Sales and Marketing a new product line... for the complete novice
January 26, 2015 8:25 PM   Subscribe

I have stumbled into a completely foreign land in which I am way outside of my comfort zone, and am looking for some direction. With a background in software design/development, I now find myself a proud owner of a side-business that has created a new line of consumer products (sports related). The hitch is that we have flown very much below the radar during development, but are now ready to sell these things... but we aren't sales-guys.

What I have discovered, and which is astoundingly obvious to me now... is that we are just product development guys, and now that we actually have these (fantastic) products created, we have no concrete plan of attack for sales. It would be great to have a business plan, but what that plan includes is a mystery to me.

We are finding that it isn't like The Field of Dreams out there ("If you build it, they will come.") Is it just a matter of us phoning and knocking on doors of small retailers to get us to carry our products? Do we call distributors? What does that entail? If we do become sales-guys... is there a "sales calls for dummies" resource that I should be aware of? I've spent my life actively avoiding salespeople... how do I actually become one?

What we have done so far:
- Funded our product on Kickstarter and succeeded in fulfilling all orders
- Launched our own e-commerce web-site (sales are a slow trickle)
- Started selling on (sales are slowly building)
- Now being sold in our first retailer! (they contacted us through our web-site)
- Second Kickstarter successful and should ship within weeks

The ultimate goal would be to keep this a bootstrapped company that becomes successful enough for us to transition from our long-time software development lives. That is, we probably aren't looking for outside investors... but rather, looking for guidance on how best to move forward from where we are now. To be honest, transitioning to a sales roll from my longtime production background scares the crap out of me... but am willing to learn. (Plus, we have zero budget to hire an actual sales-person to do this for us.)

I've made initial contact with SCORE, hoping to find a mentor that has successfully created new retail products, but haven't had luck getting a good fit (yet). Any other resources, books, strategies, web-sites, etc that I should be considering? Anybody out there done this before?

Thanks in advance,
-Newly appreciating the sales/marketing guys I never gave much thought to before
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Watch Shark Tank. I saw a few episodes on an airplane the other day, and it seemed like a good intro to product sales and marketing strategy (along with the resources others in this thread will no doubt suggest).
posted by ottereroticist at 9:06 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

A lot of the ecommerce platforms have great blogs (Shopify, Bigcommerce, etc) about how to attract visitors, increase conversion, take product photos, write descriptions, etc. Even if the backend you are using doesn't offer this I highly recommend looking at their competitors' blogs.
posted by radioamy at 9:20 PM on January 26, 2015

Newly appreciating the sales/marketing guys I never gave much thought to before

Sales and marketing is not just an ancillary, necessary evil to sell your product, it's a separate discipline. It's like asking, "I'd like to take out my own appendix, walk me through the steps." It doesn't sound like you and your partners have a lot of respect for sales and marketing. If you don't approach this with someone who is educated and a professional in this realm, you will find that you have a very useful item, that isn't selling.

A lot of folks go on Shark Tank, not for an investment, but to partner with people who have the connections to Sales and Marketing, manufacturing and to promote their product.

Having an idea and a product is just 2% of your business. You can't afford NOT to bring on someone who is expert in Sales and Marketing.

So perhaps you can convince someone you know in that realm to come aboard for a percentage of your company.

You might want to have an accountant give you an accurate valuation and to provide direction and counseling for your company. Have you incorporated? Do you have a Tax ID?

If you're getting interest and you're making a profit (even if you're not profitable yet) you need professionals to move this from a few guys in a garage, to a viable business.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:47 AM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

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