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Siamese 05-12-2009 07:07 PM

Marketing Savvy
I'm in the process of prototyping a design for a very comfy helm seat that'll work on just about any sailboat. As soon as I'm done with the prototype it'll go out to a contract manufacturer for fabrication, I'll do a website with a shopping basket for orders, and I'll handle order fulfillment and/or hire that out as needed.

That leaves MARKETING... the thing that makes people actually go to the website and give their credit card number.

By the way, I have little interest in working with retailers. I'm looking at marketing directly to the consumer.

There's a lot of knowledge and maybe some wisdom on this site and I need to tap into it. Sure, I can and may do print ads in sail mags, but I'm particularly interested in boat shows like Strictly Sail, or anyplace I can put someone's posterier in one of my seats.


yachtyakka 05-14-2009 04:02 AM

advertise it on sailing websites

Sailormann 05-15-2009 12:46 AM

You won't be able to do enough business on your own to make it profitable. There are only so many hours in a day and only so many boat shows you can get to.

Personally, I'd never buy something like that without seeing and touching it. Dealing with retailers can be a pain in the arse - they don't pay their bills well and they have an annoying tendency to go tits-up on a regular basis.

Think about the Amway/Fuller Brush/Avon distributorships. Low overhead and profitable for everyone. Find some reps.

davidpm 05-15-2009 12:57 AM

The most effective way these days is a website. But you have to drive traffic to the website. For that you have to do press releases. Get magazines to review the product. Do a few shows.
The dutchman guy is still doing shows.

artbyjody 05-15-2009 01:08 AM

Siamese - twins... couldn't resist and Denby can ignore..

yachtyakka 05-15-2009 02:00 AM

doing shows is a slow way, getting reps and going to stores is too expensive. get a high profile yachtie to endorse and hand out a few free samples, get editorial and advertise it on sailing websites.

DrB 05-15-2009 10:29 AM

Small Biz Start - Marketing, Profit Build, Brand Build...
I started a small side business a few years back in another market (bicycle products). Background: I made and sold bicycle chain lubrication products. Here are a few things that I learned:

1) Protect your product - Either with a Patent or Trademark. These are relatively inexpensive compared to what they offer.

2) You say that you are going to hire/use a contract manufacturing source to make your products. That is fine, but make sure you have a clause that spells out what happens if they or you don't fulfill the contract. For example if you decide to terminate business with them and go with a different vendor, they can come back after you for payment because of tooling or personnel that they may have acquired to make your product. Similar scenario for you if they breach their part of the contract.

3) How are you going to handle distribution? Are you going to hire a ship/package and distribution firm, like UPS, that will warehouse your product and when orders come in, package and ship it, or are you going to do that capacity. Again, you need a agreement with them in case something happens, such as a fire that burns down their warehouse, missed shipments, etc. If you are going to do it, some communities limit to what you can do as far as business from your house. You need to check this out.

4) There is a saying about advertising: Most of it is ineffective, but you typically don't know what you do is effective. Word-of-mouth is the least costly and best advertisement money can buy.

As far as advertising, attending Boat Shows on the surface seems like a good idea, and it is, but they are costly to do by yourself and typically aren't very effective in selling. You do need to go to them, but if you do, attend only the bigger ones, say Annapolis, Newport, or NYC, etc on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. If you do go, see if you can share a booth with another attendee to help with costs. Pick someone that has a complimentary product to yours, like cushions, or other helm component. That way your not taking their sales and together may bring each other added business.

As far as a website:
  • Websites are nice, but you need to drive traffic to them and keep them there. Most people won't spend more than a few seconds at a site if they can't find what they are looking for easily.
  • High ranking websites are best. You need to have your website come up in the first 10 listed websites when the search is done by the perspective consumer. You can do this with keywords and website name.
  • If the website is complicated to navigate or slow to load, customers will go elsewhere
  • A simple shopping cart is best
  • If you are going to allow Credit Cards, you need a CC account or you can use a service that will process the CC for you for a small fee, usually 5 to 15% of purchase price. Most people won't buy something on-line unless they can use a CC.
  • If you do accept CC, you need a secure site or at least the shopping cart pages secure.

As far as getting FREE advertising, there are several ways to do this:

Contact some of the sail/boating magazines and see what their policy is for testing and doing a review on new products. Some with do a small blurb for free, or for a very small fee, in their New Products section. You can even write the marketing blurb, so you control the content. While others may not do it for free, you need to give them the product, they may do an actual test review. Most of the time, they are mostly positive, but may have some negative comments.

Another idea, once you start generating sales, follow-up with your customers to get their input on your product. Address there concerns if you can. You then could offer to have them do your marketing for you by telling them if they get X number of people to buy your product, you'll kick back X % or X dollars to them.

Do you have local chandeliers that you could sell your wares through? If so, you could make them a deal that you have them sell the product at no cost to them. What I mean about this is that you drop off several pieces for free, they only get paid if they sell something. Only pay them a small profit, since they are not taking any risk, maybe 20% of the selling price. This method is a double edge sword: They have no risk and not really incentified to move the product as they did not buy it, but you also did not have to make a hard sell to them and are getting exposure for free. If they see that the items are starting to move without them doing much, they may want to start buying from you at this point you have to give them more of the profit, but now have guaranteed sales.


denverd0n 05-15-2009 01:11 PM

You're halfway there by realizing that your website is about MARKETING. Now you need to find a web developer who understands that also, and not some gee-whiz, technical guru who thinks that building a website is all about demonstrating his amazing HTML skills. Way too many websites out there are filled to overflowing with all the latest and greatest, most amazing, sexiest, flashiest stuff that turn them into an incredible internet experience... but do absolutely NOTHING to encourage you to buy!

Perhaps the most egregious examples are the sites that automatically start playing sounds, music, or videos as soon as you arrive at their home page. Upwards of 2/3rds of all web surfing is done by people who are at work. Do you really think they want to announce to everyone in earshot of their cubicle that they are shopping instead of working? NO! So what are they going to do when your website starts automatically playing sounds? LEAVE! QUICKLY! They'll click "back" or "home" or whatever they have to do to get away from your website and they will NEVER come back. Obviously not what you want, and yet a substantial number of commercial sites suffer from this horrible fault.

Another pet peeve--the websites that require you to register before you can get any meaningful information. Do you think Wal-Mart would have become the world's largest retailer if Sam had told the greeters at his very first store that they shouldn't let anyone in to look around unless they were willing to stop and provide their name, address, phone number, or any other information? NO! Of course not! So why do so many companies think that's a good idea on the internet? I guess the answer is, because they are idiots. A commercial website should allow the customer to find out every last detail that they need, to make the purchasing decision, before the customer has to provide any information at all. And when it's time to buy, you should only REQUIRE the customer to provide information that is actually required. Information that you would LIKE, but that is not truly required, should be optional.

If you want an example of a good site, you could do a lot worse than the one you're on right now. The home page is not over-cluttered. The graphics are clear. Everything loads reasonably quickly, even if your internet connection is not the fastest in the world. All in all, a good, professional website.

sailingdog 05-15-2009 01:20 PM

I'd point out that there are things you can do with a website to make it rank better in the search engines than other websites. Having a website that consistently ranks in the top ten is well worth having.

DrB 05-15-2009 01:35 PM

denverd0n is spot on with the website info. Simple, easy to navigate, and information loaded is the best. Automatic sounds, flash video, rotating screens, etc. are turn off for most people except the techno-geeks that code that stuff.

Registration, before you get info, is a real peeve of mine. For your product the only thing that you should really care about is, when they order, the information to complete the order transaction and ship them the product. Surveys, passwords, etc. turn people away. A basic website should have the following info:
  • Index Page that has the following
    1. General company info including mission statement or what they do
    2. List of products or services (with links to each product page)
  • Page for each product or product class that you sell - with a web sized picture. Include dimensions, weight, colors, detailed description, and price(s)
  • Order page - where customer fills out CC info and shipping info
  • Contact page - with email address, phone number, and physical address of your company. People need to be able to contact you easily if they have questions.

As far as getting you site to be top ranked, there are several ways to do this:
  1. When you submit your website to the various search engines, they allow to select 5 to 8 search terms that your site should be associated with. Use gernal terms as well as specific terms. For your application you could use seat, helm, helmsman, seat cushion, boat, etc.
  2. In your index page, you can embed terms that the web search engines look for. Again, general and specific works best.
  3. Select a website URL that is unique, but is simple and easy to remember and type. Better if you can incorporate your product or company name into it. So if your helm seat is design to be comfortable or universal, you could call your website or, etc. You can also get a bunch of URLs that may have similar wording, and use them do direct traffic to your primary site.


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