After 20 years on the beat, I thought I'd plowed through them all, already. But a while back a proposal occurred which still had me at hello. The manufacturer inquired whether I'd help them with a very stiff ship fee. Since they couldn't take their product back due to similar return freight plus disproportionate re-import fees into their country whose currency values far lower than our euro, would I pay the ship and import fees to Ireland? They'd declare its value at 80% off retail to limit the impact of 23% Irish VAT. They promised that I'd absolutely love the product so would acquire it for a very good price. And if I didn't want to keep it – well, I could simply sell it off.

I had to explain that I work for a living. I don't pay to work. Buying hifi doesn't put food on the table. It takes it off. I had to explain that I didn't need or want yet another variant on their product type as part of my hardware library. I have everything I need. I had to explain that selling off review product is a really bad look even when fully authorized. I'd really be limited to word-of-mouth opportunities in a very rural tractor community that has zero use for exotic hifi. It could be years before I'd find a buyer. Until then I'd play bank fronting €1'500; without interest. None of it was even remotely acceptable. All was peculiar for needing explaining. Had I slipped into a Twilight episode?

I mention it not to embarrass anyone. Depending on where a hifi maker lives, their domestic politics, banking regulations, taxation, customs and more can make doing global business very difficult indeed. Add ongoing supply-chain issues, rising fuel costs and related ship fees. Depending on the size and weight of a review loaner, recalling it after a foreign review can be prohibitive. By the time you get it back, its actual value might be zero. It might as well stay gone. That being the case, trying to make upfront arrangements to lower the pain could seem the reasonable thing to do. From my end it just wasn't.

The upshot of this anecdote is very basic. Pursuing reviews falls under marketing. Marketing requires a dedicated budget. That's the cost of doing business. If you don't pursue reviews or traditional adverts and have insufficient dealers, you'll spend lots of time self promoting in blogs and fora. Such guerilla marketing is a legit route to take. Just acknowledge that it's very time consuming. If you're the engineering or tinkering type, it won't be what you're good at. So it needs a particularly skilled full-time employee on your payroll. It's the same expense dressed up different. No matter how you roll this stubborn dice, marketing is a mandatory ongoing expense. If you're unprepared to accept this—that people only buy what they know about; that creating said knowing then desire to act upon is marketing 101—you won't make it. End of. This isn't a wrinkle which one can iron out by refusal or avoidance. Sorry for writing the obvious. Given my recent incident, it obviously still needs saying. Word!