New Entrepreneurs Have Products that are Interchangeable and Sustainable

April 30, 2012

Congratulations to the finalists of the Annual UC Berkeley Startup Competition! I was thrilled to participate again for the third straight year as a coach for the competition. This year, my team was Modify Watches and I have to say that they were extremely prepared for the competition and since they are already profitable, this team was already a well-oiled machine. I’m sure everyone would agree that building and customizing your own watch to your fashionable liking and personality is very very cool!

So about the winners – they were all fantastic. What impressed me most about this year’s finalists is that they not only considered the environment in their products and solutions but that they also took the time to really evaluate how consumers are buying and wanting products. For example, Modify Watches was a finalist in the products and services and track and is currently selling customizable, interchangeable watches for consumers and plans to develop a platform for purchasing additional types of products that are also customizable for individuals.

Modify is a brand built on freedom of expression. Customizable for individual style, Modify’s interchangeable watches offer cool/hip design for anyday wear. Available in two different sizes and over 250 combinations, Modify is a brand made for anyone—anytime, these watches are available for corporate gifting or licensing.

The winner of the products/services track was Back to the Roots, a company that promotes sustainability and zero-waste, while reconnecting people to food through its grow-at-home mushroom kit. Their gourmet mushroom kits are made with 100% recycled (Peet’s – yes Peet’s would normally toss their coffee grounds but this startup is taking the grounds off their hands) coffee grounds, and produce 2 pounds of fresh oyster mushrooms in just 10 days! People of all ages can actually grow and eat their own mushrooms all at home, a unique experience in today’s urban lifestyle.

As for the Grand Prize winner of the competition, I have to give hats off to Calcuta Technologie. Calcula Technologies is developing a novel urological medical device for the removal of kidney stones outside of the operating room. Their patent pending technology will treat over 4 million patients per year in the US and in Europe. Impressive product!

Congratulations finalists and winners of this year’s Startup Competition! All these entrepreneurs should be applauded for their bold efforts to help the community and to really make lives better for consumers all around the world.

For more information on these finalists, go to the UC Berkeley Business Plan Startup page.


Black Friday Madness

November 27, 2011

So I know I’ve been lacking in the blog department lately! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! It’s been busy busy busy but not so busy as the Black Friday retail busy-ness I just experienced on Friday! I’m still reeling from the shopping experience and the reports of record sales from this most infamous retail shopping day. And just as shocked as everyone else about the reports of violence and pepper spray over Xboxes, WaffleMakers and more via WalMart’s Black Friday sales. You wouldn’t know that our economy is suffering from the way the retail Black Friday revenue numbers are coming back…

CNN Money reports that online sales were up 39.3% on Thanksgiving Day and 24.3% on Black Friday compared to the same days last year (according to IBM’s Coremetrics which tracks real-time data from 500 retailers). Shopper Trak (which tracks foot traffic at malls and stores) estimated that retail sales climbed to 11.4 billion from 10.7 last year alone. Okay, that’s a lot of consumers shopping more this year and what is most alarming to me is that this indicated that a lot of people ate their Turkey on Friday and then went right to their shopping lists…

So I braved it at 8AM on Friday, Black Friday and was quite amazed to see many stores were already picked through like a storm of incredibly skilled shoppers had already swept the stores and taken what they wanted. I guess I should not have been surprised since some stores actually were open at midnight. But really, who shops at Midnight?! Really?! People, can you digest your Thanksgiving Feast and a full 24 hours of the traditional holiday before shopping?! Apparently, some people did not.

I tried Macy’s at 8AM and was quite alarmed to see the shoe department in shambles, with very low inventory left. The sales people were friendly, smiling, and looked heavily caffeinated. They also looked quite exhausted. One sales person told me that Macy’s had lost power for about 5 minutes when the stores had first opened at midnight. He explained that shoppers panicked, but most remained calm. When the lights went back on, everyone was relieved and went back to their shopping. He said he was relieved because some ladies were screaming. Really? In the shoe department?!

So by 9:30AM, I headed home after picking up a couple of good Black Friday deals and got ready for a massage. After my massage, I was relaxed and de-stressed and I realized the best place to pick up any Black Friday deals was online – in the comfort of my own home without pushy Black Friday shoppers who were tired and frazzled. Best deals from my perspective? Target,, as well as Amazon. Overall, I feel good that I stimulated the economy after Thanksgiving, but I’m most pleased that a majority of my sales were done online, in the comfort of my own home!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

Day 40: How an advisory board can help your business

September 14, 2011

An advisory board/council can help to provide resources that you or your team alone could not enlist. This is a group of people that you would pay to provide input into your business and your product or service. Advisory councils can help you provide feedback on product roadmaps, strategic decisions, and surveys to your customers. They can also provide that “outside perspective” that few people can provide when working in an organization.
Once you establish an advisory board/council, be sure that you nourish these advisory relationships and hold regular meetings to keep them involved in your progress. Or, invite them to attend a special meeting or luncheon to update them on what you are doing with the company.

(Excerpt from Chapter Sixteen, Using the Marketing Demand Tool, Market This!: An Effective 90-Day Marketing Tool)

Day 39: Marketing Tactics to use if your product has some demand

September 6, 2011

If there is some demand for your product or service, you should continue to create and implement marketing activities that show your product or service is a leader in the marketplace. You will also want to demonstrate that you are a successful solution for your customers. Here are some tactics to consider:

1. Increase awareness of your product – Find online websites and events where your potential customers are going and consider sponsoring an ad, or sponsoring an event. Be in front of your potential customers!

2. Show examples of Strong Customer Satisfaction – Be sure to ask customers for live testimonials via a videocast, online testimonial or other references. Keep a log of happy customers and check in with them often on your new product offerings and ask what they like about what you are doing.

3. Demonstrate Your Value to Customers – Use strong examples of how you demonstrate value to your customers and why they keep coming back for more.

Tactics to consider:
-Online newsletters and webinars as well as videocasts that showcase your solutions
– Google Key Word Search Program
-Research reports featuring your product or service that make your business stand apart
-Increasing online outreach and promotion to your website, outreach to your customers through surveys
– Videocasts or viral videos that can be shown or shared through YouTube

(Excerpt from Chapter Sixteen, Using The Marketing Demand Tool, Market This!: An Effective 90-Day Marketing Tool)

Day 38: Marketing tactics to use if your product is in low demand

August 1, 2011

If your product or service is in low demand, there may be low awareness for your product or service. You may not yet have a market established for what you are selling and marketing. Or, economic conditions may also be a factor determining the demand of your product, so external circumstances may be driving your product to be less popular in the marketplace right now. So, marketing can help you drive demand for your product or service, but what activities do you choose?

Here’s some best practices for marketing with a low demand product or service:

1. Establish product or service credibility
2. Use Strong examples of how a problem has been solved
3. Continue to drive awareness programs and Network, Network! Network!
Specific examples to consider:

– Participate in or create an online community Blog
– Consider purchase of Google key ad words for your product or service
– Advertise in online publications where your potential customers may visit
– Develop a promotion that shows how you solve a problem and provide a solution for a customer and offer a discount to new customers to try
– Launch a customer survey that becomes a credible piece such as a white paper showing how your company provided a solution – results from survey can become an advertorial testimonial on product or service with an advertisement, article, case study, or testimonial
– Develop an online enewsletter or ecampaign effort

For more marketing tactic ideas, go to Chapter sixteen of my book, Market This!: An Effective 90-Day Marketing Tool.

Day 37: Planful Marketing Tactics

July 31, 2011

My best advice for anyone looking to find that ideal marketing tactic is to first identify where your product or service ranks in the market place. A simple exercise for identifying where your prodduct or service ranks can be found in chapter 16 of my book, but if you haven’t read it yet, I essentially put together a simple demand quandrant chart with four areas of focus. Your product is in either high demand or low demand and could be in varying degrees in between.
After identifying where you are in the chart you can then guide yourself to an appropriate marketing tactic that fits your business. Here are the four areas in the quadrant:

1.) High demand – Low Knowledge for your product or service – there is high demand for your product or service, but customers have low knowledge about what your product or service does and may have not heard of your business before.

2.) High Demand – High Knowledge – Your product or service is in high demand and your customers have a great understanding for what your product or service does. Customers also know about your business. ****This is a great position to be in! ****

3.) Low Demand – Low Knowledge – Low demand for your product or service, and customers have little knowledge about your business, your product or service. You most likely have done little to no marketing and need to get out there!

4.) Low Demand – High Knowledge – Your product or service is in low demand but customers have a strong idea for what your product or service does. Customers may know a lot of other companies that do something very similar to what you already do.

Brief Exercise: Look at the four quadrants above, where does your business fit?

I’ll do a blog entry next time identifying tactics that match up to these quadrant areas.

(Excerpt from Market This!: An Effective 90-Day Marketing Tool, chapter sixteen, Using the Marketing Demand Tool)

Day 36: Anticipate Success for Your Product or Service

July 27, 2011

Every step you take to make your product or service known better to your customer base is a step in the right direction. And each time you think about your customers’ perspective and try to meet their needs with your product or service, you will be making a great leap in the right direction as well. Know that every time you do something in your marketing efforts to make your message more clear and relevant to your customers, you will be doing something that will bring you close to success and closer to your customers actually purchasing your product or service.

(excerpt from Chapter 18, Making Smart Marketing Decisions, <em>Market This!: An Effective 90-Day Marketing Tool)

Day 35: Evaluate your business as you evolve

July 20, 2011

Your business is evolving and changing every day. In addition, your product or service is evolving with your business. Your business will evolve over time and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Think about how far your business has come in the past 6 months, the past year. What has changed for your customers in the past year? Think about how they perceive your product or service today vs. 12 months ago. Are you still selling your product or service the same way and have you evolved the way your market your business?

(Excerpt from Chapter 15, What is Your business doing right today?, Market This!: An Effective 90-Day Marketing Tool)

Day 34: Keeping your market research relevant

July 15, 2011

Market research is only valuable if it is current and relevant to your market and target audience. Even market research that is five to six months old can become quickly out of date fast!

Where do you get market research? There are a number of public and private research companies that can help you find what you need. If you can’t afford to do market research externally, have your company conduct simple and quick online surveys and focus groups to help you get the information you need. There are a number of online survey tools (such as Zoomerang and Survey Monkey that are relatively inexpensive and will result in your having a quick market research study with current data from your customers.

What’s a good length for an online survey? No more than 10-15 questions max. Ideally, you want to capture as much information from your customers as possible while you have their attention, yet in reality, most people will not complete a long survey. Keep it simple and short!

(Excerpt from Chapter 13, What Your Competitors are Doing and What they are Not Doing, Market This!: An Effective 90-Day Marketing Tool)

Day 33: Doing Market Research on Your Competitors

July 7, 2011

In some ways, talking to your customers is the best and easiest way to get information about your competitors. Who better to talk with than a customer who has maybe tried several different products and has an idea of what works and what doesn’t work? Your best customer might be a former customer of your competitor. Also, in most cases, your customers have probably already done some research on companies out there that can help them and may have come across your competitors in the process.

You can tap into your customers’ perspective of their awareness of the marketplace relative to competition. Survey your customers through a variety of marketing efforts. Many companies are using e-newsletters and online marketing campaigns to survey customers on an ongoing basis. Your use of online mini-surveys is your opportunity to find out what makes your product or service special or what other products or services your customers use and like. Surveys are a great way to reach out, get some good quick information!

(Excerpt from Chapter 13, Market This!: An Effective 90-Day Marketing Tool)