Many inventors whose ideas fall by the wayside have great ideas but fail to gain the trust of the people they need to help them, often because they don’t show enough business savvy.
Too often, inventors don’t show they have the experience to understand the task(s) in front of them—or to execute the tasks once they understand what to do. They simply need to take a little time to bring themselves up to speed on the market and the process of introducing a product so they look like a winner. You will make a much better presentation if you follow the steps below before going out to talk to people in the market.
This is very important: Don’t ever say that you have a “can’t-miss” or “blockbuster” idea, or that you have a product that is sure to be taken by a big-box store. This will only convince experts that you don’t know what you’re doing. Just say that you have an interesting idea that you believe has market potential.
1st Step: Put together a professional information sheet on your product.
Include these items and a picture or drawing of your prototype, if possible:
- Brief product description.
- Why you developed the idea.
- Target customer: Be specific about the target customer.For example, if you have a kitchen item, you might be tempted to say “everyone,”—but that is not nearly as effective as stating “people who buy three to five new kitchen utensils per year, and buy newports every five years.” People want to know that you have narrowed your market.
- Main product benefits. Include the products people are buying now to achieve the same purpose your product fills. (It is extremely helpful to have brochures,or printouts from web pages.) Be sure to check out an industry directory for products and not just rely on your local stores. You can typically find a product directory at trade magazine websites.
- Target price
- Sales outlets—where the products will be sold.
- Distribution outlets—what types of distributors or manufacturers representatives can be used to sell the product. If you don’t know this information, you can get help with your specific product from SCORE—retired business executives who offer free help (score.org). Another Good source is your local Small Business Development Center (sba.gov). Both organizations can help you define your distribution channel and the sales outlets where you will sell your product.
You should put this information on no more than two pages of paper. Then whenever you talk about your interesting idea, you can show someone that you have,in fact, done your homework. The brochures about other products can be attachments.
2nd Step: Show why you are knowledgeable about your product idea.
People always will take more interest in your idea if you show specialized knowledge about the product area that will convince people you might have a uniquely innovative product. People take notice if an operating room nurse creates an idea for removing the fluids that are used to cleanse body cavities during surgery.
Another area in which people take notice is when you are in the distribution channel for the product.People are more likely to listen more to a mom with anew baby product who is also a baby products manufacturing representative.
You can still adjust if you don’t have a background that suggests you really understand your product. For Example, a mom with a baby product needs to find a baby store owner or a baby product manufacturer’s representative to support the product. You can even give the person a 5 percent stake in the product so you can call him or her a partner.
How do you find people who can support your product? First, network with the people you know. Or locate the industry’s trade magazine, which you can typically do with an internet search.
You can also request literature from companies advertising or posting new product announcements in the trade magazines. Typically the literature comes with the name of the local salesperson. Then call people and tell the salesperson you are looking for an adviser on your new product. Offer the adviser 5 percent ownership in your idea and ask if you can discuss your idea with him or her in person.
3rd Step: Pick a distribution channel you can penetrate, and have a plan to do so.
You can’t just tell people you are going to sell your product at Walmart. Walmart rarely buys from a small,one-product company, especially one without commercial success. Instead, focus on a distribution channel you can penetrate. You almost always are better off starting with a specialized distribution outlet. If you have a baby item, start at specialized baby stores.
Once you choose a distribution channel, you need a plan on how you are going to sell to that channel—through distributors, manufacturer’s representatives, or direct sales to some small regional chains. To learn more about your distribution outlets, read industry trade magazines that often discuss distribution, your contacts,or by attending trade shows. You can also get help from the SCORE or SBDC organizations mentioned earlier.
4th Step: Create a Target Customer Profile Chart.
One of the final steps is to create a customer profile chart that details the market opportunity available for your product. Such an example will list market segments,needs, how those needs are met, and the product that ends up being purchased. This is another stepto show that you’ve done your homework.
5th Step: Have a great name, slogan and packaging concept.
People in the new product business consider a great name, slogan and packaging just as important as having a great product. Sometimes it is more important.Be sure to do a trademark search for the name you want to use. Many times, inventors use names that are already associated with products in the industry.Making that mistake might not only be costly; it will hurt your image.
Slogans and a drawing of what your package will look like show that you have worked hard on your invention and are preparing realistically to bring your product to market. It also shows you are concerned about selling your product, and that you know sales is the toughest part of introducing any new product.
Do your homework so your idea has a chance to succeed.If you believe in your idea, make a commitment to do the work to turn yourself and your product into a winner.