By entrepreneur and TripleTote Founder Antwaine Debnam
The most valuable lesson I learned in 2016 was that there are a lot of proven strategies, information, ideas, templates, and opinions but it’s best to only pick those that match your strengths, style, and the vision you have for your business.
This past year I launched my invention, the Tripletote, which is a hands free multi-tote for people who carry multiple bags and items as they travel, commute, or shop. I pushed it out through a number of marketing channels. I used Kickstarter, social media, traditional media, and then door-to-door sales
I initially launched the Tripletote with an all-digital approach but it was difficult for me to connect the product with my customer. Four weeks into my digital only strategy I decided hit the road and began selling directly to my customers and independent retailers. I would add on to the 500+ customers I had already surveyed when I had my first prototype and I would approach independent retailers to see if they would be willing to try a small quantity. Each Saturday I would drive for eight to 10 hours doing door-to-door sales and backing up each of my visits with social media posts, check-ins, pictures, interviews, etc. (Talk about grind time!)
I have a 15-year history of telemarketing, door-to-door sales, network marketing groups, and now I was putting all that experience to work for me. Every Saturday for about 30 weeks between June and December, I would leave my house, map out a route, and prepare brochures. I mapped out routes in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont. I accumulated thousands of miles on my old Honda as I was able to meet face-to-face with 264 store owners and managers.
I tracked all my moves on social media and it gained momentum because the hard work I put in was real and fortunately that resonated with my audience. Using five of biggest social media networks (mainly Facebook), I posted lessons I learned along the way—the things that worked, things that didn’t work—and it became a miniature documentary on bootstrapping, grinding, and launching a consumer product business.
When you talk to your customers you'll know if people are willing to buy your product, how much they're willing to pay for your product, why they're willing to pay that much, and what other products they want you to make.
When you visit retailers who could carry your product you get invaluable real-world information about product pricing, how your competitors are doing, how the supply chain process works, wholesale pricing and packaging, how many units a retailer sells of your particular type of product each year, shelf space, and merchandising. You’ll learn customer buying trends, who the distributors are and contacts to them, etc. You get all this information and context that “data” and social media alone just can’t match.
Working like this and posting each week, I was able to get a high number of small businesses to agree to place initial orders of the Tripletote. I also received opportunities with a half dozen big-box stores and a couple of offers for licensing deals.
I’m grateful for years of telemarketing and selling other companies’ products and services because I used those experiences to launch my product in 2016.
Going digital first didn’t fit me but starting organically by using my strengths and going door to door and then reinforcing it with social media worked out just fine.
When you’re new to business, launching a product or service you receive a lot of information, ideas, templates, and opinions. My advice for any new company is to only take in the proven strategies and templates that match your strengths, style, and the vision you have for your business. If you make a mistake you can always recover but if you do business off someone else’s template, strategy, or style you may not be as successful—or worse, you might be successful but be unhappy.