How a Pre-Sell Campaign Will Mitigate Financial Risk and
Confirm Market Acceptance for New Consumer Products

by: Geoff Ficke

Our Consumer Product Development and Marketing Consulting firm typically works with two types of clients. One is a startup requiring total support and guidance from conception through market launch. The other is to provide re-boot services for already existing product that has been unsuccessful in the marketplace. The startup is a far easier project to control and nurture.

Sadly, and far too often, we are introduced to projects long after considerable resources and effort has been invested and results have proven unsatisfying. The opportunity to “offer a great first impression” has been squandered through utilization of a flawed marketing strategy, packaging or branding missteps, production design snafu’s or myriad combinations of these and other mistakes in project execution that can envelop a first time consumer product marketer.

One of the preferred strategies we employ with new startup projects is to execute a pre-sell campaign in order to gain “proof of product life” from the target marketplace. We are amazed that more launches do not incorporate this crucial element into their Business Plan. The technique works time and time again if executed properly.

The ultimate goal of a successful pre-sell campaign is to introduce a new product to the targeted retail audience without first building inventory. We typically create “production quality prototypes” in collaborate with design engineers. Not only do these exact, fully functional product replicas demonstrate features and benefits for buyers, they also are invaluable in developing manufacturing logistics.

Prototypes are often hand assembled by manufacturers keen to win production orders after a successful pre-sell introduction. Building a handful of perfected prototypes for a few hundred dollars each is far more preferable than investing in a complete inventory build that is burdened with design or marketing flaws. And note: it is crucial that the prototype be an exact, functional example of what the final manufactured product will entail. Every element from color to function must be precise.

Recently we completed design and production of a child safety product. We sourced several manufacturers interested in securing production for the items. Each was provided CAD art files and Release Packets we had developed. They submitted samples based on the art and with minor tweaks they were each able to perfect alpha samples to ours, and our clients satisfaction. We asked each factory to build a handful of product sets for a pre-sell campaign we created. One factory was hesitant, wanting a full purchase order with upfront payments. The other, recognizing the opportunity agreed to our request.

With the production quality prototype samples in hand, we completed all packaging design, graphic arts, branding materials, sales collateral, trade show materials, etc. With these elements in hand we introduced the line to the trade at a Juvenile Products trade show in Orlando.

The results were stunning. Without a single piece of inventory in a warehouse we generated dozens of purchase orders and significant meetings with major big box retailers interested in handling the brand. On the floor of the show our client’s line possessed all of the polish and pizzazz that was on display in the hundreds of competitive vendors displaying on the floor. We were able to look like an established entity even though we were the freshest of startups.

The “product proof of life” we received at the trade show confirmed the assumptions that we all felt about the concept. However, no matter how thoroughly vetted a project really is, until confirmed by retail buyers in the form of purchase orders any consumer product marketer would do well to be cautious. Mitigate risk. Limit upfront financial exposure on an inventory build out.

The pre-sell introduction strategy is one we have used many times, over many years, in many consumer product industry categories. Health Care, Beauty and Cosmetics, Jewelry, Sporting Goods, Aromatherapy, Gourmet Foods, DIY, Tabletop and Kitchen aids and Clothing are only a few of the areas in which pre-sell has proven successful.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.