Open-Toed Boots – Launching New Products

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According to consultant Jack Trout, US consumers purchase “the same 150 items, which constitutes as much as 85% of their household needs.”*  It appears that American consumers typically don’t stroll through stores wondering what to try today.  If they did, launching new products would be vastly easier and customer loyalty statistics would be disastrous.

There are exceptions.  Take, for example, the woman I saw strolling along wearing open-toed boots.  I doubt that she had “open-toed boots” on her shopping list.  Rather, she was likely captivated by them through a shoe store window.  She may not buy another pair, however, if they are wildly comfortable and her people admire them, she may purchase calf-high flip flops from the same company this summer.

With such a small percent of a consumer’s budget open to trying new things, how do you make your product stand out?

Even though most grocery stores today carry a huge selection of food choices, I know people who make special runs for the best bagels, croissants, and guacamole.  The effort is worth it because of the quality of the products.  That’s always the first place to start.  Make something so outstanding that when people try it they tell everyone they know about it.

Then, do some analysis.  Will enough consumers see it so that a reasonable percentage will decide to buy it?  One of the entrepreneurs we interviewed sat across the street from an empty retail space for a week, tracking how many people passed by morning, noon and evening.  Only when she was convinced that enough people would see her shop did she sign the lease.  It worked – she was cash flow positive as of day one.  Visibility is the mother ship of marketing.  Another of our entrepreneurs surveyed customers to ask them how they learned about the business.  Despite print ads, fliers, and online advertising, well over 90% said they saw the sign above the door as they drove by.

One of the entrepreneurs we interviewed came back from a tour in Iraq to find out that he needed to develop a whole new line of business if he wanted to work with the family farm.  He started a new line of high quality products, drove for over an hour each weekend morning to sell them at farmers’ markets where there was a high volume of foot traffic, and ultimately landed a deal with Whole Foods across the region.

The secret sauce in selling new products is finding a way to sell enough of them to make a business.  With such a high percent of consumer spending dedicated to the “fixed” grocery list, the challenge is to get those excellent new products out in front of enough consumers.  It can be done — it happens every day!

Best of luck!


*Harvard Business Review, “Why Most Product Launches Fail,” April 2011

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