THE ONLINE INVENTOR -- November 2001

(c) 2001 Market Launchers, Inc.


Publisher: Paul Niemann



"There are three things which I consider excellent advice. First, don't smoke to excess. Second, don't drink -- to excess. Third, don't marry -- to excess." -- Mark Twain, in his last public address, at the commencement of St. Timothy's School for Girls in Catonsville, Maryland, on June 9, 1909

"It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt," -- Attributed to Mark Twain and to Abraham Lincoln


In this issue:

Article # 1: "Mark Twain on Inventing and Inventors," from Alex Ayres' book, "The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain" 

Article # 2: "The Power of Testimonials - When Used Properly," by Paul Niemann

Article # 3: "12 Do's and Don'ts for Small Business," by Jeff Dobkin, author of "How To Market a Product for Under $500" and "Uncommon Marketing Techniques."


Article # 1:    "Mark Twain on Inventing and Inventors," from Alex Ayres' book, "The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain"

Mark Twain always had a weakness for new inventions; he was fascinated by them, and over the years he lost more than half a million dollars investing in various contraptions -- including the Paige typesetter -- which did not pan out. Once, after a series of bad investments had temporarily tempered his enthusiasm for technology, he was approached by a tall, awkward young man with a mysterious device under his arm.

Mark Twain listened politely to what the young man had to say, but explained that he had been burnt once too often and was not interested.

"But I'm not asking you to invest a fortune," said the young man. "You can have as large a share as you want to for $500."

The author shook his head and the tall, stooped figure started away. Mark Twain, saddened by the sight of this pathetic young man, called after him. "What did you say your name was again?"

"Bell," was the reply. "Alexander Graham Bell."


Mark Twain was an inventor in his own right. He invented a scrapbook, called Mark Twain's Scrapbook, "the only rational scrapbook the world has ever seen." It was patented in 1871 and earned more money than his books that year.

In his notebooks, Mark Twain recorded ideas for some inventions that would later prove to be quite practical. In 1885, he conceived of the idea of microfilm, an invention that did not come into actual use until the First World War. In 1888, he made notes about an invention that he believed would eventually be ubiquitous. It would utilize "pictures transferred by light," similar to modern television. In his novel Pudd'nhead Wilson, published in 1894, the plot hinges on the use of fingerprinting, which was a revolutionary idea at the time, but now is standard.


"The first thing you want in a new country is a patent office ... A country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab, and couldn't travel any way but sideways or backwards."

Mark Twain -- A Connecticut Yankee, 1889, ch. 9

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Article # 2:    "The Power of Testimonials - When Used Properly," by Paul Niemann

This article involves two of your inventor colleagues -- who each have ordered their own web pages on our site this past month. 

The first one's invention is called, "Children's Fun Riding Toys" and includes pictures of the 4 toys. The inventor, Flossy Taylor, included nice pictures and all, but what really impressed me about the product were the comments made by people who had actually used the product. These were all potential users of her product, which is why she chose them rather than asking her friends and relatives for their opinions. (Friends and relatives tend to be biased TOWARDS your product, which does not give you ACCURATE feedback about your product.) 

You can see her product and the power of her testimonials at http://www.marketlaunchers.com/taylor.html 

The second customer's invention is called the "Trimmer Hanger," and it is designed to hold your hand-held grass trimmers and hedgers in place when they're not being used. The Trimmer Hanger keeps your weed eaters and hedge trimmers from falling to the floor of your garage or tool shed. It also helps prevent the weed eaters and hedge trimmers from spilling gas, too. 

As in the first example, what really impressed me about the product were the comments made by other people. In this case, though, Inventor Dave Aubin does not have an actual prototype, so he collected testimonials by explaining his product in e-mails that he sent to other people, asking them to respond with their comments. Quite a few of them responded.

You can see the "Trimmer Hanger" and the power of his testimonials at http://www.marketlaunchers.com/aubin.html 

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Paul Niemann runs MarketLaunchers.com, which specializes in building web pages for inventors, and companies search the Invention Database at MarketLaunchers.com for new products to license in. Call (800) 337-5758 if you'd like to order your own web page, too.


Article # 3:    "12 Do's and Don'ts for Small Business," by Jeff Dobkin, author of "How To Market a Product for Under $500" and "Uncommon Marketing Techniques."

1.    DO:    SEND PRESS RELEASES EVERY MONTH. I don't care to whom, or where. Unless, of course, you have all the business you can stand-and I mean you're running three shifts. If you can use more business, press releases are no longer a luxury or sent on a whim. In these days of tight marketing, schedule them as any other marketing function gets scheduled. Put them on the calendar for mailings on a regular basis, like every month.

2.    DO:    Use personal letters as sales tools. Right from your computer, you can wage the cheapest, most effective sales campaign ever. A letter is an incredible sales weapon. More effective than any ad, and lower in cost than any other sales campaign, bar none. A whole campaign can be waged without ever having to pick up the phone. The most effective campaign I have ever written was a series of personal letters.

3.    DON'T:    Send one letter and call it a marketing campaign. A campaign is not a single effort of anything. Think of it this way -- that long, boring three-page letter you have been sending would make three excellent, vibrant one-page letters in a three-letter sales campaign. Write a short series of letters, and send them to your best prospects over a selected time frame -- in a program that takes your best prospects more seriously than just sending one letter.

4.    DON'T:    Mail 25 letters to inquiries from an ad, then when you get only one response say, "I tried direct mail and it didn't work for us." Direct mail is a game of numbers. One response in 25 is 4% -- not a bad draw in the direct mail domain. I wish some of my low-percentage clients' mailings did this -- we'd all be rich! Well, now mail 100, get four more sales. Now mail 1,000 -- get 40 sales. By the way, to test a new list, the direct marketing industry standard is to mail 5,000 pieces.

5.    DO:    Have open business discussions with consultants or your peers. As broad as your vision may be, you can only see your business from your own singular perspective. Ask open-ended questions, then listen. For example, "What would you do to advance my business? What do you think I should change? What is our company's greatest opportunity? Our gravest weakness? Where are we missing the boat? How can we be more profitable? How can we move forward? Where can we save money?"

6.    DON'T:    Forget to put money in a growth fund. Don't paint yourself into a nonprofit business or a non-growth comer. How many times have I seen clients who have no potential to grow even though they want to? If you make a comfortable living and that's all you want, then fine. But if you want to grow, you need to know how-and have the money earmarked as a growth fund. Every business peaks out at a certain level -- if your level is high enough, you can be pretty comfortable. But if not, you need a plan to break through that level and into the next phase, and chances are you're going to need money to do it. Assign a certain percentage of your income to a growth account.

7.    DO:    Learn to delegate. You can't do everything yourself; this is a given. To grow, you're going to need to assign tasks and functions to others and figure out if they are doing their jobs effectively. Learn benchmarking. Let others know how you are going to judge their success, so they will have overall goals. Be quick with rewards, slow but fair with discipline. Learn early how to lead and inspire -- so people will want to do their best for you (and your company). No one likes a dictator for a boss, although some put up with it. Learn to motivate the people who work with you, and their 110% effort will help ensure your success-and theirs, too. There are plenty of great books on leadership in the library.

8.    DO:    Have clear goals. Know what you want and what you expect from your business. These goals should be set for both immediate rewards and future expectations. So if you say, "I'd like to produce this product for one year, perhaps without making any money," you then need to say, "The next year I'll take out some cash, and in five years I'll grow to a firm this size." This puts things in perspective and lets you know what it will take to get where you'd like to go. Once you know where you're going, the roads to get there become more self-evident.

9.    DON'T:    Proceed without a realistic time frame. Know in advance how long each step will take and what time allotment you will allow for it. I know, I know, it's easier said than done. But if you don't start roughing in the time element now, how will you know when things have taken too long, when to celebrate because you finished early, or when your time is up?

10.    DON'T:    Forget to go to the library every month or so. More often if you need new information more frequently. Use the library as a reference source for your business. To the dismay of my college professors, I'm pretty much all self-taught. When I couldn't afford books at a bookstore, I read them at the library. I've never been to the library without knowing, when I left, how valuable the time I spent there was, how much information I received, and how much it helped me.

11.    DON'T:    Forget to create Plan B. While success is nice, and necessary to stay in business, you should have a contingency plan in case what you are doing isn't working. What happens if ... is a scenario you should deal with up front, before it happens. (Even if there is no Plan B. you should know that in the beginning.) I'll give you an example. When I started Merion Station Mail Order, I mortgaged my house to the hilt and jumped into business. My older and wiser brother asked, "What happens if the initial mailings don't work?" "Well," I coughed reluctantly, "I'll refinance what's left on the house and try new offers and new mailing packages." That was Plan B. What happened if that didn't work? The options at that time all looked worse. "Fail" was one of them. But you know, I'd rather have tried and failed, than never have had the courage to try.

12.    DO:    Have an exit plan. No one likes to call it quits, but you should decide up front how much time you'll devote to a project that isn't living up to your expectations. An exit plan is one of the hardest strategies to write -- no one likes to think there is even a chance of failure. To complicate issues, failure may not be so clear-cut. Your successes may be only partial. How long do you settle for second best to your dreams? If you're not at your maximum potential, know when to call it a day, and where to go from there -- and how.

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This article provided by Jeff Dobkin. There are many more solid marketing tips in Dobkin's books, "How To Market a Product for Under $500" and "Uncommon Marketing Techniques." To purchase either book, go to www.dobkin.com or call (800) 234-4332. Both of these books are available in finer bookstores nationwide, or directly from the publisher by calling the above number.


Feel free to forward "THE ONLINE INVENTOR" to your inventor friends and colleagues. If you change your e-mail address, please subscribe with the new address in order to continue receiving it each month. To unsubscribe, please reply with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject line. If you would like to request a topic for an upcoming issue of this newsletter, just send us an e-mail or give us a call. You can view past issues of "The Online Inventor" at http://www.marketlaunchers.com/archives.html. Thanks. 

Until next month, Successful Inventing To You! 

Best Regards,

Paul Niemann;
President of Market Launchers.com
(800) 337-5758 (within the U.S. and Canada)
(217) 224-7735 (outside the U.S.)

Copyright 1998 -- 2001
All Rights Reserved


Click here to read the October 2001 issue.