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Archive for June, 2011

How the Forgotten Inventor of the Shopping Cart Revolutionized Retailing and Shopping Forever

Friday, June 24th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

How the Forgotten Inventor of the Shopping Cart Revolutionized Retailing and Shopping Forever

When shopping today in mass merchandise stores and supermarkets, there are certain rituals that we take for granted. The most elemental is grabbing a shopping cart to push through store aisles and hold our purchases. There are rows of the four wheeled baskets lined up in front of retail outlets. This was not always so. Today, we do not stop to consider the commercial revolution that they caused and the personal fortune they generated for the inventor.

During the 1930’s, at the height of the Great Depression, retailing was a tough business. Customers had very little discretionary income. Price mattered more than ever. Most people only bought the basics, no more than they really needed to subsist. 

Sylvan Goldman was a struggling grocery store owner in Oklahoma City. He and his brother operated the Sun Grocery Chain, 20 stores spread Oklahoma. Later Mr. Goldman purchased two struggling stores, the Humpty Dumpty Grocery Stores. 

As the months went by Sylvan Goldman saw business steadily decline at his Humpty Dumpty stores. He needed a new promotion. Shoppers at that time, even if they had money, purchased only what they could carry. Stores provided small hand carried baskets, but as these filled with goods, they became heavy and unwieldy, especially for women to carry.

Goldman had an idea. He took a folding chair, fixed several baskets to the seat and set it on little wheels. He hired store greeters and demonstrators to introduce his customers to the contraption. For the most part, they balked. Men thought it was effeminate and women said it reminded them of pushing a baby carriage. 

This resistance did not deter a born Entrepreneur and Marketer like Sylvan Goldman. He set about building the prototype model of the first purpose built shopping cart as we know it today. The new rolling basket took off. Shoppers gravitated to the convenience and ease that the carts provided. Sales tickets grew exponentially as people consolidated trips and Goldman’s markets became shopping destinations. 

A Marketing Campaign was created to capitalize on the shopping advantage the shopping carts offered: “No Basket Carrying Plan”. Sylvan Goldman immediately filed for, and received, a patent on his invention. He earned a Royalty on every Shopping Cart sold until his death. His fortune was estimated at $400 million when he died in 1984. 

The simple invention of the shopping cart changed Sales Promotion, Consumer Product Marketing, Retail Buying, Store Merchandising and Consumer Product Shopping habits forever. Hot promotions could now be offered and consumers could stock up on the opportunity. Retailers stocked store shelves with deeper inventories of fast selling Consumer Products. Convenience became a retail watchword. The simple, ever ubiquitous shopping cart changed the buying habits of a nation, then the world. 

Few people today, beyond college students studying Marketing and Entrepreneurship, know the name Sylvan Goldman and that he invented to elemental shopping cart. His simple Invention is a central piece in the development of modern consumerism and Mass Market Retailing. It is also an example of how being creative and solving a problem can create vast personal wealth.

Making a Minor Product Usage Change Can Propel Major Sales Advances

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

Making a Minor Product Usage Change Can Propel Major Sales Advances 

In the middle of the 20th century pre-packaged foods and mixes were not as ubiquitous as they are today. Typically, a middle class home had a housewife present and preparing her families meals from scratch. The advent of mass-market consumerism would rapidly change this tradition. 

General Mills was a pioneer in developing and selling prepared food products. The Company Marketed first offered a line of dried cake mixes in the 1940’s and the convenience that these products provided was thought to be a sure fire winner. Sales were initially acceptable but not sensational. General Mills Marketing Managers could not understand what the missing element was that would make sales sizzle. 

The great Marketing Guru, the Austrian Ernest Dichter was hired by General Mills to analyze the prepared cake mix business. Mr. Dichter is credited with creating such Marketing breakthroughs as the Focus Group and Behavioral Science as applied to Consumerism. He began his analysis of the products and housewives reaction to them in his normal analytical fashion. 

Immediately he noticed that though the cakes baked utilizing the mixes were acceptable, they were dismissed by many housewives as not being as tasty, or velvety as cakes baked from scratch using natural ingredients. General Mills was very aggressive in promoting that the cake mix powder contained dried eggs. Mr. Dichter saw an opportunity. 

His advice was for General Mills to remove the dried, powdered eggs from the mixes and tout this fact in a new Advertising Campaign. Eggs are an “alpha” foodstuff and are elemental in fine cooking and baking. Ernest Dichter advised the marketers of the cake mixes to have fresh eggs added at the time the batter was being prepared. 

This advice worked swimmingly. The cakes were smoother, tastier and separated from the baking pan perfectly when the fresh eggs were added to the powdered mixes. The simple pro-active suggestion of adding eggs logically informed housewives that they were baking better cakes that their families would appreciate and better enjoy. 

Another example of driving Sales by changing usage directives is supplied by one of the most famous and commonly used O-T-C drugs in the world, Alka-Seltzer.

Founded in Elkhart, Indiana in 1931 by the Dr. Miles Medicine Company, the tablet was a modest success almost from the date of launch to the public. Dr. Miles Medicine Company Marketed the Alka-Seltzer product as an analgesic remedy for minor aches, pains, upset stomach and headache.

Initially the tablets were prescribed for use one tablet per dose. It was only when the Company began to package the tabs in tin foils, two per packet that Sales boomed. Consumers have a natural inclination that if one tablet works, two will work better. This is basic human nature and the marketing team at Dr. Miles played this emotion like a simple snare drum. “Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz, Oh What a Relief it Is”, was born. 

Recently our Branding-Marketing Consulting and Product Development firm was tasked with launching a new Anti-Aging Skin Care Cosmetic brand. This is a very vibrant category but brutally competitive. Products must have a special Unique Selling Proposition to drive sales and cut through Beauty Market clutter. For this product we accomplished this by employing a pro-active product feature, in this case an Activator feature. The Activator usage step cements in the consumers mind that the product is enhanced, pristine and is supported with added technology and clinical advances. 

Marketing and Sales are first cousins that need to be tightly coordinated in order insure success. Marketing a unique usage or performance benefit can separate your consumer product from the competition and drive Sales growth. This strategy is simple, easily understood by consumers and it works.

A Simple 20-Step Test That Will Confirm Whether or Not a Product Development Project Is Market-Ready

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

A Simple 20-Step Test That Will Confirm Whether or Not a Product Development Project Is Market-Ready 

For almost four decades my Consulting firm has worked with entrepreneur’s to design, develop, package, Brand, Market and Sell a vast range of Consumer Products. Our job is to save clients time, money and mistakes. This goal is best achieved when we are involved in a nascent project from inception. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

Many prospective entrepreneurs decide to self-market their “alpha” product launch. This can certainly be done, though it requires a very high level of due diligence and trial and error. Unfortunately we are approached all too often by a rookie product developer who has exhausted their funds, mis-marketed the product or not been able to penetrate the target market at the most fundamental level. 

The following is a series of questions, a test, that can be used as a guide in deciding if you have the capacity to self-market a new product, service or business strategy. This test is general in nature and you can fine tune the questions to more closely apply to a specific product you are developing.

  1. Have you filed for Intellectual Property protection (patent, trademark, copy right, trade secret, etc.)?  Yes___  No___
  2. Do you have a detailed Gantt Chart? Yes___ No ___
  3. Have you chosen Engineer, Designer, Lab (depending on product type)  Yes___ No___
  4. Do you have Production Quality Prototypes (or formula, or recipe, etc. depending on product type)? Yes___  No___
  5. Have you conducted deep competitive product research (pricing, distribution, etc.)?  Yes___ No ___
  6. Have you researched and chosen source of mass production for the proposed product? Yes___ No ___
  7. Have you researched and chosen a Graphic Artist to produce art files for packaging, sales collateral, display, web-site, etc.? Yes___ No___
  8. Have you organized Point-of-Purchase display design? Yes___ No___
  9. Have you sourced and finalized packaging components? Yes___ No ___
  10.  Do you have a detailed Bill of Materials? Yes___ No___
  11. Do you know final, landed, dead-net Cost of Goods…CRUCIAL? Yes___ No__
  12.  Do you have a Sales Model, pricing structure? Yes___ No ___
  13.  Have you customized a Branding and Marketing Strategy? Yes___ No___
  14.  Have you tested the product (i.e. Focus group, clinical tests if needed, etc.)  Yes___ No ___
  15.  Have you begun or strategized a Public Relations Campaign? Yes___ No___
  16.  Is your Business Plan perfected? Yes___ No___
  17.  Do you have Product Liability Insurance organized? Yes___ No___
  18.   Production of Sales Brochures, Video, Web-site, Trade Show display, Point-of-Purchase display, Product Folio, etc. completed? Yes___ No___
  19.  Logistics organized (EDI, UPC, warehouse, inventory control, billing, etc.)?  Yes___ No ___
  20.  Trade shows researched and contracted for launch and Pre-Sell?  Yes__ No__

If you can objectively answer each of these questions positively you can probably be successful in self-launching a Consumer Product or Service. Remember, these are general questions and there many sub-issues related to each one. Use this as a Guide in deciding if you have the mettle to undertake this exciting new outlet for your creativity and competitiveness.

Birthing a New Business opportunity is both daunting and thrilling at the same time.

4 Crucial Elements to Include in Your Consumer Product Branding Strategy

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

4 Crucial Elements to Include in Your Consumer Product Branding Strategy 

When I started to Market Consumer Products 40 years ago the term “Branding” was one I never heard. The term was not one that enjoyed the currency it enjoys today. In the years since formal Branding and Branding Strategies have become key foundational elements that Marketers employ to imprint their products in the psyche of consumers. 

There are many pieces involved in creating a successful, enduring Branding Strategy and Campaign. These components have been discussed, studied, analyzed and debated since the term has come into such popular use among the professional Marketing crowd. These elements include everything that is visual and relates to the product being branded: package design, colors, icons, print fonts, shapes, delivery trucks, uniforms, advertising formats, etc. For this article we will look at creating powerful Branding Statements. 

The following are 4 creative rules that our Marketing Consulting and Product Development firm utilizes when creating Branding Statement Strategies for clients: 

1. The Branding Statement should have spatial symmetry.

Unbalanced phrasing leaves an uneven impression in consumer’s minds. This reflects on their acceptance or rejection of the product being branded. The goal is to leave a crisp, clean impression.  The Vidal Sassoon Hair Care Product Branding Statement is a fine example of utilizing excellent spatial symmetry:

                                             “We don’t look good,

                                             if you don’t look good”.

2. The Branding Statement should offer some lyricism. 

 Note the many messages contained in the short, pithy wording of the Vidal Sassoon Branding Statement. There is a nice lyricism, not poetry, but a flow to the verbiage. This Branding Statement was one of the most successful Beauty Product Branding Statements ever utilized. 

3. The Shorter the Branding Statement, the better. 

Several of the most famous contemporary Branding Statements have become ubiquitous and are classics. 

                                              Coke is it!

                                              Ford is Job 1!

                                              Just get out there!

                                              The Ultimate Driving Machine!

                                              Das Bug! 

Virtually every consumer can name the products that are branded by these Branding Statements. Most could also hum the jingle that supplies the musical backdrop to their television commercials. This should be the goal of every Marketing Consultant when creating a campaign and it becomes easier if the copy is as short as possible. 

4. Implant an uplifting message in the Branding Statement. 

The venerable, 250 year old Geneva, Switzerland-based luxury watch manufacturer Vacheron Constantin, is renowned for the incredible “complications” they have engineered into their timepieces. In 1819, Vacheron Constantin presented one of the first Corporate Branding Statements. It is still in use to this day. 

                                               “Do better if possible,

                                                And it is always possible”. 

Note the messaging so subtly implanted in this seemingly simple statement. There is also near perfect lyricism, tone and symmetry. In addition to producing the most desirable watches in the world, this Company has always enjoyed excellent Marketing. In 1819, long before we studied Branding as a component of a successful Marketing Strategy, Vacheron Constantin was unwittingly perfecting the practice.

5 Examples of Remora Fish Marketing That Can Jump Start Your Product’s Sales & Marketing

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

5 Examples of Remora Fish Marketing That Can Jump Start Your Product’s Sales & Marketing 

Everyone is fascinated by sharks. They are so dangerous, explosive and mysterious. Television documentaries detailing their habits, hunting techniques and brutality are ubiquitous, As exciting as the video footage of the lives of sharks is to viewers the little fish that rides the backs of the “alpha” predators receives just the opposite sort of attention. The Remora fish goes almost unnoticed. 

The Remora fish gets a free ride. It simply clings to the back of the shark. As the great beast tears apart its quarry and consumes great chunks of flesh the Remora simply gobbles up the bits and pieces of the detritus of the dead animal being feasted upon by the shark. 

Remora Marketing Strategies are a type of campaign whereby free-loaders glean sales from the Advertising, physical Retail location and Sales Promotion of more aggressive, better financed stores. The following 5 examples of Remora marketing Strategies can be altered and used as a template for your particular Consumer Product or Service situation.  

   1.   Have you ever seen a mall kiosk advertise? 

Easy answer, no! They do not have to because the anchor Department Stores in a mall and the national chains advertise relentlessly to pull in traffic. The center aisle kiosk vendor preys on this supply of traffic, much like the Remora. Toys, Skin Care, Watch and Jewelry, Home improvements, Sunglasses and so many more products are sold in mall kiosks that exist solely because the sharks (big box stores) pull in their prey for them. The kiosk location is the Marketing Strategy for these niche retailers. 

   2.    Look at who is selling at County and State Fairs.

There are a surprising number of artisan product manufacturers that sell their products by following the circuit of state and county fair schedules. They simply lease a space on the midway. The head count at these venues is a known quantity and with a minimum of demographic research you will be able to confirm if your product is likely to succeed here. 

   3.    The Remora Roach Coach? 

The old slang term for the mobile food truck, the “roach coach” is no longer completely applicable. Today, in many cities there are upscale foods being prepared by talented chef’s that are served from roving mobile food coaches. Korean, Cajun, Mexican and New American foods that enjoy excellent reviews can be sold profitably and consumers are lining up to enjoy these treats. The Remora aspect is that the trucks can locate where foot traffic is heaviest. Lunchtime might find the coach in city center. Late night the rig is moved to the entertainment district. Festivals will often find these entrepreneur’s nearby servicing the overflow crowds. 

   4.    Art Fairs are winners!

Many cities have art fairs that they promote heavily. Artisans of all types are encouraged to participate in these shows. I know a lady who makes Gourmet Cupcakes and does a brisk business at upscale art shows only. She travels an area of about 100 miles from her home and has developed a loyal following who buy her treats throughout the year. She is an example of the art fair Remora. 

   5.    Spend “the season” in a travel destination. 

I have had several clients who move to Florida in the winter and return north for the summers. They do this for the weather of course, but also because they have created seasonal niche businesses. One fellow is a hunting guide in the winter and a fishing guide in the summer. Another makes custom fly fishing lures that he sells to owners of luxury Jim Grant fly rods. 

A Remora Marketing Strategy is simple to execute, can be low overhead and is flexible. For years the Remora concept has been utilized by Companies to enhance or embellish Branded products (i.e. AMG customization of Mercedes Benz automobiles). Entrepreneurs can make the Remora model work for them as well.

Weave a “Freemium” Business Model Element Into Your Consumer Product Marketing Strategy

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

by: Goff Ficke

Weave a “Freemium” Business Model Element Into Your Consumer Product Marketing Strategy

A 21st century term applied to a decades old Marketing Concept, Freemium has become one of the most popular vehicles for Consumer Product entrepreneurs, Software designers and Marketers to utilize for increasing sales and distribution of their products. The concept in its most modern form is a spin on the Gift-with-Purchase promotion designed by Estee Lauder Cosmetics in the 1960’s and King Gillette with this safety razor and blade refill strategy first used in the late 19th century. 

The word “freemium” is a portmanteau, combining the two aspects of the Business Model, free and premium. The idea is to offer a hook, a free good or service to the consumer, with the Sales Strategy being to up-sell the recipient of the free offer to a premium product or service. This concept is powerful, simple to execute and provides excellent results. 

The most compelling word in Consumer Product Marketing is “free”. Who doesn’t want to receive something for nothing? Watch retail store traffic when samples or tastings are being provided. Customers flock to the in-store demonstrator providing the free samples. Politicians make their careers by providing seemingly free benefits to constituents. 

The word “premium” is evocative of a better lifestyle, luxury product or enhanced version of a staple product. Most people aspire to add luxury to their environment. A bigger flat screen television, a finer French Perfume, imported rare Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Italian-made shoes are basic examples of the types of products that consumers trend toward as incomes expand. People drive a small Kia automobile for transportation. They drive a Jaguar because they want the premium Features and Benefits that Jaguar Marketing details in its Advertising.

 Recently we had a client who was attempting to Market a web-service to the portion of the population who were nearing retirement. Our Product Development team collaborated with software designers to create a free “Club Feature” to entice visitors to the web-site to join instantly. We waived the annual $95 Membership charge. Once aboard, Members were offered a menu of Premium Services, also at Club Member Discounts. The result was an amortization of costs against a broad field of income generators. The site was profitable almost from the date it went on-line. 

The Estee Lauder inspired Gift-with-Purchase transformed the Department Store luxury Cosmetic industry. Competitors quickly jumped on this creative Sales Promotion bandwagon. However, Estee Lauder enjoyed the most important element in Consumer Product Marketing and Sales; a first mover advantage. The GWP concept launched the Brand into an orbit that has never been lost. 

The Gift-with-Purchase (GWP) Promotional Strategy was followed by the Purchase-with-Purchase (PWP). The GWP offers a free sampler of an assortment of complimentary products. The premium is the minimum purchase required to obtain the GWP. If you do not believe that this technique works, just stand in a Department Store Cosmetic department anywhere in the world when a Beauty Product of Fragrance vendor is offering their GWP. 

AOL used a “Freemium” program for years to launch and expand their dial-up internet service. Displays offering free software containing AOL set-up data were ubiquitous in stores and supermarkets. The “freemium” was typically a 90 day no cost teaser trial with a fixed monthly service rate kicking in automatically after the gratis period ended. This model worked magnificently for AOL for a number of years and made the Company the “alpha” service provider that most internet customers initially utilized. 

Variants of a “freemium” Marketing Strategy are constantly being utilized. Wellness products, Weight Loss Products, Cosmetics, Food and Drink Products, and a wide range of Consumer Services employ some form of a “freemium” in their Brand building Marketing Campaigns. Infomercials often offer a free trail size of the product with the client paying only shipping and handling. Of course, these offers are almost always accompanied with a Negative Option Feature that kicks on automatically unless you remember to opt out.

Free offers work, but in order to provide goods and services there must be an income stream generated by the give-away. Smart Consumer Product Marketers and Services Providers have learned to craft Marketing Programs that include a free offer with a premium up-sell link. Freemium’s have been around for decades, only the word is new.

6 Things You Need to Know In Order to License Your Product

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

6 Things You Need to Know In Order to License Your Product 

My Marketing Consulting, Branding and Product Development firm receives numerous queries on Licensing Consumer Products, Services and Concepts every week. Most inquiries are of no value as the hopeful Licensor has not organized proper due diligence that potential Licensees will require. The following are 6 Points to address before attempting to present a License opportunity

  1. Who is the Competition? 

You need to know your market category backward and forward, inside and out. Who are the biggest competitors your Gourmet Marinade or Mascara, or Wellness Product will be fighting for shelf space, display and sales promotional slots? Who are the hottest competitors? What is the current market pricing model? Potential Licensees will know the answers to these questions and many more. A Licensor had better know them as well. 

2.    How will the Idea/Product be executed? 

You will need to know the Logistic, Tooling, Manufacturing, Lead times, Production Limitations (if any), suggested optimal Marketing Strategy, Pricing and Sales Models that support the Licensing effort. Make it easy for potential Licensees to decide in your favor by covering all of the bases. 

3.    What is the Unique Selling Proposition inherent in your product? 

The market does not need another Pet Product, Car Wax, Aromatherapy, Juvenile Product, etc. unless the item has a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). This identifies your special product niche, its point of difference from competition. This is a crucial element for Licensees to be able to quickly see, understand and value. 

4.    What is the size of the Market?

Conduct proper Demographic and Market Research to learn the latest data on the size of the market you are seeking to address with your License opportunity. There are 74 million licensed dogs in the United States alone. This is important if you are attempting to sell a Pet Product or Accessory. The Baby Food market was $5.5 Billion in 2009, crucial if you are trying to make a deal on a Baby Consumable Product.

Having command of this type of knowledge stamps you as a professional in the eyes of the target licensee.

5.    Who are the Prime Licensee Targets of Opportunity? 

What are the four best targets of opportunity for you to approach with a Licensing offering? Some Companies are public about their Open Invitation search for outside product opportunities. Others are very fearful of litigation and difficult to penetrate with an offer. 

I always look at mid-level size targets first. These Companies are a bit faster on their feet and can make more facile decisions. They have resources and have not yet become bureaucratically bloated. 

6.    What is the sales potential for your product?

This requires the construction of a conservative Sales Model and requires a bit of research in order to assemble data that will withstand scrutiny.

Let’s assume you have developed a Fashion Accessory product. Your research indicates that there are 80,000 potential sales outlets for the product in the United States alone. The following is a hypothetical example of Sales Potential for this fictitious Fashion Accessory:

Unit Sell-in           =  60 pieces per door  — 12 pieces of 5 styles/colors

Wholesale                $10.00

Total per door         $600.00

Stock Turn                  4 X’s 

Total Yr. Sales          $2400 annual wholesale per door 

Size of Universe       80,000 doors

Penetration               1,600 doors   2% year one, to 4% yr. 2, 6% yr. 3, etc. 

Total 1st year Sales = $3,840,000 

Obviously the variables move wildly based on market research for each category. If you conduct this work with diligence, and base assumptions on verifiable, historic realities this will confirm that your License offer is valuable, serious and being presented by professionals. 

The biggest mistake we see aspiring Licensors make is to think that they can sell an un-vetted idea. There is simply no room in this super-competitive market for those that take shortcuts. Do not waste your time unless you are prepared to provide a professional package that will interest and excite target Licensees about the unique Features and Benefits of your Consumer Product. Each of these 6 points is equally important when seeking Investment, Venture Capital or Strategic Alliance consideration.

The 5 Most Important Items to Fully Address For Entrepreneurs When Writing Business Plans

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

The 5 Most Important Items to Fully Address  For Entrepreneurs When Writing Business Plans 

A good portion of my work is devoted to writing and reading Business Plans. My Consumer Product Development and Marketing Consulting firm works extensively with small businesses, foreign Companies seeking United States Sales and Distribution, Inventors and Entrepreneurs. The solid Business Plan is the keystone that is essential in successfully driving a new venture to success. 

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Business Plan submissions that I review are discarded. There are many reasons for this. A great Business Plan is the “window to the soul” of your planned enterprise. It needs to stand out, be crisp, exciting and make the reader want to learn more about the project, and most importantly, you. 

In an effort to provide targeted guidance in preparing and presenting a Business Plan that will be given proper consideration by Investors, Venture Capital, Investment Banks, Partner and Strategic Alliance possibilities, the following Five Irrefutable Rules should be considered and included in your document. 

  1. Know Your Cost of Goods-ABSOLUTELY! 

If you do not know what the dead net, landed final Cost of Goods is for the Consumer Product or Service that the Business Plan targets none of the Financial Assumptions will make sense or withstand scrutiny. I list the importance of this first, because the rest of the Business Plan shatters completely without this all-important number. 

I cannot tell you how often we see plans that guess, or worse do not know actual Cost of Goods. Marketing Strategies, Sales Models, Promotion Budgets, Gross Margins, Pricing and many other Financial Projections cannot be nailed unless Cost of Goods has been fully vetted and is supported with detail and Exhibits. Not knowing definitively what true Cost of Production is for your product is an immediate disqualifier. Do not shortcut this point. 

     2.    Write a Brisk, Exciting Executive Summary 

Have you ever read a Ken Follett or Robert Ludlum novel? Ever taken in a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action movie? There is always one constant that these consummate entertainers provide: excitement in the first chapter or scenes. 

The Executive Summary must do the same for your target reader. Remember, they read dozens of Business Plans each week. Very few are professionally or properly written. Those are discarded immediately. You need, and deserve, to have your Business Plan read. Keep the Executive Summary short, no more than 2 pages, flowing, exciting (not gushing) and on point. It should summarize the key Features and Benefits of your Consumer Product/Project, the Management Structure, Marketing Plans and Sales Models, Financials and Harvest. At the end, I will want to explore the opportunity further if the Executive Summary has done its job. 

   3.    The Management Team is Crucial 

One of the most common deficiencies we see is the lack of consideration given to the Management of the New Company being proposed. If you have never managed a business, but have a marketable product or opportunity, you will need to assemble a group of core managers that can provide the skills required to run the business post-funding. Who are these Managers, name them? Who will handle Sales and Marketing, Logistics, Production, Finance? What are their bona-fides? Include their CV’s in Exhibits. 

Do not seek investment if you cannot provide a slate of experienced, talented people to manage the enterprise. You will be dismissed. 

    4.    Identify Clearly the Projects Unique Selling Proposition (USP) 

There are Convergent and Divergent Consumer Product opportunities. Convergent Products are improvements on existing products. These are often considered “Niche Products”. Reading Glasses with night lights built into the frame is an example of a Niche Product. 

Divergent products are rarer. These products create new product categories and alter existing Retail Sales Promotion and Distribution Models. The George Foreman Grille, Mr. Coffee or notebook computers are examples of divergent products. 

The most important element for your New Consumer Product to possess is an identifiable USP. You must be able to differentiate your project from existing competition and be able to detail unique Features and Benefits you will offer consumers. This is also a First Mover Advantage. 

     5.    Are Your Financials Compelling to Investors 

A properly vetted Business Plan will include three year (not five) Cash Flow, Balance Sheet and Income Statements. These projections, for start-up projects, are always based on best-Assumptions. This is the Achilles Heel in most plans. The Assumptions will not withstand investor scrutiny. 

Most Venture Capital (VC) investments do not return the capital invested. A 10% success rate is about the industry average. In order to be considered you will have to demonstrate that your opportunity offers at least a 35% Return on Investment (ROI), beginning between month 24 and 36 of operations post-investment. Failure to be able to support this ROI is a disqualifier. 

Remember, the definition of a great Business Plan is a word picture based on Assumptions that you Qualify, Quantify and Narrate. Do not confuse a large, unwieldy, wordy document with a strong plan. Keep the Business Plan short, no more that 20 to 25 pages, before adding Assumption supporting Exhibits, as many as necessary.

How to Self-Analyze Your Consumer Product Idea To Facilitate Bringing It to Life

Monday, June 20th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

How to Self-Analyze Your Consumer Product Idea To Facilitate Bringing It to Life 

Today I was approached by a person with an interesting Consumer Product concept they hoped to bring to market. The idea potentially has considerable utility. I say “potentially” because it is still only an idea. I am often asked how to gauge whether a new Consumer Product idea, service or concept has real viability to be successful in the contemporary volcanic Retail Marketplace. Here are three rules to use to self-screen your concept before attempting to build and market the idea. 

  1. Is the Product or Idea “Doable”? 

I review hundreds of New Product submissions every year. Very few will make it from concept to store shelf. The reasons for this low success rate are many and varied. One of the biggest eliminators is that many of these projects are not “doable”.

 I recently reviewed a product that was beguiling for a number of reasons. The design was sleek. The engineering concept was advanced. The potential for consumer acceptance seemed to be present. However, the cost of tooling was going to be astronomical. The client did not have sufficient resources to build molds. SLA one-off prototyping was not possible. There was no simple, affordable way to demonstrate the products Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to investors. Venture Capitalists typically do not invest in ideas that do not offer confirmation of product performance. After much consideration it was determined that this project was not “doable” under current circumstances. 

If the cost to produce the product is too high you will not succeed. If there are unusual, exotic or rare components involved in manufacture you will have a difficult time in Marketing the product successfully. 

      2.      Is the Product Idea Valuable? 

You will love your product idea. You would not being pursuing the opportunity if you were not infatuated by it. The question to be confirmed is whether others will find it “valuable, and be willing to pay for the resulting product. 

There are a number of methods that can be used to confirm the intrinsic “value” of an idea. This can be accomplished by conducting a formal or informal Focus Group.  Survey friends and associates whose opinion you value and ask whether they would buy the described product? At what price? What improvements would they suggest? Etc. 

There are professional services that provide Sales and Marketing Consulting, Branding, Product Development and Engineering. Often these types of firms offer Free Product Evaluation programs. 

It is important that others whose opinion is unbiased be consulted and you receive a positive response to confirm the real “value” your product might offer consumers and retailers. 

       3.      Is  your Consumer Product or Service “Saleable”? 

Nothing happens in business until something is sold. Selling is the engine of all commerce. Is your product saleable? Do you have the ability to sell? If not, do you know how to recruit professional Sales Representation? Is your Consumer Product priced properly? Is there a Customized Marketing Strategy that will enable the item to be placed in front of Retail Buyers and Decision Makers? 

You must address these questions. If answers to all three are in hand, then you have the green light to proceed to the development stage of the project. Success is not yet insured. But, at least, you will have confirmed that your idea has sea legs and the idea can be brought to life.

Duquesa Marketing Announces “Star” Award Presentation by Swiss Jewelry Client Gilbert Albert

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Duquesa Marketing, Inc. 

Press Release

For Immediate Release:

June 19, 2011

Contact:  Geoff Ficke


 Duquesa Marketing Announces “Star” Award Presentation by Swiss Jewelry Client Gilbert Albert 

Rising International Ballet Talents to Be Honored June 27, 2011 At the Famed Rustavelli State Theatre in Tblisi, Goergia 

Florence, KY    Geoff Ficke, President of award winning International Product Development and Marketing Consulting firm Duquesa Marketing announced today that legendary Swiss Jeweler Gilbert Albert will award the “Star” award to rising international ballet talent this June 27 at the historic Rustavelli State Theatre in Tblisi, Georgia. Gilbert Albert pioneered the “Star” award with Prima Ballerina Nina Ananiashvili in 2003. 

“Gilbert Albert, in addition to being the most revered living Swiss jeweler, has been a major supporter of the arts, philanthropy and environmental causes”, said Geoff Ficke. “Mr. Albert’s special medium involves elements of nature in each unique piece he creates and this is so beautifully achieved in the “Star” award. We are honored to have Mr. Albert as a client”. 

“In the ballet world winning the “Star” is confirmation that these amazing young talents are ready to launch enduring international careers”, said Alexis Bruning, V.P. of New Business Development for Duquesa Marketing. “Lashi Khozashvili of the Boston Ballet, David Hallberg of the American Ballet Theatre and Yevgenia Obraztsoza of the Mariinsky Theatre of St. Petersburg are among the dancers who have seen their careers skyrocket after winning the “Star”.

“The “Star” was originally designed in Gilbert Albert’s world famous atelier in Geneva”, said Nancy Ficke, General Manager of Duquesa Marketing. “It is evocative of a Sea Star. The award is made on a lace form with pink diamonds and a black deck. Like all of Gilbert Albert’s work the piece is stunning”.