Double Your Pleasure

Back to the Future

According to Kjestrup, the biggest adjustment in targeting a new market is learning how to work backward. Most companies work forward, meaning they create and develop a product and then figure out a sales and marketing strategy. Working backward, in contrast, means learning what the customer and retailer want before finalizing the design of the product.

When you don't know your market, working forward is dangerous-a business faces too many unknown requirements. Kjestrup's sign shops don't worry about packaging, UPC codes, how a product fits on the shelf, when orders need to be in, discount structure, advertising programs or product liability insurance. But those are all worries in Kjestrup's new market. And while the SandScrew may have limited direct competition, there are hundreds of companies vying for coveted shelf space as summer seasonal items.

Trade papers
Are you trying to launch a product in a new market? Before you go too far, learn all you can about the industry by subscribing to trade magazines, contacting trade associations and visiting at least one major industry trade show. The best industry directories can be found at your local library. The three to ask for, from Gale Research, are: Gale's Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media, Gale's Encyclopedia of Associations and Trade Shows Worldwide.

Working backward is a good idea for independent inventors. Often, the biggest mistake inventors make is to wait until their products are ready-after huge investments-before finding out what their distribution channels want. Some inventors think knowing what end users want is enough. Problem is, they usually don't have enough extra money after development to recover when their products need changes. Knowing what the customer and the retailer want first, before spending too much money, is the best route for any new product.

Almost all growing businesses have tried, usually without success, to branch out into new markets. It's not uncommon for a company to have five, 10 or even 20 products that never made it. Such companies never really have a chance at success-they don't properly commit to their products. That commitment starts, just as Kjestrup found, with discovering what the new market wants. Follow his advice, and you could be launching the first in a long stream of winning products in new markets.

Don Debelak is a new-business marketing consultant and author of Think Big: Make Millions From Your Ideas. Send him your questions at

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This article was originally published in the December 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Double Your Pleasure.

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