The shift from high-cost prototype design to every-penny-counts mass production is risky -- and if not done well, it can cause the demise of a once successful company. So how did iRobot Inc., a boutique engineering contractor based in Burlington, Mass., make the transition so successfully?

The company's first mass-market offering, Roomba, a sleek, silver trilobite vacuum designed to sweep rooms on its own, appeals to anyone saddled with cleaning chores, and has topped best products lists across the country. The fact that iRobot's first mass appeal product topped the charts, as Leigh Buchanan points out in Inc.'s July 2003 article "Death to Cool," is a testament to the founders' strategy for going mainstream. Through a combination of patience, the development of a long-term marketing strategy, the experimentation with various business models, and taking on jobs that broadened the company's intellectual property while deepening its management skills, iRobot created a solid path for reaching the mass market.

The Inc. archive holds a wealth of strategies for growing and breaking into bigger markets. Use the following stories as inspiration or take their advice and apply them to your business to help you in your selling efforts.

Marketing: 1 + 1 = The New Mass Market
The trend for marketers is clear: if you want to reach the masses, you've got to appeal to lots of subcultures. That's why Silk Soymilk created a carton that spoke volumes to its individual customers -- all 8 million of them.

License to Steal
Licensing is a valuable resource for small business owners looking to break into the mass market. Gerry Rubin's story of his business's expansion through licensing will inspire you, as well as offer you advice on what to look for in a licensing opportunity.

Tapping a New Market
By taking advantage of the mass market's interest in the purity of consumables, Silver Lake Research brought a specialty-store product and transformed it into lowest-common-denominator supermarket merchandise.

The Missing Link
Edmark's customers loved its educational software programs, yet it took truly understanding its selling channels to really raise its profile in the market and garner more customers.

The Gamble
When Coleman Natural Meats Inc. decided to expand from a family business into a national brand, it spared no expense on advertising, publicized itself tirelessly, and launched an intense sale campaign focused on one target market.