Ralph McGonegal describes developing the Depth Whisperer.

Ralph McGonegal describes developing the Depth Whisperer.

The July 23rd meeting of the Jackson Inventors Network (JIN) featured two dynamic speakers sharing their experiences bringing products to market. Ralph McGonegal of Jackson provided a 45-minute “In the Trenches” presentation about his decade-long quest to bring a talking depth finder for bass fisherman. The product, called the “Depth Whisperer”, is now available from this web page.

McGonegal described how, following his retirement from Consumers Energy in 2002, he bought a bass boat and spent a lot of time on it. He didn’t like watching the screen on the depth sounder all the time, and after having someone else call out the depths while he fished, he decided to design a talking depth sounder. It took several years to get going, but by 2007, a four-person partnership was formed to create the product.

By 2008, he began working on a prototype; bids were sought, which ranged from $30,000-$90,000. Given this hefty pricetag, the design was broken into various smaller steps. First prototypes were done on Windows and Unix-based laptops, but McGonegal didn’t want to bring a laptop on his bass boat.

A patent was granted in January, 2010, and McGonegal found another company to build three prototypes for $8,000. He also determined to change the method of depth perception from a webcam to a transducer. This effectively meant his patent wasn’t being used, but he went ahead anyway.  A dispute with the first prototype company held up designs, so McGonegal switched to another prototype designer. This lead to the beginning of manufacturing; the product is now available for $199.

Dale Moretz outlines marketing techniques

Dale Moretz outlines marketing techniques

The evening’s main speaker, Dale Moretz, of Moretz Technologies and Pentar Stamping, described the challenges faced in marketing. For Moretz, marketing is the most difficult, challenging and frustrating part of the process.

“But you can’t ignore marketing, it’s the key to success,” he said.

Designing components and solving technical challenges is a practical and logical process, he said, whereas marketing doesn’t follow a definite logical pattern, especially when marketing to consumers.

“Marketing to consumers and to industry are very different,” said Moretz. “Marketing to consumer preferences has irrational components to it. Consumers have subjective preferences, which can’t be determined by logical processes. Successful marketers know how to take advantage of these. Consumers can be manipulated heavily by creating a send of social acceptance and a need to conform to peer pressures. If we are aware of our society and culture, we can follow trends to market our products, services or processes.”

Marketing to industry is more his forte, he said. Moretz develops products by listening to his customers and developing products that solve their problems. He described how he developed a simpler and cheaper valve for a water heater, based on the needs of the heater manufacturer.

“The central message is marketing is absolutely necessary,” said Moretz. “Without marketing, you can’t earn money from the development.”

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