a wonderful retail shop on Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London. There, much of the firm’s highly crafted product is available for consumer purchase.

Toye & Co. is still managed by descendants of the founder, Guillaume Henry Toye. As Royal Warrant holders the firm has proven over more than 300 years of creative work that quality, detail, and dependability are touchstones that every enterprise should strive to attain and perfect in each product or service on offer.

Any 21st century entrepreneur would do well to study these honored businesses and learn the attributes that separate them from competitors.

When visiting Great Britain I always seek out firms displaying the crested sign that indicates the residence of a Royal Warrant Holder. This award is only given to firm’s possessing the absolute highest standards. Just browsing these purveyors of old world craftsmanship is enthralling and educational.

Advertisings First “Whisper Campaign” Created the Modern Antiperspirant Deodorant Industry

Friday, January 18th, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

Until the early 20th century body odor was addressed in basically one of two ways. The uneducated and impoverished simply did not address their hygiene. The upper-classes bathed on average once each week and most undertook a “toilet” once or twice each day. This consisted of standing at a wash basin filled with hot water and administering a simple sponge bath with a soaped sponge and then a full body rinsing wipe down.

The first modern deodorant product was Mum, introduced in the 1880’s. This product was packaged in jars and applied to the armpit and elsewhere on the body by rubbing onto the skin with one’s fingers. Many people considered the application of the cream in such a manner to be unpleasant and the product possessed and unusual unpleasant odor.

The far larger quandary facing the marketers of products designed to mask and correct unpleasant body odors was that almost all women of the day were simply unaware that they projected offensive odors. They just did not consider their hygiene to be offensive to others, and importantly, their paramours. Body odors were considered natural, even if rancid smelling.

Early in the 20th century a young woman in Cincinnati, a surgeon’s daughter named Edna Murphey tried to sell an antiperspirant product that her father had developed to keep his hands dry while performing surgery. She labeled the deodorant Odorono. Though determined, Ms. Murphey was not very competent or successful at marketing.

The team of door to door sales women Ms. Murphey assembled did not move Odorono at sales levels she had planned. Pharmacists refused to carry the item as they were not receiving calls for such a product to address sweat or perspiration. In desperation, she took a booth at the 1912 Atlantic City Exposition to demonstrate the features and benefits of Odorono. Initially sales were tepid. Fortunately for Ms. Murphey, the expo lasted all summer and 1912 was a particularly hot year. By the end of the fair she had sold over $30,000 worth of Odorono and seemed to be on her way to success.

Sales did grow for several years then hit a wall. Odorono needed professional help and so Ms. Murphey hired the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency to handle her account. JWT opened an office in Cincinnati and assigned a young copywriter named James Young to manage the office and the Odorono account.

Mr. Young immediately confronted the problem that Ms. Murphey had not able to overcome: the commonly held belief of the time that blocking perspiration was unhealthy. Mr. Young’s first ad copy highlighted the scientific provenance of Odorono and positioned the problem of “excessive perspiration” as a medical malady in need of correction.

Sales again accelerated but in a few years began to stutter again. James Young knew that he had to do something radical to save the Odorono account and his fledgling advertising career. He decided to present the problem of body odor and perspiration as a social faux pas. His first ad, which appeared in Ladies Home Journal in a 1919-edition was titled “Within the Curve of a Woman’s Arm”. It was a masterstroke.

The image in the ad was of a woman in a romantic situation with a man. The copy directly and pointedly stated that if the lady wanted to keep her man she had better not smell or stink. In fact, a smelly gal might not even realize she is offensive and this could lead to males avoiding her. The ad caused shock waves and Ladies Home Journal even lost subscribers because of the content.

However, the controversy brought attention to Odorono and the newly addressed problem of feminine body odor. In 1920 sales of the product soared to $417,000.By 1927 Company sales had hit the $1 million mark and in 1929 Edna Murphey sold her business to Northam Warren the makers of Cutex Nail Polish Remover.

This is widely considered the first commercial use of a “whisper campaign” in advertising used to scare female consumers into buying a product to combat sweat and natural body perspiration. Competitors began to mimic the model created by James Young and the technique became a common strategy utilized in the advertising and consumer product marketing industry.

James Young went on to enjoy a career as one of the most famous and successful advertising copywriters of the 20th century. He rose to become Chairman of the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency, helping it to grow into the largest in the world. His “whisper campaign” was instrumental in launching Odorono and thus laying the first brick in the creation of what is today an $18 billion industry: deodorant antiperspirant products. His creation of the “whisper campaign” is still studied in University marketing courses to this day.

Drop the Dreams and Establish Solid Goals and Plans In Order to Succeed in Start-up Business

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

by: Geoff Ficke

Drop the Dreams and Establish Solid Goals and Plans In Order to Succeed in Start-up Business

Recently I watched a television show which featured Inventions, Small Business Start-ups and Entrepreneurship as central program topics. A panel of experts reviewed product submissions and interviewed the prospective entrepreneurs about various aspects of their projects. The interplay was interesting, and disappointing.

The word that was most commonly used by these first time would-be business owners was “dream”. They each seemed to be enamored of their dream. The dream element was imbued and layered into many aspects of their commercial opportunity. Unfortunately the panel of experts never made the point that dreaming is not doing, and doing is what successful entrepreneurs must aspire to do.

Every successful entrepreneur I have ever counseled has been goal driven. They set realistic goals. These goals may require climbing seemingly difficult hurdles but successful small business start-ups possess the ability to meet and overcome every market challenge. And the challenges are many.

If it were easy to commercialize an invention or launch a small business there would be exponentially more successful, rich entrepreneurs. The fact that it is difficult to convert an idea into a profitable venture is a natural culling device employed by markets to stop those not possessing the necessary makeup from taking the difficult plunge into entrepreneurship. It is hard to start a business from scratch and compete in a cluttered marketplace and it should be.

For every successful entrepreneur that we work with there are at least a hundred that approach, discuss, attempt to sell their concept and are turned away. Virtually all we decline to work with have one thing in common: they are dreamers. It only takes a few e-mail questions or a minute on a phone call to discover if we are talking to the 1% (goal driven) or the 99% (dreamers).

The goal driven inventor, entrepreneur or small business candidate might not possess the knowledge or necessary skill sets necessary to immediately commercialize their plans.  But they recognize their shortcomings and are fully committed to working, studying and researching their way toward gaining that knowledge. Whether they are
self-taught, or contract for professional consulting talent successful entrepreneurs innately understand the importance of proper due diligence and having a well vetted plan.

The term “American Dream” is as old as the republic. Whenever we hear the term used colloquially we immediately recognize the speaker as referring to the successes deemed so important in our culture: owning a home or business, education, career choice, etc. These goals are invariably gained through hard work, not dreaming. Success at almost all of life’s enterprises is attained by setting solid goals and having a plan. That the American Dream is achieved by doing, not dreaming, is ironic.

College Campuses Are Amazing Resources for Entrepreneurs to Utilize When Launching a Business

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

by: Geoff Ficke

College Campuses Are Amazing Resources for Entrepreneurs to Utilize When Launching a Business

Recently I read about a new cosmetic product that was launched on a college campus. This bootstrapped product was taking advantage of a resource that can be available to all, but is rarely accessed by any. The entrepreneurs behind the novel lip balm Kisstixx offer an example of just one way to leverage the benefits that are present in abundance on university campuses everywhere.

Shake Smart natural smoothies are another example of a start-up bootstrapped on a university campus. Clever entrepreneurs for this breakthrough concoction looked closely at their personal environment and realized that many, if not all, of the assets they needed to perfect, test and launch their product was on offer within their schools facilities.

The modern university is an amazing amalgam of talent, facilities, knowledge, money and energy. Students are almost universally ambitious. Faculty is experienced and keen to see their student charges succeed in their chosen fields. College administrators are excited to leverage their facilities and resources in ways that drive institutional reputations and endowments. This is the perfect confluence of opportunity and assets for innovators seeking to commercialize their novel business concepts.

Let’s start with the student body. Each member is majoring in an offered course of study. Each is driven to gain as much education as possible in their field of study and compliment this knowledge with practical, complimentary work experience; Thus, the scramble for internships.

For our client consumer product development projects we often visit college deans and ask for student participation in accomplishing specific research and development tasks. Inevitably the dean is happy to recommend one or more students. The students are thrilled for the opportunity to add to their credentials with a hands-on work
experience that can be detailed for future employers to consider. Our clients always are amazed at the enthusiasm and quality of the work product provided by
their interns.

We all read about the technology advances that are born in some university and then become massive commercial successes. Universities across the country have taken notice of this opportunity and almost all have Technology Transfer programs established or in development. They actively seek ideas that can be patented and commercialized by utilizing the massive resources, and fixed overheads, that are a constant in every college. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to approach these programs with their concepts and ideas for review, consideration and possible joint venture collaboration.

We have utilized the resources of colleges and universities on a number of our Consumer Product projects. Schools are not only keen to develop science and technology opportunities. They are aggressively seeking products and services that can be perfected and launched in many areas. For one client we used the Nutrition and Dietary college program to develop a gluten and sugar free line of bakery goods. Focus Groups and test markets conducted at colleges are ideal venues for gauging market sentiment about key elements of Branding, Packaging, taste, pricing, etc.

Business Schools today almost universally emphasize an Entrepreneurial course of study. A capstone class requirement to qualify for a degree is that each student must write or collaborate on creating a customized Business Plan. Let these eager students work on your Business Plan.

Many inventors approach us seeking help in designing, prototyping and engineering their product idea. Many colleges possess every tool needed to create CAD art, scale models, assembly and engineering plans. The College of Engineering is a wonderful tool to access when needing prototype work completed on a small budget and with professionalism.

Wellness drinks and supplements, skin care, oral care, exercise and sporting goods products, fashion design and juvenile products are all product areas in which we have used the assets that are available, and FREE, at a local college or university. Students, faculty and administrations actually welcome the chance to apply their theoretical knowledge to gain practical project experience from working on real world product development. Take advantage of this wonderful resource. After all, as a taxpayer you are
paying for these excellent resources.

Differentiate Your Small Business from Competitors by Making Yourself the Go-To Authority in Your Field

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

by: Geoff Ficke

Differentiate Your Small Business from Competitors by Making Yourself the Go-To Authority in Your Field

A question I am often asked by entrepreneurs starting a new business operation is, “How do I stand out from my competition”. There are a number of options that can be
chosen to accomplish this goal. Resources and actual experience go far in determining which route to take.

If financial resources are not an issue, and it almost universally is, smothering your target market with advertising is the most commonly chosen method to make you and your enterprise stand out from the pack. But there are better paths for those working with minimal assets. Here are a few to consider.

Write a Blog

Let’s assume that you are an insurance agency owner. I live in a very tiny community and even here we have at least six insurance agents in the county. Insurance agents are ubiquitous. By writing a Blog, and constantly updating the content, an agent can become identified as a purveyor of tips and information that makes the purchase of insurance less painful. Whatever the field of endeavor try to impart knowledge that is of value to consumers. Do not overtly attempt to sell a product or service.

Perfect the Advertorial

An Advertorial is an advertisement that looks and reads like an editorial. A question is posed that pertains to your particular business entity. You answer the question with clarity and an air of studied knowledge. This subtly reinforces your bona fides as an expert in your field.

We have used Advertorials successfully for years to build our clients reputations as experts. People love to receive information and tips. They do not like to be sold. The Advertorial, if properly written and executed, will not only build a professional reputation they will be a driver of sales and traffic to your business.

We have used the Advertorial strategy to promote Wellness and Weight Loss Clinic owners, Beauty Salon and Day Spa businesses, Gourmet Food and Beverage marketers, Cosmetic, Skin Care, Fashion, Perfumers, Pet Products, Hunting and Fishing, Sporting Goods, DIY, and Jewelry start-ups, local merchants and service providers. This technique can be made to work to fit almost any Sales Promotion budget.

Public Relations

If you hire a new employee announce the appointment in a Publicity Release. If you launch a new product, open a branch office, add an account, attend a Trade Show, take a continuing education course, or experience any positive activity relating to your business write and circulate a Publicity Release.

The local media in your trading area loves these types of notices and publication is FREE! There are numerous FREE on-line services which publish PR Releases. Trade journals are awash in industry specific announcements that are generated by PR Releases and are published for FREE! Build a data base of clients, past customers and send them PR Releases announcing positive news. Visit my web-site www.DuquesaMarketing.com and click on the Public Relations tab. The format we utilize for the Releases that you can view is the standard PR industry template which you should use for your PR’s.

Public Speaking

Offer to speak to local service clubs such as the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Lions, Forrester’s, etc. The announcement that you will be speaking on a topic that is in your professional wheelhouse reinforces that you are the “pro from Dover” in this space. Church, civic and philanthropic groups are always seeking knowledgeable speakers to enrich their meetings.

Network

In order to speak to groups as described above, join them. The best advertisement and strategy to make you and your business known is to participate in local and industry specific groups and boards.

Have a Fresh Web-site

I am a believer that way too many people have web-sites. If content is not exciting a site can actually signify that your business is poorly run. People with new business concepts, but no ability to conduct commerce, put up sites that only serve to tip off competitors about their intentions before they are market ready.

A bright, contemporary, well managed web-site does not have to cost a fortune or be cumbersome for even the smallest Micro-Business to handle. There are numerous service firms that can build sites inexpensively and will constantly add blog and PR updates. Search engines will crawl web-site pages every few weeks and if a site is key search term enriched it will move higher in page rankings.

Write Articles

Let’s assume you operate a Prototype Design facility. There is a good bit of mystery to creating working, production quality Prototypes. These units are essential in  discovering manufacturing logistics, engineering quirks, cost of goods, and much more. If an Industrial or Design Engineer wishes to distinguish themselves there is no better way than to regularly publish 400 or more word articles on topics germane to modeling Prototypes.

Article Submission firms abound on the web-site. Many publish for FREE. Some charge a small publishing fee. A few can be utilized for targeting specific demographic groups or industries. When you publish an article you will be perceived as a person with a level of expertise in your field of work.

These are only a few of the many strategies that can be employed to separate you and your business from a swarm of competitors. As you execute these types of self-promotional elements you will discover that they become easier as you perfect your skill sets. There is an old adage among writers: “Writers write”. There is a similar maxim for entrepreneurs: “Successful businesses self-promote”.

Sourcing and Defining Volume Pricing Is an Absolute Must for Aspiring Consumer Product Entrepreneurs

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

by: Geoff Ficke

Sourcing and Defining Volume Pricing Is an Absolute Must for Aspiring Consumer Product Entrepreneurs

I have been mentoring a young female entrepreneur for several months. She is not a client of my Consumer Product Branding and Marketing Consulting firm. This earnest lady has a very interesting concept in the Infant and Juvenile product space. Like so many aspiring first time business owners she is confused about how to best organize her enterprise and move from a hobby project to a fully commercial model.

As we discuss her projects status she states that her cost of goods is too high. This is because she is producing in very low volumes and utilizing domestic manufacturing sources. The test marketing and focus groups she has conducted are thus flawed. In order to gain proper due diligence from which to construct an accurate Sales Model, entrepreneurs must be able to ascertain an absolutely tight Cost of Goods.

Short run, hobby business-like volumes represent a distortion of the Sales Model. Unless the entrepreneur wishes to operate a low volume artisanal business it is vitally important to find the best sources of supply and manufacturing and to develop the accurate cost of mass production in hand with the chosen supplier.

We ask our sources of supply for dead-net Cost of Goods pricing for production runs that would approximate mass market distribution models. Dead-net Cost of Goods includes the total amount charged to fully assemble and package an item, plus international freight, customs, duties (if any) and local freight to a Fulfillment center.

The young lady I am mentoring has made the very common mistake of utilizing the much higher Cost of Goods she is currently absorbing based on low volume production and trying to force her Infant travel accessory items to market at a price point that is not viable. Test markets are only useful if the data received is based on solid Marketing fundamentals. Most test markets are not conducted with a goal of making profit. They are laboratories to learn about consumer acceptance, pricing objections, Branding effectiveness, etc. Test marketing saves time, money and mistakes when a product is finally launched after alterations to Marketing Strategies are made.

Take a simple component such as a 12 ounce plastic food bottle. The purchase of a stock Boston Round bottle in quantities of one hundred for testing might be $.25. In purchase volumes of 25,000 the price may drop to $.15 per unit. This type of differential, when applied to every component listed on a Consumer Product’s Bill of Materials will reflect a huge pricing differential. This has a massive effect on the ultimate optimal retail price that consumers will pay for the product.

One of the reasons usually stated for not obtaining a mass production Cost of Goods is a lack of knowledge. The entrepreneur does not know of specific factories or sources of supplies. The internet, social media and business directories today make this work so much easier than when I started my first business 36 years ago. The information and networks exist that actually make this process straightforward today.

Unless pricing for a full channel of distribution is not gleaned none of the assumptions that are used to create a business model will hold up. Sales projections, Business Plan elements, procuring investment from Venture capital sources,  Marketing Strategies and many more enterprise building blocks will crumble. Take the time and expend the energy to diligently uncover the most accurate Cost of Goods for your products.