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Bringing a new product to market is a challenge for any entrepreneur. We asked Entrepreneur contributor Barry Farber to share the "Sales Success" behind his recent product launch:
You never know when an idea is going to hit you on the head and say "Run with this one. It's a whopper!" That's what happened to me five years ago. While I was hosting a TV show, an inventor I was interviewing suggested I meet other inventors who were having problems marketing their products. One of those inventors was Gary Johnson, and one of his products was a flat pen that folded in half to the size of a business card.
When I saw the product, I saw endless possibilities. Its flat surface would be a perfect "billboard" on which to print advertising and company logos, and could be shaped into a bookmark, a business card, a race car or a skateboard. Johnson and I became partners and started a corporation called Profound Products, which holds the intellectual property that became the FoldzFlat Pen.
I see a lot of products that I pitch to sell and market. Each opportunity has to be carefully measured to judge its ROI before I put time or money into it. When you take on a new product, you must have your heart and mind in it 100 percent. That's the commitment I had to make with the FoldzFlat Pen.
I had to be relentless when people said this product wouldn't work. To bring a product to market, you can't get frustrated or disenchanted. You have to keep your belief strong to be able to push through rejection after rejection. Every time you have a setback or failure, you must use that as a lesson on how to get closer to your goal the next time around.
I made hundreds of calls, and got lots of companies passing on this product. Many times, opportunities arise simply out of creating a lot of activity. In 2002, at a promotional products trade show in Atlantic City, New Jersey, I approached a manager from 3M at his booth, placed a FoldzFlat Pen on top of a pile of Post-it Notes, and said, "Doesn't that fit nicely?" The manager liked the idea immediately, as 3M had been shrink-wrapping Post-it Notes with a standard pen that didn't fit with the square shape. It still took a year of persistence to negotiate the deal, but now, 3M is marketing the pen as the 3M Compact Pen, which can be bundled with packages of Post-it Notes.
The pen is also being successfully distributed by Raymond Geddes & Co., a Baltimore school-supply catalog company. They also have a licensing deal with the Thunderbirds movie, which was released this past summer.
Now the goal is to keep moving forward. I continue to build relationships with my distributors, leveraging my relationships with other contacts to feed them ideas on how to expand their markets. Once you get a product to market, there's no time to rest. When you think about how long it took to get the product to market and how much effort was involved, you can't sit back and "let it ride." You've got to put the pedal to the metal and take it as far as it will go.