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Testing The Waters

Low-cost test-marketing strategies.

I am convinced that more than 90 percent of all Americans have at least one idea for a new product. Two of the major reasons you don't pursue your ideas are: 1. You don't think the market will accept a new product; and 2. You don't know how to find out if your idea has merit. But every market has room for innovative new products. More good news: There are ways to research your ideas without spending a lot of money.

Bob Black of Jacksonville, Florida, is one example of an inventor who used inexpensive research tactics to do what most people consider impossible: He introduced a product that competes with Procter & Gamble, Clorox and other major consumer products companies. Black's product, the Clean Shower, is a spray mist that when used daily after showering eliminates the need to clean your shower.

Clean Shower, which retails for about $2.49 for a 32-ounce bottle, was introduced in 1995 and can now be found in more than 25,000 grocery, drug and mass-merchandising stores, with monthly sales of more than $2 million.

Black took three inexpensive research steps before he decided to launch his product:

1. He learned all he could about potential competitors

2. He gave potential consumers a choice

3. He verified that customers were willing to buy his product.

Don Debelak, author of Bringing Your Product to Market (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95, 800-225-5945), is a marketing consultant specializing in bringing new products to market.

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Testing The Waters.

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