Customer Feedback – Up-Close and Personal

Product reviews (especially online) are increasingly important in helping customers make purchasing decisions. A study by CompUSA and iPerections discovered 63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews. According to a Forrester study, 71% of online shoppers read reviews, making it the most widely read consumer-generated content.

The beauty of the internet is that even small companies can integrate online reviews into their website. Companies such as RatePoint ( provided neutral, third party management of online reviews. They also provide tools (called Widgets) that simplify the integration of the collection and display of customer reviews into the seller’s website. We use RatePoint as a way to give our clients an outlet to rate the services and products from Montie Design.

Customer reviews are a great way to encourage sales, especially of a new product. However, you have to have sales to have customers who can write the reviews. Strategic users are the early adopters (often cultivated by the product manufacturer) who test the product and write a review. These reviews help drive customer sales and they also help encourage resellers and distributors to carry the product.

Strategic users can include writers and product evaluators for magazines and blogs. Thought leaders in the industry are also candidates for strategic users. Anyone who is in a position to influence the opinion of the marketspace is a possible strategic user. Carefully selecting the strategic users and getting product in their hands is an effective to way to begin to shaping the opinion of the marketspace as early as possible. The reviews generated by the strategic users should be a planned part of your public relations strategy. Excerpts from the reviews can also be used in your advertising campaign. The links from published reviews also help drive traffic to your website. A potentially bigger benefit occurs as the links drive up the PageRank of your website and help potential customers find the product through search engine results.

Earlier this year we launched a product called the X-Rest. Part of our launch strategy for the X-Rest shooting rest involved identifying strategic users to evaluate the product and help form a positive opinion of the X-Rest within the shooting community.

Here are some rules for soliciting reviews from strategic users:

* don’t interfere with the review process, it has to be honest and genuine
* stay open to criticism, not all reviews are 100% positive, bad reviews can lead to great product improvements
* look for new ways that users interpret how they should use the product and find new markets
* have faith in your customers, they have a perspective that can help you create even better products

The following is an example of a review from one of our strategic users:

By: Peter J. Kolovos

Peter J. Kolovos, was a Deputy Sheriff with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department in Illinois, before retiring.  He has been involved in the shooting sports for well over 40 years.  He is currently the Secretary-Treasurer and Director of Training for the North Suburban Police Pistol League, Inc.  With over 200 members, the NSPPL, is probably one the largest police shooting clubs in the country.

His credentials are many but my most noteworthy are the following: Pete is a highly competitive rifle and pistol shooter.  He is Certified as a Rifle Coach (Level-2) and a Pistol Coach (Level-3) with the National Rifle Association.  He is a NRA Training Counselor and Certified Instructor in several shooting disciplines.  Pete has been certified as a Police Firearms & Sub-Machinegun Instructor with the State of Illinois.  He attended the FBI’s Sniper/Observer School in 1994, and shot a perfect score during the final qualification course.  He has hunted extensively in 15 states including Alaska, and has hunted in Canada.

The first thing I noticed when I received my sample of the X-Rest, was how compact and light weight the unit was.  Made of Aluminum, it came nicely tucked into a 14.5” x 4.5” digital Camo carrying bag with a draw string closure.  The disassembled unit was approximately one-inch thick.

Each of the unit’s three legs measured out at  9” x 1.5”.  The legs join together through a rectangular slot in two of the sections and are held in place by the third leg which has a half-round section with a hole in it, and a pin which is attached to the main section via a split ring affixed to a short length of plastic coated wire cable.  This system virtually guarantees that you’ll never lose the joining pin even in rough conditions.  I also liked the fact that it was made in the USA.

Once the three sections are assembled, the rest seemed extremely steady.  The cross sections, where you’d lay your rifle measured out at approximately six-inches high, making it best suited for either Bench or Prone work.  Both of the cross-sections that actually formed the cradle seemed to have an ample amount of a protective rubber coating applied them to keep the rifle steady and to aid in protecting the rifle stock from being damaged during recoil.

On Sunday, May 31, 2009, I took the “X-Rest” to the Racine County Line Rifle Club which is located in Racine, Wisconsin.  My club was holding it’s monthly F-Class rifle match, so I would be able to better evaluate the rest at distance from the Prone position.  The weather was overcast as we had a lot of precipitation during the last week.  The ground was still somewhat soft from all the rain we had, so these conditions would prove interesting for the “X-Rest”.

Being that I would personally use a this rest for Predator hunting, I chose a Remington Model 700 Varmint, bolt-action rifle chambered in .223 Remington for the evaluation.  This particular rifle was equipped with a 6.5 x 20 power Leupold target scope.

I set up the “X-Rest” at the 300 yard line, placed a small sand bag near the toe of the stock, took careful aim and fired.  Since I wanted to be totally impartial from the get-go, I decided that if I muffed a particular shot I would not consider it as part of the evaluation.  I would only consider the shots that I felt I broke cleanly.

I fired twenty (20) rounds at this distance and put all of the called shots just under a minute of angle (three-inch group at 300 yards), which is exactly what I was hoping for.  I only muffed two of the rounds.  Several other members then gave the rest a try and we also quite impressed with it’s construction and how steady the rest was.

This neat little rest is simple, well made, and quite solid when assembled.  I feel it definitely has some law enforcement and military applications, as well as the civilian market.  This is a nice item for someone who’d like to have a portable rest available but not necessarily have a Bi-pod constantly attached to their rifles.  This would be a most excellent tool for a Rancher, or a Predator hunter.  It is also a very nice item for the casual shooter who’d like to have a solid rest to sight in their rifles but don’t necessarily want to pay several hundred dollars to do so.

If I were a school teacher I’d give the X-Rest a solid “B+” for it’s innovation, light weight, ease transport and of assembly.  My only recommendation would be to dip the lower part of the legs in some type of non-slip coating to resist scratching a vehicle’s paint-job if it were placed on top of the roof or hood.

Submitted by:
Peter J. Kolovos

——— End of Review ———–

Reviewers can connect with potential customers in a very intimate way through an honest evaluation of the product.  Reviews build trust in your product.  Small flaws in grammar or composition in the review help convince that the reader that the review was not a corporate fabrication from a paid talking head, but rather an honest evaluation from someone they can trust.  Less than stellar reviews are often more believable that glowing reviews.  Customers understand that no product is perfect and can be suspicious when reviews are overly flattering.

Product reviews are part of the precious dialog between you and your customers.  Embracing user reviews can give you an advantage over your competition.  Finding strategic users is the first step in encouraging the creation of third party reviews.  The next step is to get your product in their hands for them to test and evaluate.  Trust them to take it from there, using their reviews they create as a part of your website, public relations and marketing campaigns.  After all,  you worked so hard to get that product out to the market, now is the time to let the strategic users tell potential customers what a great product you’ve created.

Give me a call, or send me an email, if this was helpful or if you have topics that you would like to see in future updates.  Don’t forget to call when you are ready for us to contribute to the success of your project!

Montie Roland
President -Montie Design

About Montie Design

Montie Design is a collaborative product design and  development firm with core competencies in industrial design,  mechanical design and fuzzy front end services. Implementing  a client-centric approach in taking products from concept to  marketplace, Montie Design balances vision with usability in  realizing products that are economical to manufacture, elegant and robust. The firm operates out of the Research Triangle  Park region of North Carolina with access to industry-leading  technology, resources and innovative thought. For more  information, visit

New Portable Shooting Rest Released by Montie Design

Xrest Testing(Morrisville, N.C.) Collaborative product design and development firm Montie Design announces the availability of its unique portable shooting rest, the second original product conceived, designed, and distributed by the RTP-based company in the last nine months. Designed to meet the needs of all shooters as well as most firearms, the easy-to-carry rest weighs less than two pounds and disassembles easily in three pieces, fitting neatly into a small carrying case. Unlike conventional bench rests, which are heavy and complex, the novel Montie Design model — made of sturdy yet lightweight aluminum — provides steady support for different sized long guns ranging from semi-automatic and bolt action rifles to shotguns, carbines and pistols.

“There’s nothing like this on the market,” said Montie Roland, president of Montie Design and active shooting enthusiast. Roland, who used to shoot competitively and has a daughter on a local junior rifle team, said he got the idea for the product after tiring of carrying around a conventional combination of a heavy rest and sand bags for recreational shooting.

“I realized that a lighter weight version would serve the recreational shooter better,” he said.

Karl Frank, business development manager at Montie Design, received positive feedback on the portable shooting rest at a recent Special Operations trade show in Fayetteville, N.C. “It’s clear this product has military or police applications as a training tool for the long gunners in the squad, and for sighting in and maintenance operations,” Frank, whose background includes development of tactical equipment for military applications, said.

Roland said the idea for the product came not only from personal experience but also from what he saw as the market prospects for such a product. Nationally, approximately 200 companies are actively involved in the U.S. firearms industry, combining for an annual revenue of $2 billion. In the Triangle region of North Carolina there are more than five shooting ranges and multiple firearms retailers, not to mention major chains selling guns and ammo to hunters and competitive shooters.

The design and distribution of the shooting rest comes on the heels of Montie Design’s innovative radio frequency identification (RFID) detector card which was released in January and is now being sold throughout the U.S. and seven foreign countries.

“Sometimes there is no better way for a design firm to find the next client than to show off a simple, well-designed product to a potential client and say, ‘we did this in our spare time, imagine what we could do for your product line,’” Roland said, adding that concrete examples like the RFID detector and portable shooting rest show initiative, leadership and capability to his clients

Both the RFID detector and the shooting rest are produced in the Research Triangle Park region of North Carolina, using local manufacturers.

“The Triangle is full of not only thousands of ideas for great products, but many innovative, quality firms with talented professionals who can produce, market, and distribute those products throughout the world,” Roland said. ADR Hydrocut, a Morrisville company that waterjets the parts for the portable shooting rest was instrumental in the development of the product.

According to Frank, ADR Hydrocut provided prototypes and extremely valuable input. “Having the manufacturer literally just down the street made the development process much easier and convenient. We call this approach ‘Made Right Here,’” he said.

Future plans for the portable shooting rest include releasing drawings and design specs as open source in addition to designing an adjustable, pistol-oriented version of the product.

To learn more, or purchase the new shooting rest or RFID Detector, visit

About Montie Design

Montie Design is a collaborative product design and development firm with core competencies in
industrial design, mechanical design and fuzzy front end services. Implementing a client-centric approach in taking products from
concept to marketplace, Montie Design balances vision with usability in realizing products that are economical to manufacture, elegant and
robust. The firm operates out of the Research Triangle Park region of North Carolina with access to industry-leading technology, resources
and innovative thought. For more information, visit

Media Contact:

Montie Roland
919-412-0559 [cell]