Street Wise

Courting a community presence.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the April 1999 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

If a barbershop seems an unlikely place to pitch a basketball shoe, then you're not wise to the ways of the street--street marketing, that is. The idea? To take your product to would-be customers in the hope of generating some buzz.

"[You want your customers to say,] `I'm comfortable with that brand because they always seem to be where I am and they understand how I live,' " explains Peter Roby, vice president of consumer marketing for North America for Stoughton, Massachusetts-based Reebok International Ltd.

To that end, Reebok displays its sports merchandise in barbershops, eateries and parks in cities like Los Angeles, Miami and New York City. Says Roby, "It's part of our overall marketing strategy."

Needless to say, such moves are hardly restricted to the athletic apparel industry. Record labels have long realized the importance of getting new music played at local clubs. Really, what business wouldn't benefit from taking its product to the streets?

Electric Avenue

Get plugged into e-tailing.

In our wired world, there's a growing number of consumers who make purchases with a click of the mouse. Indeed, if you believe the prognosticators, online shopping sales will top $7 billion by year-end. Yet if you're just pushing products on your own Web site, you may not be getting your share of the pie. What to do? Simple: Sell your product through an online retailer.

It's not as tricky as you might think. To prove it, we asked San Francisco's 911gifts Inc., an online gift retailer, to walk us through the basics of e-tailing.

Begin by making sure your product is a good match for the retailer. "Our goal," says 911gifts' Arno Harris, "is to present people with products that are solutions for gift-giving problems." This, Harris explains, cuts across a broad range of categories--yet uniqueness and quality are essential.

Next, contact the retailer. In 911gifts' case, the preferred route is through the company's Web site. "Once we decide we're interested in a product," says Harris, "we send the vendor a questionnaire that covers the basics, like liability insurance, how long they've been in business, trade references, that sort of thing."

And don't be intimidated by your odds of rejection, Harris cautions. Sure, online retailers get plenty of solicitations, but that doesn't mean your product won't be selected. After all, you've got 7 billion-plus reasons to try.

Fast Track

Name and age: Karen Neuburger, 52

Company name and description: Karen Neuburger's eponymous business manufactures sleepwear and bedding.

Based: San Rafael, California

Founded: 1991

Sales: Projecting a sales increase of more than 100 percent this year, KN sleepwear is sold in 2,000-plus stores nationwide.

Wishing on a star: Upon learning that Oprah Winfrey is a pajama connoisseur, Neuburger sent the talk show host a pair of her pj's nearly two years ago. "I thought, `Wouldn't it be fun if Oprah liked our pajamas?' " Neuburger says. That flash of inspiration resulted in the first of three appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

In the spotlight: "I'm not camera shy, but I'm not an expert at it," says Neuburger, who has subsequently guested on The View as well as local TV and radio programs.

Sleep on it: Fittingly enough, the sleepwear impresario throws pajama parties in stores all across the country. "I have a small advertising budget," Neuburger explains. "So I [do it] to get attention."

Contact Sources

911gifts Inc.,

Karen Neuburger, ,

Reebok International Ltd., (781) 401-5000,

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