Learn Your Industry
To have your best chance of success you need to learn all you can about your industry. How products are sold, key trade shows to attend, successful inventors in the industry and key retailers, distributors and manufacturers reps are just a few f the items you need to know before you go out into the market. Inventions can cost you lots of money, so you need to prepare yourself for success by knowing all you can about your industry. While you are learning the industry be sure to look for inside contacts that can help you.
Inventors, Learn Your Industry
The following steps will help you get an idea of the industry before you go start making key contacts. Contacts will be likely to talk and work with you if you truly understand the industry.
Follow these steps to build your industry knowledge.
- Start reading trade magazines. Trade magazines are meant for manufacturers, sales reps, retailers and distributors in the industry and have titles like Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration. These magazines tell about industry news, but also have articles on key distributors, types of contracts used in the industry, key contacts and also key trade shows. One nice feature of a trade magazine is you can typically send an email to a story writer relevant to your business and actually get a response. You can typically find these trade magazines in an Internet search, but I also recommend you go to a large public library and use their access to Gale’s Source of Publications and Broadcast Media, as you have to pay to use this site and the library has already paid for access. You can learn more about Gale’s at https://www.gale.com/databases/gale-directory-library.
2. Attend an industry trade show. Trade shows are geared at buyers, retail buyers, buyers at distributors and at key marketing executives in the industry. They also will have exhibiting inventors and their companies which are a great source of information for you. You can simply walk around the trade show, and you can walk up and talk to people in the booth, who will be happy to talk to you if they don’t have a customer to talk to. Be sure to make a list of questions you’d like to know about the industry so that you are prepared to talk to people. You can find out about trade shows for your industry from trade magazines. Typically, the larger trade magazines sponsor industry shows.
Trade Association are another source of information. Many industries will have local or regional branches of a national association and you can attend their meetings. Associations also have newsletters where you can learn not only about the industry but who some of the key contacts are in the industry. Often contacts will be more willing to talk to you at an association meeting than they are if you call on their company. You can do an Internet search for associations, but Gale’s Book of Associations is the best source and typically larger libraries will have access to the data from this book.
Inventors – What you Need to Know
I’ve listed some of the specific information you should try to discover next. The information has two purposes, one is help you successfully launch your product, but tow is to help you make costly mistakes which may prevent you in the end from having enough money to introduce your product.
1. Inventors who have succeeded in the industry and how they succeeded. Trade magazines are often the best source of information on successful inventors. Often you can just do a search on the trade magazine’s name and the word inventor. One reason to attend trade shows is to find these inventors and talk to them about how they succeeded.
2. Distribution channels, what are the various people in the industry take their product to market, through sales reps, distributors, direct sales to retailers, Home Shopping Networks, Internet sales and heavy social media marketing are just a few of the possibilities. Typically, inventors want to sell to Walmart and Target, but those retailers rarely take on a new unproven product, and even if they do, the inventor takes on a heavy financial risk. Often the best route is starting with a smaller distribution channel.
3. Marketing partnerships. Most industries have marketing partnerships where small manufacturers band together to sell their products. The partnerships can be a good avenue for inventors to take. Again, trade magazines will occasionally run articles on these partnerships.
4. Margins and discounts, what are the discounts off suggested retail to distributors and to retailers. You also need to know typical commissions paid to sales reps the type of financial arrangements that are typical in private label agreements, (where you sell your product under another brand name, such as Whirlpool sells its product under the Kenmore name when sold through Sears) and joint venture agreements.
5. Inventor friendly distribution channels, most markets have some channels that are much more open to inventors, you want to know what those channels are before starting off.
6. Packaging and point of purchase materials. Your industry might have certain packaging and point of purchase requirements, including, but not limited to, UPC bar codes and Consumer Protection Approvals. You want to know what those are before you develop your own packaging.