Cheap or what you want for less?


You would think we all want things cheap. Not usually the case. We want what we want... we just want it for less. We are looking for a bargain with the brands we're loyal to. This is why so many companies spend so much money trying to convince you to be loyal to their brand. Your idea is your brand or at least part of your brand. You must believe in the value of your idea. You must present a great story so your customer believes they "need it" or "want it" or "has to have it" or "can't live without it," and they will be more willing to pay a premium for it or at least what it is really worth. If they don't, it doesn't really matter what it costs. The demand dictates the price. Once you have poured your heart and soul into your idea it is time to create the demand so people will open their wallets and pay for it.




What makes an idea unique?


Does it even matter if an idea is unique? Does anyone care? Will someone want it more if it's unique. Maybe. Maybe not. How important is the next big thing? What does it take to get people talking about something? What might get them involved in the very success of the product?

When you purchase stock in a company do you go out and purchase their products? Becoming a stockholder means you are betting on their success. If you could have an impact on their success, would you? Would you want to have an impact on their success if there was nothing in it other than owning their product? What does it take to get someone to become a stakeholder in the success of an idea? Does it have to be cool, unique, fun, personally fulfilling or even financially rewarding?

I am working on a new idea. I have been pondering it for a few weeks and finally decided to add it to the list of projects I am moving forward with. I plan to create a "viral brand." An extremely simple product. Unique to each owner. A product with such a compelling story that it virally sells itself. I am not even sure if this is possible but I am going to give it a try.

Why am I bringing this up in this forum? Two reasons. First, it may very well be a complete flop. Another one of my stupid ideas. But it is an idea and you can watch it succeed or fail. You may become involved or not. If you're reading this, you probably think I am a complete idiot or don't understand, or mostly just don't care. However, the second reason I am moving forward is more important. What I hope to learn, whether successful or not, will help me with developing future products and methods of selling them in the years to come.


Should you use a rep?


Over the years I have gone back and forth, listened to numerous pitches from all types of reps and rep groups and concluded that most are empty promises. While relationships are critical in getting into the larger retail stores, you need to be careful about being wooed by their claims. Many want exclusives or at least exclusive territories. Even if they manage to get you into the store, you need them to continually work your products which, for me, has rarely happened. Of the dozens of reps I have worked with over the years, only a handful have proven effective at all. The relationships they promised or the exposure I expected never seems to materialize. Now, if I use a rep group, I like them to make the appointment and take me along. Nobody knows my products like I do and I am able to make a decision on the spot.

There is one glaring exception I have had. I was working a show in Chicago and I stopped a buyer from a catalog I believed would be perfect for several of my products. With one foot towards the next booth, the buyer only gave me a moment to make my presentation. She then remarked that our products weren't a good fit for their catalog and she really had no interest at all.

The day before I had met two women at the booth next to me and they were catalog reps. They were very personable, liked my line, and understood the catalog business very well. They greeted all the buyers with hugs and always started by catching up on their lives.

Just as this buyer bolted from me, I noticed one of the reps standing at the corner of my booth. As the buyer noticed her, they embraced and began talking. After a few minutes, she walked the buyer back to the very product that only minutes before had been turned down and said, this is a new line we are representing and I think it would be terrific for your catalog. As though she didn't recall hearing me moments before, I made almost the exact same presentation. The buyer asked a few questions, turned to the rep and said get me all the information as these items are ideal for us. Go figure! I hired these reps at the show. By the way, our products continue to do well in this catalog.

My catalog reps don't always get the sale but at least they get the buyer to listen to my pitch. And for that, it is worth every penny of their commissions!


First Big Rep Mistake


I just told my story of a great pair of catalog reps that I use. My first experience with a rep was not so positive. We had just invented and developed our first product, OpenX and were exited to make it happen. I wanted my product in one of the major warehouse stores believing that they would embrace the very solution to their number one complaint, "rap rage." Through a business acquaintance I was introduced to a rep who claimed to only service this one account. Not having any frame of reference I thought it would be well worth paying a commission in exchange to quick access to the buyers. He guaranteed OpenX would get at least a four store test. He did set the appointment and even invited me to attend the meeting so I got on a plane and made my way to their corporate offices. He told me he would take care of everything. The meeting should have been my first indication of a problem but I was so focused on selling my product, I didn't take notice. The good news... we got a one month test. I was putting in a pallet of product in four stores! I was excited but was also concerned about where my product would be placed in the warehouse store. I brought up the concerns to the rep before I even shipped the product. He told me he would be frequently speaking to the buyer and he would be sure to address my concerns.

If the product performed, they would roll it out to a larger test and then throughout the entire chain. WOW, what potential! We shipped on time and I waited for the good news. A week went by and not hearing from the rep, I called to see how it was going. He said he would call the buyer and get back to me. I suggested I call the buyer and he said that was a bad idea and that he wouldn't want to be bothered by me. Wanting to know for myself, we took a road trip to the closest store that was testing the product. About an hour drive but well worth it. We walked in the store and searched. At first I became so excited because I figured they had sold out! To my dismay, we did eventually find the product. It was in the tool isle between a power saw and a drill. This was a woman's product buried in the tool isle. No woman walks down the tool isle. Only a few had been taken off the pallet. I quickly went into action. We pulled a few trays of the product off the pallet and moved them to the center isle of the store, stood back and watched. People stopped. People investigated and most importantly people were putting the item in their carts! Within a very short time, all the product was gone. When we tried again, we were stopped by a store employee who said we couldn't do that.

The minute I got back to my office, I called the rep and explained what had happened and asked if he would call the buyer. I offered an in-store television spot, a display, a greeter to introduce the product, anything that would get us at least an opportunity to sell our product. I thought surely the buyer would be open to something. My rep assured me he would discuss this with the buyer. I waited. When I finally spoke to the rep a few days later, he informed me that there really was little I could do and the buyer wasn't interested. He again promised that he would frequently stay in touch with the buyer over the next week to see what he could do. I waited. Finally with only a week left in our test, I called once again. Same story. With nothing to loose, I called the buyer. To my surprise he spent more time with me on the phone than I expected. I explained the situation with the same offers I thought the rep had presented. The buyer said nobody had contacted him. They were terrific ideas and they would have welcomed them. However the test was for one month, the product had not performed and they were sending the unsold merchandise back to us. He said he wished he had heard from me sooner as he really thought our product would have sold better.

We took the product back, repackaged it for sale in other retailers and I learned an important lesson. Don't just assume someone is doing their job. Your product is not their baby. This rep, like many, just take on as many items as they can in hopes one will sell without them having to do any work.


Ideas can be simple


I came across an idea this past week that I was very taken by. I couldn't stop thinking about it. It is not something new, it is not unique, it is not about making lots of money but it was such a breath of fresh air that I felt I must write about it. Without discussing the details, it was conceived by a young woman who wanted to help others express appreciation to another for something they deemed worthy. She claimed it was her "$100.00 idea" and she was going to test it to see if others felt the same way. Her goal was to raise $100.00. Within a very short time she had raised over $500! What was so interesting about the idea was not really the idea itself but how she expressed it. Her execution of the test, her story, and why we needed this. She was so compelling, people bought in... including me!

It is so important to understand that her idea was not simply the expression of gratitude. It was the story. The dream. The reason you needed her to assist you. Anyone, including me and you can express gratitude to someone for something they have done. Her idea was based on having you pay her to do it for you. BRAVO to her!


Why does one cost more?


Two shirts. Both are 100% cotton. Both look similar and have emblems embroidered on them. One cost over $50.00 and the other around $10.00 You purchased both. You generally wear the expensive one on special occasions. Why?

Much of the difference in price is used to convince you that the higher end brand is well worth the additional money. Over years of exposure in as many mediums as possible the more expensive brand builds your loyalty. So much so that you begin to argue why they are clearly worth it. You may not remember or realize how it happened but the brand has convinced you that you are a better person for wearing their brand. You have become a believer! Can your mind be changed? (That topic is for another day)

The same could be said for most categories even where the brand is competing with something that is virtually free such as water. Yet people who drink expensive bottled water swear by it.

Both brands started with an idea. Neither one invented the product. Their idea was the story. The reason why you should buy their product. It didn't happen overnight either. They were patient and they kept at it until they finally made you a believer. Your idea is only as good as the convincing and compelling story you tell. Just as important is how frequent you tell it. Don't give up. You have a great idea. The more people you tell, the better your story will become.


A quote to live by.


Today is simply a quote from a close friend... I cannot guarantee that they were to first to come up with it so I won't give them direct credit but I can assure you I have repeated it more times than I can remember!

If you don't A S K

You won't G E T

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