So you've got a product you think a big company would love to comarket? Hold that letter to Nabisco's chairman for now and listen to the experiences of two entrepreneurs who made a successful pitch to Warner-Lambert.
Leslie Lawrence and Nancy Urbschat run a small ad agency and got into the new-product business when Lawrence became pregnant. "I wanted to keep a journal during my pregnancy," she says. Not finding anything suitable, the partners created a 40-week undated calendar they christened "Mother in the Making."
The result was appealing enough to market, but the duo decided that "it wouldn't do well sitting in a bookstore"; instead, they positioned it as a product tie-in. Warner-Lambert, maker of e.p.t., a popular home-pregnancy test, was the first to see value in offering the calendar to its market of expectant parents.
The resulting deal illustrates some of the vagaries of pursuing the big-brand tie-in route. For a start, it took six months to get a meeting with the e.p.t. product manager after Lawrence and Urbschat first wrote to her. On April 10, 1992, the pair arrived at their meeting with a marketing strategy in hand "so the manager didn't have to work at all," says Urbschat. (Smart move: the manager had a drawer full of pregnancy-related product ideas from entrepreneurs.)
The manager cottoned to the calendar immediately but, unfortunately, preferred a simple offer tucked into the e.p.t. box to a more eye-catching discount coupon. Everyone concurred on $9.95 as the calendar's price. The partners agreed to present a written proposal, with costs.
And then the corporate lawyers got involved. Warner-Lambert requested few changes to the calendar, yet took about five months to present its contract: "Mother in the Making" prints coupons and calendars at its own expense and cannot go to a Warner-Lambert competitor for one year. Warner-Lambert receives $1 per sale to cover insertion costs.
Finally, more than a year after that first meeting, e.p.t. hit the shelves with the offer in the box. On August 2, 1993, the first order came into the pair's East Longmeadow, Mass., offices.
Eight months later just 165 orders had trickled in. Worse, the calendar's champion at Warner-Lambert has left the company. The upside? The partners got immediate feedback with the orders. And the exposure has opened new doors: talks are on with a big maker of vitamins, and a hospital that runs prenatal workshops has inquired about using the calendar as a premium.* * *