Question: After many months of research and hard work, I've started a small company importing soccer balls. Due to my hard work and reasonably priced, high-quality product, I've been able to get orders from a small retail store and a few coaches. I'm offering free samples to stores and teams, as well as a one-year guarantee. What else should I do to get more contracts from stores, park districts or school districts? All I want is a chance to show my product and price and let the buyers decide. The quality of my products is as high as that of any name-brand product, yet people are paying a lot more money just for the name. Thanks.
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Answer: Do you know the difference between a "cheap knock-off" and a hot new import? Often the only real difference lies in the way the product is perceived--its image. People are always willing to pay more for a name brand product. So to get in the game, you need to create a name-brand of your own.
While a brand isn't built and established overnight, you can move quickly to create a winning image for your line of soccer balls by creating a story or mystique for your particular brand. Where are these soccer balls primarily used? Do any sports teams or celebrities in Europe or South America use them? If possible, look for ways to show your product in the hands of winning teams or celebrities. Or piggyback on the fame of a particular country that's well-known for its soccer mania by describing how your product is used there. And if the product line doesn't presently have a marketable name, give it one.
Tell your story in terrific-looking marketing materials that make recipients thankful your product has finally arrived! Your line of soccer balls must appear to be the hottest, most exciting thing to happen to the sport in years. And don't forget to emphasize your one-year guarantee. This will reassure the school and park districts that your new company intends to stand behind what it sells.
You may also want to rethink the way you're pricing your product line. Your letter implies that you may be giving more weight to offering the lowest price than is actually warranted. In reality, when asked to rank the importance of a variety of factors that affect buying decisions, consumers rank "price" as less important than "value." So price your product competitively but not too cheaply, or you risk detracting from its appeal. You've got a good product, now make it sizzle.