Three Keys to Invention Success 2: Easy Sales
Don Debelak offers affordable patents http://www.patentsbydondebelak.com
Three Keys to invention success revolve around what I call the Gel Factors, Great Customers, Easy Sales, and Long Life. If your product fits those three categories you will have a great shot at a successful invention.
As anyone who has studied inventions knows, inventor success isn’t always a case of having the best product or the best strategy. Often the difference between a successful inventor and an unsuccessful one is that one inventor chose a market that has outstanding characteristics, or what Don likes to call them, outstanding GEL Factors, (Great Customers, Easy Sales and Long Life) and the other one didn’t. If you idea doesn’t approach a market with excellent GEL factors you will have trouble introducing your idea and should consider a different idea or market.
Easy Sales – the Most Important GEL Factor
There are three points that determine whether or not a product will have easy sale
- The product is important to potential customers;
- Customers need to be easy to acquire;
- The product needs minimal promotional activity.
Easy sales is probably the most important GEL Factor for inventors because they typically don’t have the experience or resources to mount a large scale marketing program.
Inventory Story – Jay Sorenson, inventor of the Java Jacket
The Java Jacket is a patented honeycombed insulating sleeve that slides over a paper cup to provide extra insulation to make holding hot coffee or tea easier. They are sold in coffeehouses and specialty and convenience stores nationwide. Jay Sorenson invented the first Java Jacket, which are now available everywhere, and in a little more than five years he had sales over $15 million.
If Sorenson were selling to consumers, he would have a tough time as it would be hard to get the product into the market, as the Java Jacket isn’t much of a priority to consumers. But his customers were the owners of stores that sold coffee. His first customer was the Coffee House, a small chain of coffee shops. Sorenson was selling the product as a nice feature for customers and sales were a little slow starting up, but then a convenience store owner told Sorenson he would take the product because it was much cheaper than a second cup. Because coffee or tea was too hot to hold in one paper cup, people would use a second paper cup to keep the heat off their hands. Paper cups aren’t cheap and when the convenience store owner realized how much money he would save with the Java Jacket, he jumped on the opportunity. From that point on, Sorenson used this as his selling point and sales became very easy.
Sorenson’s Java Jacket met all the requirements for Easy Sales: the product was important to customers (store owners) because it cut their costs while providing true value to customers, which is a customer priority; customers were easy to acquire because they ere easy to identify — coffee houses and convenience stores — and those customers would keep buying the product every month; finally little promotion was needed as the stores could be approached by a sales representative and there was no need to promote the product to consumers — they recognized the value of the product the minute they saw it in a store.
The Product is Important to Potential Customers
What makes an easy sale depends on how good your customers are, which we discussed in the first article, but you could have great customers and still not have Easy Sales.
How important your product is to potential customers is the first point of Easy Sales. Many people might rate your product as much better than your competitors, but unless your product is a priority to consumers, your sales will be low. For instance, you might have the best blender, maybe even a hundred times better than your competitors, but most people don’t place a high priority of owning or having the best blender. Conversely, many people put a high priority on owning clothes with certain brand names, which aren’t necessarily of a higher quality than other clothing brands. These people put a high priority on the image created with that brand of clothing, so they purchase it.
Most people only have a few priorities and spend their money accordingly. If you want easy sales you need to tap into these priorities. If people don’t at first see that your product is important you can often fabricate ways to tap into people’s priorities. For instance, Subway fabricated a way to tap into people’s desire to lose weight by promoting a story about Jared, a man who lost a lot of weight eating Subway sandwiches. So all of a sudden eating Subway’s sandwiches became about losing weight, a high priority for many in theU.S.
The second point related to priority to customers in Easy Sales is your competitive advantage. How many choices do customers have when the walk into a store? Many. What will make people choose your product over others? So you product needs a significant advantage.
Some possible categories where you could have a competitive advantage are: support of customers’ self-image, performance, completeness of solution, best perceived value, first with newest technology, best visual appeal, highest-quality product, best-known brand name, or lowest pricing.
Having a competitive advantage can be difficult if there are already established and successful companies selling products that will compete with yours. You will need to prove you are much better for a consumer switch from a tried and true product to something new.
There are a few ways to increase your competitive advantage. First, create a better product. You will have an advantage if your product is better in any of the ways listed above. You can also team up with another company to create a package of items that creates a complete solution.
Another way of creating a competitive advantage is by creating a brand name. Associate your name with expertise and experience for technical or practical products by conducting classes, offering seminars, or releasing research or other interesting facts to the press. Or if you want to associate your brand name with being hip, confident, successful or any other customer group’s desired image, sponsor events that portray the image you want. You can team up with other companies with the same image and that should help your brand name portray the image you desire.
The third point dealing with your product’s value to potential customers is the price/value relationship. People have a strong sense of what something is worth. This will not be the same for everyone. For instance, some people think buying a new car is a waste of money due to the immediate depreciation while many others think that buying a new car is well worth the money. Your desired customer group must think that your product is well worth the money for you to be successful.
You must determine what your customer group will pay. To do this you cannot ask them what they think your product is worth. You must ask them to rank your product in value to other similar products. Your product should sell for around the price of products it is rank immediately above and below of.
If you price is too high for what customers value your product as, you will need to do some adjusting. You either need to make the product seem more valuable by adding high-value features or a high quality image without impacting the cost of manufacturing too much or you need to make the product less expensively. You may need to drop unnecessary features or just change the manufacturing process. Either method should bring your product closer to the right price/value relationship.
Ease of Acquiring and Retaining Customers
The second sets of point for Easy Sales have to do with the cost of acquiring and retaining customers.
The first important consideration is how many entry points you have available for customers. Entry points are different ways for customers to start buying your products. So either they could buy them online, in a retail store, in catalogs, rent them or even lease them. These are all different entry points. The more entry points your product has, the easier sales will be because customers will have an easier time finding you.
The best way to create more and more entry points is to enter your customer’s world. Where do they shop or eat or what do they do in their free time? Find ways to do promotions with other businesses your customers frequent. For instance, if you sell motorcycle gear in your town, find all of the restaurants, pool halls, movie theaters, etc. that motorcyclists are most likely to go to. Then offer a free T-shirt coupon or baseball cap coupon to them as a promotion through that other business. Then they have incentive to come to your store. That is another way that they come to do business with you.
Also, host seminars, hold contests and be active in associations. All of these things will bring customers into contact with you, creating more entry points.
Another tactic often used by people who have either their own retail or internet store is to carry other people’s products. That way, someone looking for pool chemicals might come to your website and see your patented pool filtration system.
The second consideration for the cost of acquiring and retaining customers is the amount of sales support required.
Ideally, you want your product to sell itself. Those are the easiest sales, but often this is not the case. If you have a new or unknown product or your product handles a complex situation, and especially if it is a high dollar purchase, people will want to ask many questions and will understandably be hesitant to buy from you. But there are a few ways to remedy this problem.
First, you can offer a service rather than a product. Let’s say your invention will easily get rid of yard pests, like moles or gophers for up to two years. Instead of selling your invention, which might require loads of instructions, no matter how simply it works, you could just offer a yard pest removal service. That way, people will feel confident that their yard would be pest free instead of buying a product and trying to figure out how it works. Remember: people want a solution, not a product.
You also can offer money-back guarantees for people buying a complicated product.
Another option you have is hiring a highly professional sales team. Make sure to get people with a good track record and you will need to offer them a high percentage commission just to attract them to your product. But a good sales team will greatly help if your product requires a lot of sales support.
Minimal Promotion Needed
The final consideration for Easy Sales is that little or no promotional activities are needed. This is different from sales support because sales support requires answering customer questions and explain the product over and over again. Promotional activities are geared at just telling the potential customers that your product exists.
You will need few promotional activities if your customers are easy to locate, either geographically or by interests. You will need many more promotional activities if you have a completely new product or are going up against established competition.
These promotional activities can eat up a lot of time and money, so if you need to do them, make sure to do the most cost effective promotion possible.
Your first step is to create a great visual image for your product. This needs to go beyond just the product. It needs to be a logo or a picture of the effect of your product. We live in a visual age and you need to find an impacting visual image that shows either your product in use of the results of your product. Look at advertising in magazines for ideas. The advertisements you remember will have a great visual image.
You also need to create a memorable slogan or saying to go along with your advertising. Nearly every successful company has some type of slogan. These are easy to remember phrases. Without memorable advertising, your promotional activities will not be as effective.
Once you have memorable advertising, look for ways to effectively reach your target customers. Go into their world and do cross promotions. So if your target customers are turkey hunters, go to retail or internet stores that compliment your product, not compete with it, and offer coupons to them and ask them for coupons for their store to give out at your store or website. So if someone comes to your store and buys your product, they can get a coupon for the other store and vise versa. That is a cost effective way of reaching your target customers.