Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Viral Campaign Begins

Earlier this year, I was retained by DoodleBra to get them some press for their product. My initial meeting with Randy, Betty Ann Segal, Deborah Delaunay and one other person was to discuss how Midtown Marketing Group could help them grow their brand awareness. I explained – the rules of marketing change rapidly and public relations is front loaded. Most of the work is done in the beginning; interviewing them, learning more about them and their business, their product line, researching potential media outlets that would be interested in their press release or pitch, and preparing their pitch grid. (A pitch grid is a fancy name for a story-pitch tool that is visual and laid-out in grid fashion.)

Once the research is done, press releases, new product releases and pitches are written based on what is learned. The power of their brand relies on the ability to focus. That is why defining their target market would help to strengthen their brand's effectiveness. In the initial meeting, I saw fashion, teen entrepreneur, and party favor attributes as the assets that I could leverage. Once retained, we could flesh-out the strategy over a few days, and build-in the flexibility to roll with the punches. Mounting a visibility campaign and build awareness in target top-tier dailies, weeklies, long-lead monthlies, syndicated columnists, reviewers, radio and TV talk shows, and bloggers. Blogs also have comment fields, allowing users to leave comments and be more interactive with the blog author.

Their web site was good but needed to operate more like a product driven site. Who comes to the site should experience easy navigation and be able to find what they want. The web site works more as a digital, online brochure and information gathering site. Adding a shopping cart is a good idea, so when a buyer does come - they can buy. Randy said he was working with an India company to get that done.

I advised they would need an online press kit. They had the makings for one since they had been published locally; the information just needed to be re-structured and included into a link on the site called PRESS. (A press kit is a promotional package that includes press releases, tip sheet, bios, FAQ sheets, photographs of you, your business, product shots, logos, etc., reviews, published pieces and other pertinent information.)

It all boils down to budget. Different amounts get different things. I am, however, mindful of the budgetary constraints. Randy stated they would love to have press right away as they want to sell bras. I explained it does not always work that way, sometimes you can get the press right away and other times, the press picks you up when they have the need. I added that I could pitch them to my sales database. We could try and get a rep to rep his product but they generally want a line not just one product. Randy said he would retain me to pitch my PR and sales database. I pitched 1200 contacts including manufacturer's reps, resident buyers, QVC rep, television, radio, print and bloggers. And whala!

Fab Sugar

Glamour Magazine

Lingerie Buyer Magazine

The View

Friday, November 6, 2009

Making a Product in China

The pathway to a successful product is challenging enough for big companies, but for the average person with a great idea, getting a product to market can be downright intimidating – to the point that many great products are never made.

Beyond the hurdles involved in getting a product in front of buyers and customers is the fundamental task of actually making a product. While it may be easy enough to make a prototype or two or ten, making 10,000 or 100,000 or millions of almost anything at a globally competitive price will most likely require an entrepreneur to manufacture overseas. Yet unless an inventor-turned-entrepreneur can assure a major buyer that their product can and will be available in quantity, there’s no real chance for growth.

As manufacturing in Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere becomes more standard operating procedure than strategic competitive advantage for businesses of every size, first-time inventors often find themselves slogging through the cultural quagmire of dealing with foreign languages, inconvenient time zones, different manufacturing standards, and unusual business practices – all real-world issues that are part of the process of off-shore manufacturing.

John Mulry, founder of Rescue Facts in Central Point, Oregon, is such a budding entrepreneur. John – a retired EMT– saw a need for a way to quickly provide emergency personnel with critical personal and medical information about the victims of automobile accidents. This basic concept led him to develop the Rescue Facts product – an inexpensive nylon wrap that secures around your seatbelt with Velcro. An embroidered universal medical symbol alerts EMS and Police that there is important health information inside.

Initial prototypes were well-received by potential customers and large scale buyers. His business was off and running. Their first production run was handled by a Southern California agent who got their product made in China , but at a price that left quite a bit of room for improvement. Working with me, John was introduced to one of my subcontractors, specializing in U.S./China business facilitation. He provides U.S. companies with a bi-lingual, bi-cultural, time-convenient channel of communication to sources of manufacturing in China through their partner in Guangzhou, which specializes in sourcing and facilitating all manner of manufacturing in China from low-tech to high-tech.

For Mulry, it was a perfect match. Not only was he able to shave a large percentage off his wholesale price, but he ended up with a much better product. From beginning to end, getting things made (and made right) overseas is all about communication. We first took John’s basic product description and drew up a detailed product specification that served as the foundation for the manufacturer to quote against. It assures that both sides understand what is expected – particularly when there are language and cultural issues involved.

Then we worked with both parties to write up a well-structured statement of work and quote. Once their order was placed, Rescue Facts had the opportunity to sign off on samples of every aspect of their production including materials, workmanship, printing and packaging and packing. Together, we work out the details of the process and troubleshoot the problems in both worlds so my clients don’t have to.

What can happen along the way? Lots of things. Most problems arise from simple mis-communication over details that are exacerbated by language, metric conversions, and a lack of technical understanding on the part of the entrepreneur.
First-time inventor/entrepreneurs often don’t understand the manufacturing process and what goes into mass-producing their product. The value-added of a subcontractor is that we not only address the East/West business issues, but also helps bridge the tech/non-tech gap between my clients and the Chinese manufacturers. This really can’t be done effectively by e-mail alone.

For Rescue Facts, the key to quality was both in the production process and in the shipping. Their first batch of products from their original Chinese manufacturer was basically okay, but the packages were unsellable. The product packages were packed improperly allowing them to be damaged in shipping. Mulry was disappointed with that first production run. But now that he is working with me - in English and during normal business hours – everything’s worked out fine. Everything looks good for this new international small business venture.