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Nine Inventor Mistakes
Inventors succeed all the time, but many more inventors fail, many with excellent ideas that could be successful. So knowing the mistakes inventors commonly make can help you avoid those mistakes, and help you turn your idea into a big winner.
1. Inadequate distribution plan
Distribution is how you get your product in front of the people who might buy it. You can use distributors to retailers, or use sales agents to sell to direct to retailers, or even have you own sales force that sells to catalogs. In most cases you need to sell through a variety of distribution outlets to get your product started. Distribution channels are the hardest part of marketing a product because a) they have hundreds of products they could buy and b) they don’t always understand why a product’s benefits are unique and important. Waiting till the last minute to line up distribution is a big mistake, and most inventors don’t even consider creating a distribution plan till they are ready to sell a product.
2. No help from industry insiders
What trade shows should you attend? What are the key names of buyers? Which stores are most open to a new item from an inventor? What companies could an inventor partner with to sell the product? All these questions might be a mystery to an inventor, but they wouldn’t be mysterious to an industry insider. They will know the information right away. They will also know typical pricing, distribution channel discounts, packaging and insurance requirements. Inventors will make many costly mistakes if they don’t find someone with extensive industry experience to help them.
3. Spending money too fast
Things never go smoothly with an invention: there are many starts, then restarts, many efforts that don’t pay off, and often unexpected product changes are required. These adjustments all cost lots of money. Inventors need to be careful to save their money for when they really need it. Unfortunately inventors are often enamored with their product and are sure it is going to succeed. As a result they don’t watch their spending because they are sure that success is right around the corner. When changes are required, many times inventors have run out of money.
4. Targeting too large a market
You need to create a certain amount of market momentum to succeed. Since inventors typically have limited resources, they often have a tough time penetrating a big market. For example, a company with a new kitchen product will probably do best by concentrating on kitchen stores, smaller stores that won’t worry about the company size. If the inventors go after Wal-Mart, or department stores, they will need many more resources to market their product, plus they will need to go through many hoops to prove to the big retailers they have the ability to supply them.
5. Vague product benefits
A new product typically has only two to three seconds to capture potential buyers’ interest so they want to find out more information. That is all. You must create a clear and interesting statement, in only five to seven words, otherwise your benefit will be vague. Inventor’s big obstacle here is not the end-users but instead the people in distribution, retailers, manufacturers reps, distributors, who are much tougher and they need to believe that your product will sell instantly. Your product will have trouble in the market, no matter how great it is, without this clear statement.
6. Short-changed sales effort
Inventors work very hard getting patents and prototypes and perfecting their product. But often they wait till the product is ready before doing even one thing to sell the product. That is way too late. You should start making sales contacts right away, meeting sales reps and other inventors who have already succeeded in the market, and possibly meeting regional managers of big retailers. You want to make these contacts early, so when you have product, you can get immediate sales. If you don’t do that, you will start without any sales momentum and the market might lose faith in your product before you even get started.
7. Failure to plan for the transitional period
Most inventors start with a first sales period, where inventors prove their product will sell, typically through some of the key contacts the inventor made while developing the product, then they have a period where they start to sell to people who are not in their initial support group. This is a very difficult time and sales don’t just happen. Inventors need to develop a specific plan – targeting key accounts and trade shows and make a concerted effort to land sales during this difficult period.
8. Poor product packaging
Companies spend months developing packaging, conveying their products’ benefits quickly, and honing the packaging copy that helps consumers buy. Inventors often think of packaging as an afterthought, instead of realizing that over 30% success can often be related to the package itself. If you are investing in patents, prototypes, trade shows and initial runs, you must also invest in packaging and hire professional help to at least review the packaging design and copy.
9. High manufacturing cost
Your product must not cost more to manufacturer than 20 to 25% of the end user price. If you don’t have that much, you won’t money. You need to make money every month in order to have the resources you need to expand. The costs of marketing, product returns, sales commissions, trade shows as well administrative costs like product liability insurance will eat up all your profits if you don’t have your manufacturing costs in the right range.