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Jan 24

rita_crompton-1Inventors often ask me about their chances of success.  I can’t give an absolute answer.  There are lots of products on the market that I don’t buy.  There are lots of products on the market that I think are really stupid.  However, somebody is buying them.  I thought pet rocks were pretty stupid but lots of people thought they were cute enough to buy. On the other hand, I always endorse my clients’ products.  By the way, having friends and family tell you “it’s a wonderful idea” doesn’t count either.  You need better market research and feedback. 

The most valuable advice I can give an inventor is to arrange to have a focus group done.  This is a powerful tool for inventors of consumer gadgets.  Some focus groups are very expensive; however, there are some that are more reasonable.  A focus group can answer many questions about your invention regarding pricing, names and trademarks, functionality, appeal and others.

Most focus groups allow you to direct the questioning so you can gather the specific information you need.  Be aware that you should not be in the room while the focus group is taking place.  You want the focus group to be about the product and not about you.  Make sure you have good prototypes.  The attendees need to see and touch in order to fully understand the concept of the product.  

Also, don’t limit the demographics.  Some of the best feedback comes from the consumers you don’t think will be your primary market.  For example, I had an inventor who wanted only women in the focus group because he felt that women would be his primary buyers.  What he found out was that the men liked the product better than the women and had better suggestions.  Try to have enough people in the focus group so that you can have a wide range of demographics.  Twenty-five or so will work.

A good focus group will help you make better business decisions.  Just because you think your idea is worth a million dollars doesn’t mean that enough consumers agree with you to actually put money back in your pocket.  You can go broke without taking the time to gather the right information.

Good Luck.

Jan 24

Inventors struggle with marketing for lots of reasons.  It’s expensive, difficult to understand and hard to measure.  Attending a tradeshow is the fastest and least expensive way to gather the critical information that you need to successfully get your product to market.

When you are looking for the right tradeshow, it should be a professional show, one that is not open to the general public.  You are looking for the professional show that is for your particular industry, not an inventor convention (these are a feeding frenzy and you are the main course).  Don’t plan on being an exhibitor.  You are going to walk the floor and to learn.  At some point in the future, you may decide to exhibit; but, for the first and maybe second time, you need to walk the floor and learn about other manufacturers, distributors and products.

I travel to tradeshows for or with my clients.  We have our strategy mapped out before we go to make sure we get the most from the show.  Different shows have different requirements for attending.  Remember, at the early phase, you are not going to try to sell anything.  You simply want to learn. 

Learning how to get into these professional shows can be a challenge; however, a good tradeshow will provide you with all the contacts and information you need to start successfully marketing you invention.  Your other alternative is to spend millions of dollars on advertising or months, maybe years, of time trying to get past the gatekeepers to talk to the decision makers.