Inventors Market Networking
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Inventors will have a far easier time striking a deal with a larger marketer or distributor when they have a strong supporter inside the potential partner company. Inventors market networking is how you find the supporter early before you make any formal sales calls. The contact can then help you fine tune your presentations to the company’s needs. They will also advocate for your project inside the company, urging management to move ahead with your offer. Typically you want to find either a regional manager or a marketing manager to help you.
Who makes the best contacts – how to find them
Every market and industry has people who are knowledgeable and very helpful. The best way to meet potential contacts is either to meet them at trade shows or trade associations or to simply request product information. When you read trade magazines, you’ll notice that they have extensive new product sections, or in the case of service businesses, new services that companies want to promote or sell. Request information for any product or service that is listed in the new product/service section. You are not necessarily interested in the information about the product or service but in the name of the company contact that will typically come on a letter that will arrive with the literature. You can then call up that contact and ask questions such as how their product or service is sold, who are the most important companies in the market, what are the new market trends, and which companies have had the most successful new introductions. You might also ask a contact that is especially helpful if you can contact him or her again in the future.
Many industries or markets also have trade associations which are groups of people, including retailers, distributors, marketers, and purchasing agents. Trade associations work for the betterment of companies in the industry. They have volunteer committees of members who do most of the work of the association. You can learn about an industry by joining an association and volunteering to be on committees. Marketing committees can be especially helpful for a new entrepreneur since they typically have volunteers that are in marketing for their own companies. You can find trade associations in Gale’s Book of Associations, which can be found at most large libraries.
Local Chambers of Commerce have monthly meetings and you should try attending at least one meeting in your town as there may be contacts that can help you. Chambers of Commerce frequently have people who like to help new businesses and some Chambers have active mentoring programs that can give you a sounding board for your project.
Connecting with those Contacts so They Help You
You don’t need to go with your hat in your hand when working on an inside contact, they actually gain as much as you do when they present the project, in fact it is a win-win situation for them. If they bring the project to the company and the company successfully introduces the product, the inside contact looks like a real go-getter that is helping the company advance. If the project doesn’t go through, they still look like a go-getter, an image that will help them at some point in their career. The following steps will usually get you an inside contact with a potential partner company.
- Show consumers want your product. You won’t strike your best deal by just showing your invention. Instead, you want to show positive first market research and initial sales success with intriguing possibilities, and then tell partners that your concept seems so strong that you feel it will do best if you partner up with a marketer immediately to exploit the opportunity. That approach allows you to enlist partners in the beginning phases of an exciting opportunity, rather than, from their perception, after you failed to successfully market your product on your own.
- Start with a salesperson. You can meet salespeople by requesting literature and attending association meetings. You can also attend trade shows and meet sales people just by walking up and talking to them in their booth. Try to walk the shows early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the number of real customers is low. Once you meet salespeople ask to take them to lunch as you need some input from them on a concept you think might do well in the market.
- Use a product introduction to explain your product, the initial sales success you have had and some research you’ve done on the larger market. Don’t try to sell the salesperson, just show him or her the presentation with the observation that you’re trying to decide what would be a good next step to expand sales.
- Ask for his or her input on your idea and what could be done. Take the salesperson’s comments in and be receptive to what he or she has to say. Then ask if this is a product that his or her company might be interested in. More than likely the person will have quite a few comments on how it could be done with his or her company, with suggestions on making the concept “just right” for the target company.
- Arrange to meet regional or marketing managers. If the salesperson is on board, make at least some of the changes he or she suggested and then ask the salesperson if he or she could set up a meeting with the regional manager or marketing manager. Usually they can meet with you, either when the manager comes to town, at a trade show, or you might be able to visit the company’s location.
- Use the contact to help set up the presentation with the company. Once you present your product to the regional or marketing manager, they will be able to set up a key meeting with the right people at their company. Often they will introduce you and give a little sales pitch about how your product could have a significant impact on the company before you even get started.
Networking with Others
Today’s social media world makes it very easy to network with your potential customers. There are probably Facebook pages for your customer group and by getting involved you can exposure yourself and your product to a large group of people. Social media also has a large potential for creating word-of-mouth advertising as people share things they like.