Make 'Em Talk

Pitching His Way to Success

Henry and his partners first overcame their tough breaks by securing the URL This site helped Henry pick up foreign distributors and generate direct orders from consumers searching the Web.

Then, in 1997, after the launching of the Web site, Henry and his team started sending samples out to various magazine editors and columnists asking them to try the product. The first key was finding the right people to approach. The partners picked up magazines related to either electronics or music and looked up the names of editors or columnists who regularly reviewed new products. (Other good sources for names of editors are reference books, such as Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media [GALE Group] or the Standard Periodical Directory [Oxbridge Communications], available at most libraries.) Then they called the appropriate contact to see whether they were interested in testing a sample.

At first, Henry found pitching to editors was as tough as selling to retailers. "No one wanted to be the first to write about the product," he says. But, after the first article about Wipe Out! was published, stories appeared in Smart Computing and PC World, as well as Yahoo! and The Dallas Morning News.

"The magazine testimonials meant everything to us," says Henry. "They told people our product actually worked and helped us convince retailers our product was actually better than what they were selling. It helped us get into the stores." Henry also used the testimonials as backup when his team exhibited at the 1998, 1999 and 2000 Consumer Electronic Shows.

These simple, low-cost approaches provided Henry with an invaluable solution to his obstacles. From the publicity, he received the essentials for an inventor's success: credibility and believability among users and retailers.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Make 'Em Talk.

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