11 Dos and Don'ts of Bringing a Product to Market
Updated: Oct 18, 2018
Whether you're a solo entrepreneur or a manufacturing behemoth, we break down the rules of taking products to market—successfully.
Inventing a product is not a get rich quick scheme. It requires a great deal of work, a business plan, and a lot of guidance from people who have been through it before. No matter what stage of the invention game you’re in, here are some guidelines for people who want to go from WHAT? to WOW!
DO your homework—the market research—to find out if the product is already being sold on the market. Check the internet, and shop both online and in brick-and-mortar retail stores. I have been sent numerous products that, if the person had only gone online or to his local pet store, he would have found that his “unique” product was already being made and already being bought.
DON’T assume everyone will want your product. Regardless of what your friends will tell you, the world is not waiting for your product, even if it unique.
DO understand the potential marketplace for your product. If you develop a product that would be useful to first- and second-grade students, you have a market with a potential of nearly 8 million customers! If you invent a product for surfers over 55, your market is much smaller—and more difficult to find.
DON’T send your money and invention to an invention promotion company. These companies who ask for money upfront and then send you a report telling you how wonderful your product is and the potential market for your invention in many cases do nothing more than that! I have subscribed to these services during my many years in this business. If one out of 100 submissions did not find its way into the trash on day one after the initial reading, it went into the trash on day two!
DO overlook the packaging—for now. This is the other part of the process that needs outside professional help. You have only seconds at retail to connect with the consumer, and the packaging must convey the value of the product (Is it worth the asking price?) and its selling points. I worked on a product line a number of years ago that was going to sell for 75-100% more than the competition. Our product was licensed, but that was the only difference over the generic version already established in the marketplace. I suggested the product be packaged in a more expensive clamshell that differentiated it from the competition, and it also added credence to the higher retail price we were asking. That strategy worked.
DON’T sink all your funds into a product or idea and DON’T go after a patent too early. Determine whether there is truly a market for your product. Patent attorneys can be very expensive. Until you can determine whether your idea or product has real customer potential, do not waste money.
DO underestimate your ability to run a business! Unless you have been involved in running a business before, starting a company without professional help can be disastrous. There are many entrepreneurs who have a great product but lack the day-to-day knowledge that comes with running a business. I worked with a company in Winnipeg, Canada, that developed a product that was overpriced. However, this was not determined until the product was on the retail shelves and the consumers would not pay the price. They eventually went bankrupt. It cost the company—and their investors—a great deal of money.
DON’T over-value. As part of your research, you must determine the appropriate pricing structure that will allow your product to generate the most unit volume. Having an over-priced product is a mistake many people make because they feel, since they invented it and people like it, they will pay dearly. They won’t. I worked with an inventor of two new and somewhat different board games, and he was determined to have his games sell for about twice the price that equivalent games are being sold for. He spent his life savings trying to make this happen, and IT NEVER WILL.
DO understand the GLOBAL marketplace. While on a trip to China, I worked on a new product line. This product already existed and was being sold in Europe where retail prices are higher in many case. I came up with a design that would fit the American “look,” created an appropriate price point, and took it to market. The work added $3 million to the sales of the company within six months of the product being developed.
DON’T sink money into inventory. There is plenty of time between when you make a sale and when the product needs to be on a retail shelf. I worked with a company that spent more than $250K on inventory before they even went to retailers. They miscalculated the market by trying to sell at one level while the retail buyers were comparing the product to a different level one.
DO get professional help. Trying to go it alone is a major mistake. You’re afraid someone will steal your idea, but here’s the reality: There is nothing you can do to stop people from stealing your idea after the product hits the market. If you have a patent, you must defend it or it’s worthless. And this could be costly.