Recently I met with a prospective client who presented my Consumer Product
Marketing and Branding Consulting firm with an overview of his project, its development status and needs. The opportunity seemed to have legs until we reached the point in the discussion where funding took center stage. I listened as this entrepreneur, with great passion and skill, pitched his reasoning and support data for a funding round that he felt necessary to move ahead.
I took the “devil’s advocate” approach that any project faces when seeking investment from angels, investors, venture capital or partners. My questions were the standard fare that I have heard professional investment groups pose time and time again. As the cross examination continued the passionate, confident entrepreneur began to wither.
The simplest question that I asked, and one that is always of paramount interest to investors: “Do you have Purchase Orders”, drew a telling lack of response. This very smart presenter had never considered the question and the possibilities that a positive response would have for his proposed enterprise.
Purchase Orders from target customers, stores, distributors and wholesalers indicate what we call a “Proof of Product Life”. Entrepreneurs are always excited about their product or service. They have reams of documentation that they include in their Business Plan to attempt to impress investors with the promise they offer. Focus Groups results are nice. Orders and successful test markets, no matter how small are much more valuable.
How can an inventor, entrepreneur or small business generate sales orders before receiving an adequate funding round? The prospective client I was meeting for the first time asked exactly this question. I then described several Bootstrapping and Pre-Sell strategies that he had never considered.
We often utilize a Bootstrapping Pre-Sell plan for clients. This is done without going to the expense of an inventory build out. We have a host of vendors that work with us to create Production Quality product prototypes, CAD Art, Release Packets, Point-of-Purchase display, Sales Collateral, Web-Sites, Attorney’s, Social Media, Video Production and much more that we use to generate Purchase Orders from Trade Shows, EXPO’s, showrooms and on-line sales. These vendors know that once sales traction is achieved they will have a long term relationship with a happy new client. They are more than willing to hand craft a display or sign unit carton or brochure for minimal cost.
Recently we attended a large Trade Show in Hong Kong with a client to launch a new Skin Care regimen. We attended with four dozen Production Quality prototype samples fully dressed with graphic packaging. Our display vendor hand cut three Point-of-Purchase displays. The booth display visuals, video loop, Sales Collateral, Product Folios and Distributor Contracts were one-off produced just for the show. The product performance demonstration was spectacular and the stand was swamped with interested Asian distributors. We have concluded deals for exclusive territory sales of the line with nine firms. Pre-Selling works!
With these agreements and the initial Purchase Orders they have generated we are organizing International Bank Letters of Credit to fund the initial full inventory build and provide working capital. Investors are now keen to review the opportunity and, with this type of “Product Proof of Life” successfully achieved, they have less leverage in negotiations.
A successful Pre-Sell campaign in the American market can lead to securing investment, but also Partnering, Licensing, Receivable Finance or Factoring options for funding operations and growth. We have utilized Factoring for many years for our own businesses and clients. Sales orders open doors.
Next month we will attend a Jewelry trade show and a Men’s Fashion trade show with client products that will be launched utilizing a Bootstrap Pre-Sell campaign. More prospective entrepreneurs should utilize this strategy. The process involved in successfully winning a funding round is beyond the pale for most startups. Meeting an investor with a plump order book creates an entirely different leveling of the playing field. Take advantage of this inexpensive, simpler strategy to launch your product.