Insider #7: Tradeshows: A Painful Experience

OK, so we were a little slow in getting this Insider out to everyone. We’ve been pretty swamped here in the “office”, taking/fulfilling orders, responding to media inquiries, doin’ deals, etc. Thanks to everyone whose recommended MouseDriver to friends and associates…the effort is very much appreciated.

Lessons Learned

Trade shows are a real pain-in-the-rear! Not only do you have to spend time and effort traveling, setting up the booth, scheduling meetings, etc., but you also have to try and convince thousands of people to spend their hard earned money on a computer mouse that looks like a golf driver. You become an instant salesperson and you have to take (with a grain of salt) everything that people throw at you. Everything from “this idea will never fly” to “you must be the R&D guys of the company” are a serious crush to your ego…especially when you were riding the high seas of the Wharton MBA program 9 months ago. (Oh by the way, this is where having two different types of people working together is beneficial. Whereas John wanted to rid these types of people with a swift kick-in-the-ass, Kyle was much better at handling these situations in a very humbling sort of manner.) But, unfortunately, for a product such as MouseDriver, trade shows are a necessity. And, fortunately, the PGA Show has given us the exposure and confidence needed to make MouseDriver one of the hottest golf gift items of 2000. Despite all of hassles, we came out of the PGA Show with orders (and cash!) in our pockets, tons of great PR and lots of really cool golf things.

Have we mentioned that distribution is key? We’ll reiterate…distribution is huge and it’s a painstaking process finding the right people to sell your product…especially when you don’t know an industry that well. First, you have to decide whether you want to sell the product yourself (no way!), utilize a sales representative network (too much time to set up) or sell your product to distributors (who use their own sales reps). We decided early on that we wanted to minimize the number of selling contacts by focusing on distributors rather than sales reps. So, we’re currently focused on finding distributors who can sell in three different MouseDriver segments: green grass (pro shops, specialty golf stores, etc.), department stores/mass merchandisers (Neiman Marcus, Macy’s) and gift stores (Hallmark). Once we have distribution all figured out, we’ll just kick back and find creative ways of marketing MouseDriver. FYI, most of the buyers at department stores are extremely arrogant. One buyer even hung up on John when she realized that Platinum Concepts was not a brand name manufacturer. Just another thing that crushes your ego.

Unlike all of the .com’s out there, we’re not going to blow our marketing dollars on a highway billboard (or SuperBowl ad) that reaches the masses. We fully understand that there is a niche market for MouseDriver and will focus on some very targeted marketing in the near future. In case you were wondering, we are positioning MouseDriver as an impulse buy (hence the $29.95 MSRP) gift item for the golf enthusiast. Our customer base is primarily women (who usually purchase more than one) and the avid golfer whose office is full of golf stuff. One thing that we have learned about this product is that it’s an easy sell for people in the target market as long as they know what MouseDriver represents. So, we have to educate our target market on the product and hope they have an impulse to buy. We’ve had tons of comments with regards to MouseDriver improvements (i.e. scroll wheel, smaller size, etc.) and will take these into consideration. However, we must keep in mind that this is a “golf gift” item and not something we’re trying to convince the individual to buy for themselves (except for the really avid golfers).

What We’ve Done

  • Signed a deal with a major mall gift retailer who will carry MouseDriver in their 200+ stores for Father’s Day.
  • Added a ton of new “golf” retail customers who, eventually, will be handed over to a distributor.
  • Managed to walk away from the PGA Show with Top 10 product honors from such publications as CNN Sports Illustrated, Golf For Women Magazine (p.42, current issue) and Fore Florida Magazine.
  • Began developing a framework for our initial print advertising campaign (going with a theme motif).
  • Bartered MouseDrivers for two separate golf vacations: The Running Y Ranch in Oregon and The Chateau Whistler in Whister, B.C.
  • Completely turned over the corporate side of things to distributors…which frees up lots of our time.

Priority Goals

  • Complete negotiations with retail distributors and get MouseDriver in all the channels before Father’s Day.
  • Begin to execute the 2nd stage of our marketing campaign (educating target market on product).
  • Find office space and begin looking for an administrative assistant of sorts.
  • Begin collecting on all of our accounts receivable that came out of the PGA Show. Collecting really sucks…another reason for going with a distributor.
  • Establish an internet affiliate program.

Mood Meter: Overwhelmed

 

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