Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

STEP 5: Share the load

By Jennifer Alsever


Getting outside feedback and vetting new concepts doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. Dig into your Rolodex to find a partner or vendor who might be interested in sharing the time and money to see if an idea is viable, says Scott Anthony, author of The Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times.

Blinds.com owner Jay Steinfeld says he has boosted his margins per customer visit by 25% for the past eight consecutive quarters by striking cross-promotion deals with Cooking.com, Flowers.com and OmahaSteaks.com, which have similar customer bases.

Shoppers who spend a certain amount at any of the four companies receive coupons that can be redeemed at all of them. Blinds.com and Cooking.com also split the cost of entering these customers into a sweepstakes for a kitchen makeover. "This is very low-cost marketing," Steinfeld says.

Then there's the lowest-cost labor of all: student interns who work for college credits.

"Students are hungry," says Travis Hollman, 40, a serial entrepreneur in Dallas who regularly enlists Southern Methodist University students to do market research. In recent years Hollman has started a film company, a toy manufacturer that made marshmallow shooters and, most recently, a relaxation drink called ViB.

The students were instrumental in ViB's development. None of them even wanted to taste an early version because of its thick texture and "gross-out" shade of green. So Hollman hired a food scientist to craft a new concoction. The students tried it and loved it, as did consumers they interviewed. A year after its launch, the drink is expected to bring in $5 million in 2009 sales.

"When it comes to ideas and energy, students are on top of it," says Hollman. "They don't work for you, so they're not afraid to tell you something is dumb."

Questions & Answers



QHow does a florist sell more in this economy? We changed our business to designing weddings and events only, as the everyday flowers are not selling. We had to throw out too much product at the end of the week -- flowers are perishable! More
Get Answer
- The Flower Lady, Suwanee, Ga.
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.92%3.81%
15 yr fixed3.12%3.03%
5/1 ARM3.17%3.15%
30 yr refi3.91%3.80%
15 yr refi3.11%3.03%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 20,975.09 -21.03 -0.10%
Nasdaq 6,025.23 -0.27 -0.00%
S&P 500 2,387.45 -1.16 -0.05%
Treasuries 2.31 -0.02 -0.69%
Data as of 5:06am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 23.89 -0.09 -0.38%
Ford Motor Co 11.60 0.12 1.05%
Chesapeake Energy Co... 5.47 -0.04 -0.73%
General Electric Co 29.26 -0.19 -0.65%
Advanced Micro Devic... 13.41 -0.08 -0.59%
Data as of Apr 26
Sponsors

Sections

U.S. economy started the year with sluggish growth under the new administration. But overall the U.S. economy is in solid shape. More

Chris Sacca, an investor known for his early bets on Uber and Twitter announced Wednesday that he will stop investing in startups. More

Homeowners who sold their home in the first three months of this year saw an average price gain of $44,000 from purchase, according to a new report. More