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Read the Complete Article at: http://onestopinventionshop.net/blog/2019/08/how-to-launch-a-product-in-retail/

Check out Don Debelak’s New Book at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Don+Debelak+inventions&…

Originally Published as a post in Forbes Magazine’s web site. Written by Linda Murphy

As an inventor, manufacturer or importer, you’ve got a great idea for a new product that should be in every home. Now what?

“Build it and they will come” only works in the movies. A successful new product launch requires specific steps from concept and design, to branding and marketing, to business development and sales and, finally, to revenue and profit.

Here’s how to get your “next best thing” into stores.

Branding, Design And Creative Strategy

Creative strategy is vital to a product launch and sales success. Potential customers develop an immediate perception of your product simply by its name and how it looks. First impressions mean everything, so the words and visuals must be spot-on from the start, including the product itself, logo, packaging and marketing collateral, from advertisements to websites to signage and more.

Colors and fonts can evoke different thoughts and emotions (good and bad) in consumers. Blue conjures up trust; red, boldness; white, fresh and pure. Scrolling fonts convey sophistication; angular ones evoke formality .

It’s clear to see that many factors contribute to the perception of a product, so it is advisable to work with a graphic designer who understands not only the aesthetic importance of marketing collateral, but also the resulting effect on consumer behavior at retail. Cohesiveness across all public-facing messaging instills brand familiarity and loyalty, so having one design team for all creative projects is advisable.

Design To Sales

The fusion between design and sales is undeniable. Just as a design strategy needs to be fresh and creative, so does a sales strategy. An inventor myself, I’ve developed strong relationships with retailers and know what they want. The sales methodology my team created and utilizes has been tested and proven. How do we do it, and how can you do it, too? Here are some tips:

• Hit the ground running, and launch on all fronts quickly: Research. Start personalized dialogues, and build relationships with buyers. Schedule meetings. Request invitations to present products, and prepare materials for the presentation.

• Do your due diligence. For retailers to be responsive, you need to respect them and not waste their time. Walk through their stores; study their corporate strategy, and identify appropriate personnel. Draft an appropriate hit list of key accounts whose white space and strategy fit your products. “What’s in it for the retailer?” should be the vital question you ask and answer.

• Everyone wants their invention associated with the biggest names in shopping. But don’t limit your efforts to only traditional retailers. Consider the audience most interested in your product, and identify specialty catalogs or websites that cater just to them. Approach distributors to use their networks while continuously “selling” to create demand.

• Keep in mind that retail is constantly changing — be prepared for it.

• Amazon is a unique case. Success from the site requires more than throwing up a product page. Partner with an expert who knows the ins and outs of Amazon: how to craft product pages that don’t get lost in the sea of sellers, and how to use Amazon advertising and other techniques to garner visibility and drive sales.

• Think about sales in terms of short term and long term. In the short term, look to build an online presence, replicating on other dot-coms — such as walmart.com, homedepot.com, target.com, etc. — what you’ve achieved on Amazon. There’s no better marketplace, especially if you can sell directly through retailers as a preferred partner. Once you’ve established a sales history, you’ll start to generate short-term income, and recurring revenue will start to churn, with good results that can be brought to new retailers’ attention. Be flexible with your strategy, however — so getting a no means changing your tactics until you get a yes!

The Purchase Order Is Only The Beginning

Getting products on store shelves is only step No. 1. Staying there is the heart of business development.

Engage in product launch marketing services to keep the momentum and continue to generate sales and keep products in the news. If advertising alone generated the stellar results all entrepreneurs dream of, everyone would have a Super Bowl commercial.

Many companies, however, overspend on wasted advertising that doesn’t generate results. A sensible mix of advertising, public relations and other marketing initiatives generates awareness, keeps products top of mind, compels consumers to purchase and instills brand loyalty.

Advertising

Digital advertising is the way of the future — and the present. Compare analytics (costs, click-through rates, audience, etc.), strategically aligning products with those that offer the best opportunities for positive ROI.

Public Relations

Every product, service, entrepreneur and inventor has a story to tell. Tell that story through public relations (PR) to help spur sales.

PR is third-party validation. Instead of you telling the world how great your new product is, someone is championing it for you, providing objectivity that advertising lacks.

• Influencers (think Oprah) have a much bigger audience than you. One word from them, and suddenly, your product is known by millions around the globe.

• Different types of media appeal to different demographics. Newspapers, magazines, television, radio, blogs — which is your targeted audience consuming?

• Trade media is a qualifier for businesses whose products are primarily business-to-business (B2B).

• PR taps into current trends, news stories or holidays, such as gift guides.

• Show expertise by securing a company or employee profile in business media.

• Show off your “trophy case” by entering national awards competitions that recognize excellence in relevant categories.

• Every media hit gives you an opportunity to follow up with a potential buyer and share the excitement and validation of new successes.

Trade Shows

Introduce your products to a large number of buyers at once at trade shows. But setting up a table and sign and waiting for buyers and media to come to you won’t cut it. Actively seek out face-to-face meetings, even before the show starts. Give as much attention to your booth as you would an ad. Again, first impressions count!

The post How to Launch a Product in Retail appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

Read the Complete Article at: http://onestopinventionshop.net/blog/2019/08/did-someone-else-patent-your-idea/

It hit you like a ton of bricks; the stars aligned and you had your eureka moment: you came up with a great new idea for an invention! You threw together a prototype to see if the idea would work, and it did! Then you hopped on Google Patents and started searching to see if someone has patented your idea. You sorted through countless patents and finally found one that looks a lot like your idea. What can you do?!? Fortunately, there is a whole lot you can do and often you can still pursue your idea and succeed, even when someone else has patented the idea.

Your Idea Is Already Patented

The first thing you want to do is look carefully at the patent and see does this patent really describe the same thing my idea does. If not, or not exactly, you will want to consult a patent lawyer to see if you can patent around this existing patent and still have reasonable protection.

But what if someone patented your idea exactly? You want to check to see if the product is available. Check the internet and stores to see if you can find it. If not, try to contact the names or company listed on the patent. Ask them if they are selling their product or if they have licensed their patent. Over 90% of patents never make any money, so there is actually a good chance that they aren’t selling or haven’t licensed this product.

Before we go any further, we should talk about why 90% of patents never make money. Large corporations apply for and receive many patents that they never intend to pursue or aren’t sure that they will pursue, which accounts for part of this 97%. There are also patent trolls who apply for patents to later sue others, which also accounts for part of this number. But the main reason that most patents don’t make money is because it is difficult to bring a product to market. Inventors who don’t look for help can have an especially hard time since many inventors are really good about coming up with creative new ways of doing things but are really bad at running a business or understanding how to set up a sales network. So if a patented idea didn’t make money, that does not necessarily mean the idea is bad. Maybe the business behind the idea was run poorly or the product wasn’t formulated and packaged in a way that would excite customers. This is important to remember and there is a great example of this below.

So if the inventor or company listed in the patent says they aren’t selling the product and no one else has licensed the idea, tell them that you may be interested in licensing the idea from them. Before you agree to anything, make sure you have done your homework. You must know if the market opportunity is big enough to support the product and if people will feel the product is a good solution (if you need help with this, we can provide you with Consulting or Invention Evaluations). If the product has the potential, start licensing negotiations with them. It is impossible to say in an article what terms to work out, because if the idea is almost ready to bring to market, you will need to pay them more, if the idea is just on paper, you should pay them less.

Once you have a deal worked out, just treat the idea like your own: develop it, do market research, hone the idea, do more research until it is ready for sale, and then of course, start selling! Let’s see how Rachel Stephens has done this:

Stephens struggled to get her two children to properly brush their teeth and wash their hands; they were always in such a hurry that they did a poor job. She envisioned a timer that would have the children press a button and then the timer would tell them when they were done. But when she did a patent search, she found that someone had already patented the concept. Stephens decided to approach the inventor and license the idea. She further developed the idea and added the hand washing timer (the original idea only included a teeth brushing timer) and started marketing the product, called the Wash & Brush Timer. It is now sold through a chain of retail stores, JoJo Maman Bebe, at www.trendykid.co.uk and she is working on getting dentists to carry the product too.

What can we learn from this story? Stephens had an idea that was already patented, but the inventor wasn’t successful with the patent. Stephens then transformed the idea into a product that would excite customers and started selling. Having an idea is important–it is the invention–but turning it into a product that makes money is the step that many inventors fail at. Stephens’ success came by adding value, by including a hand washing timer, and by formulating and packaging the idea to excite customers. If you can do this, you can turn an unsuccessful idea into a success! And if the inventor has tried and failed, he is she will probably be willing to license the idea for a low percentage.

What if the idea is already successful and the inventors has sold or licensed the product? That still doesn’t need to stop you. If the product is licensed or is being sold by the inventor, you may be able to license the product for other markets. You maybe envisioned a use for the product that the inventor did not, and you can license the product for that market. You may also be able to sell the product for a commission. Either way there are still options left for you to pursue your dream.

If you have patent questions, Don Debelak is a registered patent agent and can help you. Contact him at info@onestopinventionshop.net.

Don Debelak offers affordable patent work. Check out http://patentsbydondebelak.com/

The post Did Someone Else Patent Your Idea? appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

Read the Complete Article at: http://onestopinventionshop.net/blog/2019/08/press-releases-a-great-tool-for-inventors/

Most trade magazines,
targeted at retailers, distributors and salespeople of a particular industry,
for example bikes, or hardware tools, have new product sections.  You will also find that many consumer
magazines dedicated to a user, such as Bicycling, or Bike magazines also will
carry new product sections. Press releases are a great tool for inventors
because magazine editors may publish information about your product in a new
product section that might be read by key industry people who can help you. Often
you will get inquiries, particularly from manufacturers’ representatives, that,
might help you promote your product. The best news for inventors is that you
typically don’t pay anything to get listed in a news product section of a trade
magazine or a product specific consumer magazine.

You can also contact
hundreds of newspapers through a press release distribution company such as PR
Newswire, https://pr.prnewswire.com/prnewswire, EIN
Presswire, https://www.einpresswire.com  pr PR Distribution https://www.einpresswire.com 

Find the right trade magazine for your product by looking in
Gale’s Source of Publications and Broadcast Media at larger libraries, or
search on the Internet for your product category or industry and the term
“trade magazines”. For example a search for bike retailers’ trade magazine you could find Bicycle
Retailers and Industry Magazine.

After finding the names of the
magazines you want to send information to, find the name of the editor on the
magazines web page and the prepare and send a press release. The web site https://fitsmallbusiness.com/press-release-examples/ has 34 sample
releases you can review.

Key Points for a Press Release

Have an angle.
Every good news story has something to get people’s attention. An example of
people using the product, solving a ling existing product, or something fun and
exciting are all angles.  Write
your headline. Your headline should grab the
attention of your audience. Write up four of
five possible headlines and show them to friends and relatives. Then ask them
if they can think of something better. A Headline can’t be dull. Write
your lead paragraph. This paragraph
needs to have a compelling reason for people to read more.  Again, it pays to write three or four lead paragraphs and then get input
from friends and relatives about which one they find compelling. Do this before
writing the body of the release as you need to know what angle you will follow.
Check this site for more details http://work.colum.edu/~amiller/leads.htm. Write two to five strong body paragraphs
with supporting details, which means you can document your points with actual
examples of how it works. Focus group testing, consumer tests and real world
examples are the type of documentation you want to have. The press
loves quotes from real users, or from people in the distribution chain. Getting exciting quotes from
users will dramatically increase the number of publications that will use the
press release. Don’t just have the user say the product is great. You need them
to explain the problems, or the benefit that your product gave them. For
example, with this new bicycle accessory I can keep up on long rides with younger
members of the bike club.Include photos of you, your product, and your product in use by an
actual user. Make
sure the photos are high definition photos suitable for publication. You can
also send lower definition photos but refer the editors to a web site where
high definition photos are available.Have a high quality web page set up. Interested editors will go to your
site, and they will be turned off by a poor- quality web page.  Include contact
information including your
name, phone number, email and web page. Include boilerplate copy about your company. A company boilerplate is a few paragraphs of text about the company that goes at the bottom of all its press releases. This text
describes the company, its purpose, and often, its
size, presence, and chief locations. Go this site https://www.criminallyprolific.com/company-boilerplate/ for information
writing boiler plate information.

Press Releases – A Great Tool for Inventors

Most trade magazines,
targeted at retailers, distributors and salespeople of a particular industry,
for example bikes, or hardware tools, have new product sections.  You will also find that many consumer
magazines dedicated to a user, such as Bicycling, or Bike magazines also will
carry new product sections. Press releases are a great tool for inventors
because magazine editors may publish information about your product in a new
product section that might be read by key industry people who can help you. Often
you will get inquiries, particularly from manufacturers’ representatives, that,
might help you promote your product. The best news for inventors is that you
typically don’t pay anything to get listed in a news product section of a trade
magazine or a product specific consumer magazine.

You can also contact
hundreds of newspapers through a press release distribution company such as PR
Newswire, https://pr.prnewswire.com/prnewswire, EIN
Presswire, https://www.einpresswire.com  pr PR Distribution https://www.einpresswire.com 

Find the right trade magazine for your product by looking in
Gale’s Source of Publications and Broadcast Media at larger libraries, or
search on the Internet for your product category or industry and the term
“trade magazines”. For example a search for bike retailers’ trade magazine you could find Bicycle
Retailers and Industry Magazine.

After finding the names of the
magazines you want to send information to, find the name of the editor on the
magazines web page and the prepare and send a press release. The web site https://fitsmallbusiness.com/press-release-examples/ has 34 sample
releases you can review.

Key Points for a Press Release

Have an angle.
Every good news story has something to get people’s attention. An example of
people using the product, solving a ling existing product, or something fun and
exciting are all angles.  Write
your headline. Your headline should grab the
attention of your audience. Write up four of
five possible headlines and show them to friends and relatives. Then ask them
if they can think of something better. A Headline can’t be dull. Write
your lead paragraph. This paragraph
needs to have a compelling reason for people to read more.  Again, it pays to write three or four lead paragraphs and then get input
from friends and relatives about which one they find compelling. Do this before
writing the body of the release as you need to know what angle you will follow.
Check this site for more details http://work.colum.edu/~amiller/leads.htm. Write two to five strong body paragraphs
with supporting details, which means you can document your points with actual
examples of how it works. Focus group testing, consumer tests and real world
examples are the type of documentation you want to have. The press
loves quotes from real users, or from people in the distribution chain. Getting exciting quotes from
users will dramatically increase the number of publications that will use the
press release. Don’t just have the user say the product is great. You need them
to explain the problems, or the benefit that your product gave them. For
example, with this new bicycle accessory I can keep up on long rides with younger
members of the bike club.Include photos of you, your product, and your product in use by an
actual user. Make
sure the photos are high definition photos suitable for publication. You can
also send lower definition photos but refer the editors to a web site where
high definition photos are available.Have a high quality web page set up. Interested editors will go to your
site, and they will be turned off by a poor- quality web page.  Include contact
information including your
name, phone number, email and web page. Include boilerplate copy about your company. A company boilerplate is a few paragraphs of text about the company that goes at the bottom of all its press releases. This text
describes the company, its purpose, and often, its
size, presence, and chief locations. Go this site https://www.criminallyprolific.com/company-boilerplate/ for information
writing boiler plate information.

The post Press Releases – A Great Tool for Inventors appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

Read the Complete Article at: http://onestopinventionshop.net/blog/2019/08/private-label-marketing-2/

Patents By Don Debelak low costs patent fees include USPTO fees and drawings

Private Label Deals for Your Invention

Private Label Deals are a “win-win” approach for inventors

By Don Debelak

{Don Debelak’s new book, Turning Your Invention into Cash is now available on Amazon for $3.49. Go to Amazon.com and enter inventions Don Debelak to purchase. From the author of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Bringing Your Product to Market.}

When the time comes for inventors to sell new products, they frequently head down the same, predictable path: targeting small markets and getting small footholds. Eventually, expanding their sales network becomes a top priority-and that calls for selling to big retailers. Small businesses face some marked disadvantages here: they only have one product, and they aren’t big enough to guarantee delivery.

Private Label Solves the Marketing Problem

How can inventors get around this problem? By private-labeling their products. In this arrangement, inventors market their products under another company’s name. Inventors benefit because their products are supported by the marketing power of an established company. Private-label partners benefit because the relationship broadens their product line, which enhances their competitiveness.

Size Small

Marilyn Searcy, 46, was wallpapering her home when she got the inspiration for It’s a Keeper, an attachment that fastens to the top of a ladder and holds either a 2- or 5-gallon bucket. It’s a Keeper lets users keep their tools at arm’s length while working. “It’s a great product for anyone who’s ever had to go up and down a ladder to get the right tool for the job at hand,” says Searcy, whose company, Searcy Enterprises, is based in Fremont, California.

Searcy says she had big goals when she started selling her product, but was stymied by her inability to secure larger accounts. “I could never get into the larger retailers,” she explains. “I was too small a supplier, without any advertising. Another problem I had was that, at first, my product didn’t fit every type of ladder.”

Searcy tried to expand her distribution by changing the product. “I improved the product so one model could adjust to fit any ladder in the market. This way a retailer would not have to worry if It’s a Keeper would fit the ladders it was buying,” says Searcy. But, she explains, the retailers still wouldn’t buy. In an effort to penetrate large retail chains once and for all, Searcy decided last year to pursue a private-label arrangement with a major ladder supplier that sold to Wal-Mart, Kmart and Home Depot.

When entrepreneurs sell their innovations on a private-label basis, those products sell for less than wholesale. But even at the lower price, Searcy will benefit: The agreement will eliminate her marketing and sales costs for that product, and the increased volume will have allowed her to cut manufacturing costs.

Private Label Deals

Private-label agreements work for all types of inventors. But to succeed, you must find a company with a product line complementary to yours. Keep in mind that you don’t want a private-label agreement with a company that already sells a competing product. Another consideration: Does that company sell to your target market? You should evaluate your potential partner by both size and breadth. Searcy wanted to partner with a company that had a strong presence in major discount and building-supply stores because they presented the largest potential volume for her product.

Searcy got her first lead while attending a how-to fair hosted by popular West Coast hardware retailer Orchard Supply Hardware. Her lead came when she met Hal Wrigley, president of Applied Concepts, located in Warrendale Pennsylvania, who private-labels a line of rubber grips to Sears. Searcy showed Wrigley her product, and got the name of the president of the ladder company that she’s now negotiating with.

As Searcy found out, trade shows are an entrepreneur’s best bet for meeting the right contacts. The best way to get started is by asking a company rep the following:

Do you know of any companies that sell products on a private-label basis?
Do you have any key contacts at those companies?
What do you think of my product, and do you think it could sell?
Can I use your name as a referral when I call to introduce myself

If you can, try to talk to a someone at one of the companies private-labeling products, rather than going through a middlemen. If the person at the company likes your idea, ask if they’ll set up a meeting with decision-making executives at the company.

Private-labeling typically constitutes a “win-win” proposition for both parties. The big drawback for the inventor is that he or she must take a lower margin. That’s usually offset in two ways: first, because they won’t have sales and marketing expenses, and second, because manufacturing costs typically drop by at least 10 percent once production quantities increase. Private-labeling just might be your ticket to success if you don’t have the resources to get your product on the shelves of major chains. Instead of getting discouraged if your sales are low, seek out a private-label partner with the resources to shoot your sales to the next level and beyond.

Locals Only?

Today, Searcy has found a better solution: She’s since hooked up with a U.S. manufacturing partner who delivers quality products every time. While inventors can often reduce costs by using overseas production, the risk isn’t always worth it. Lower pricing means you have to place larger orders, and poor-quality products in bulk can be difficult to return. Here are some steps inventors can take to minimize problems:

Contact your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for help. You can find a list of SBDCs on the SBA Web site. Click on the box for “Outside Resources,” then click the SBDC box and it will take you to a list of offices throughout the United States. The page can link to an SBDC office you select. You can also check out the government section in the White Pages for the SBA office nearest you-it will be able to give you the phone number for your local SBDC.
Make a list. Ask the SBDC for a list of resources or other contacts in your area that can help. You’ll want a local contact, as you may require assistance a few times before finalizing a deal.
Hit the Web. If you don’t have an SBDC close by, you can also search these Web sites: http://www.chinesebusinessworld.com and http://www.taiwantrade.com.
Get the names of at least three U.S. customers from potential manufacturers. Call those references to ensure those companies are satisfied with that supplier.
Demand first-article inspection rights from manufacturers. First-article inspection rights let you approve the first production run off the manufacturing line. Only after you give the go-ahead can the manufacturer continue production.

Spell It Out

A private-label agreement will spell out pricing and exclusivity terms. In addition to setting the original price, terms may include the following:

Price-increase provisions: The private-label customer may want to protect itself against large price increases, something Searcy included in her agreement.
Price-protection provisions: These were also included in Searcy’s agreement, and concern the retail customers’ price for the private-label product in relation to what people would pay if they bought the product directly from the inventor. A clause might state that the private-label product will always cost a minimum of 25 percent less than the inventor’s wholesale price, or that no private-label customer can have a lower price.

Exclusivity is another key issue in private-label agreements. Some potential exclusivity provisions are:

Exclusivity by territory, in which the inventor agrees not to private-label his or her product to another company;
Exclusivity by market segment, meaning the entrepreneur might grant exclusivity for a particular market. For instance, a manufacturer of a protective glove holder (worn on the belts of police, fire and paramedics) might have an exclusive agreement for the paramedic market with one manufacturer, while reserving the right to strike new private-label agreements for police and fire departments. Searcy’s agreement included this provision as well;
Exclusivity from other private-label agreements, where exclusivity may apply just to other private-label agreements, allowing the entrepreneur to continue selling the product under its own brand name.
Exclusivity from the manufacturer selling under its own brand name, meaning the inventor agrees not to sell the product except through that one private-label agreement. The manufacturer also has to produce subsequent products at the same (or higher) quality level as the first product run.

The post Private Label Marketing appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

Read the Complete Article at: http://onestopinventionshop.net/blog/2019/08/inventors-need-obvious-benefits/

Inventors Need Obvious Benefits

{Don Debelak’s new book, Turning Your Invention into Cash is now available on Amazon for $3.49. Go to Amazon.com and enter Inventions Don Debelak to purchase. From the author of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Bringing Your Product to Market.}

Benefits should be recognized by end users and distributors in two to five seconds.  How do you know you have an obvious benefit?  When you can give it to someone and they immediately recognize the benefit without you telling them anything.  The more you have to explain your idea, the less obvious the benefit is.

Why is an obvious benefit important?  Unless you can afford a big advertising and marketing campaign, your product will need to sell on a shelf without anyone offering a big sales presentation.  The product needs to sell itself.

The degree of obviousness the benefit has is a subjective question, so I’ve listed six success stories where the product sold itself.  Compare the power of your benefit to the power of the benefits listed below. You may even want to get samples of the following products and have people evaluate how obvious your product’s benefit is compared to theirs.

Spanx, Body Shaping Undergarments 

Sara Blakely did amateur comedy is her spare time and one night before going on stage, she put on some cream colored pants, but everything she put on under them showed lines.  She had already decided to wear open toed shoes, so she couldn’t wear panty hose either.  Out of options, Blakely cut off the feet of her panty hose and went on stage.  The legs kept on rolling up on her, but she realized that she was onto a great idea – footless panty hose.  Seven years later Spanx was on its way to becoming $150 million business.  Her product line had greatly expanded beyond footless panty hose to a whole line of body shaping undergarments, not girdles, but enough to firm so that many users claim they loose two inches when wearing them.  Spanx comes in a variety of shapes, that run from the bra line to the thigh, and the smooth out the look over all undergarments as well as shaping up the body so it looks its very best in almost any outfit.

Blakely actually had a very difficult time convincing manufacturers (who were all men) that women would want her product.  After hearing no many times, she finally met one manufacturer who initially told her no, but after showing the product to his daughters, he called Blakely back and told her although he personally thought the idea was strange, his daughters thought it was the greatest idea they had ever seen.

Panty lines are a problem that most, if not all, women have faced.  Also, many women are always searching for ways to look their best.  When presented with a product that can cover up panty lines, even with open toed shoes, and at the same time shape up their bodies, women instantly understand the benefit.  It is this instant recognition of the benefit, along with edgy and effective marketing and packaging, which has turned Spanx into the huge success it is today.

Lashpro, Curl Those Eyelashes

Staying on the theme of high fashion, our second inventor, Stephanie Kellar pick a product area, eyelash curlers, where products had not changed much since the original eyelash curler was introduced in the 1920s.  These eyelash curlers could pinch women’s faces and were cumbersome and awkward to use.  A second problem was that the eyelash curler was small and could easily over curl the eyelashes.  Keller reinvented the product, moving the curler away from the face and adding a much larger curling surface to minimize the risk of over curling the eyelashes.  Kellar introduced the product, which retails for about $20.00 and quickly sold to 50 high end stores like Henri Bendel and Nordstrom.

Kellar’s success came very quickly because people saw the benefit immediately, which existed primarily because the current products didn’t work well.  When your product solves a problem that people know they have, they are quick to see the benefit.

Electotrack, Plugs Every 8 feet

Holiday outdoor lights require lots of extension cords, but do they need to?  Kevin O’Rourke, an electrical contractor didn’t think so, instead all you need is one cord with plugs every eight feet or so and then one electrical cord can do the work of 20.  Then in a flash O’Rourke licensed his idea just months after he had his patents in place and a full working prototype.   The Electrotrack sells for $69.95 in stores like Ace Hardware, Lowe’s Target and has been featured several times on QVC.

Once again, the benefit is strong because the need is strong, the other products just do not work well and people recognized a solution immediately.

Mountain Boards – Snow Boards with Wheels

Jason Lee and Patrick McConnell didn’t get their benefit from solving a problem; their benefit from giving users exactly what they wanted: extreme danger. Adding big wheels onto a snowboard, and then calling it a Mountain Board, with the mobility to go down the mountain at unheard of speeds was just what your everyday crazy snowboarder was looking for in the tamer summer months.  They launched the product after the year’s snow melted away had over a million dollars of sales before the year was over.

Lee and McConnell knew what daredevils wanted, because they were daredevils themselves.  They went for a fast and furious product that their target customers immediately related to.  The main benefit is that the Mountain Board gives daredevils more opportunity to live out their creed all year round, namely, that we could live or die, but we’ll have fun in the meantime.

The Clean Shower – a Household Name

Robert Black was a retired chemist who lived in Florida, where the water is bad and leaves a crusty film on the shower wall.  Black didn’t mind, but his wife did, and she was after him all the time to come up with a solution that would keep the shower clean.  Black worked for a few years and then had a solution, a simple spray that could be used after a shower that kept the shower walls perfectly clean.  Black took the product out on his own and was selling over $100 million per year before he was bought out by Proctor and Gamble.

Black learned that what counts for an obvious benefit is not so much the product itself, but rather how end users perceive the problem that the product is going to solve.  If the product addresses a problem that is known and important to users, you will have a product that will communicate a strong benefit to end users.

The Java Jacket – One of My Favorite Stories

When Jay Sorenson bought coffee in convenient stores and coffee shops it was always too hot to hold in a single disposable cup.  He noticed that many people used two cups so that they handle the coffee without burning their hands.  Sorenson then came up with the original idea for the little piece of corrugated cardboard that fits over a coffee cup and keeps your hand cool.  The benefit is obvious to the end users, but Sorenson didn’t need to sell the product to end users, but to convenient stores and coffee shops.  Furthermore, his customers (convenient stores and coffee shops) didn’t sell the product to end users – they gave the product away for free.  How could Sorenson convince his potential customers to buy from him?  He had to find the benefit that made sense for his potential customers.  His Java Jacket was only half the cost of an empty coffee cup, so his customers could cut their costs from a double cup down to a Java Jacket and single cup.  That benefit is obvious, easy to understand and important.  Shortly after introducing the product Sorenson was selling over $16 million per year.

Don’t always assume the benefit is just for the end user.  Benefits to the distribution channel can be just as important, and just as powerful.  Better packaging, better terms, easier to handle product lines are all important benefits to the distribution channel and companies spend as much time looking for advantages in the distribution channel as they do looking for advantages for end users.

CD and DVD repairs

Have you ever had a CD or DVD skip or play a very distorted sound or picture.  Well that can be easily repaired because rarely is the electronic signal distorted, instead the optical layer is damaged.  Repair the optical layer and that $15 to $20 CD or DVD is as good as new.  Daniel Henry knew that and he put together the very first optical repair kit called Wipe Out and he was ready to roll.  But at first sales were a huge dud.  A great benefit and people wouldn’t buy. Why – they didn’t know CDs and DVDs could be repaired. They thought it was a hoax.  Once again pointing out it the obvious benefit is not because of the product, but because of the end users perceptions either of your product or their problem.

Henry bounced back by running a major publicity program to editors of key magazines, sending out free samples and telling editors to try and repair their damaged CDs and DVDs. They tried the product, it worked and the praised the product widely in print –leading to big sales of Wipe Out.  With endorsements on the package consumers started to believe and the product was a big hit.

How to Proceed

When you start to evaluate whether or not your product has a truly obvious benefit, don’t concentrate on the product, concentrate on the problem or situation the product addresses.  Ask people if they experience the problem you are addressing, and see how they describe. Eric Teng, who created the Garlic Twist, a new and easier way to mince garlic, started out by asking people if they ever used a garlic press, the old fashion way to mince garlic, and if they did how they felt it worked and what they thought could be done to improve the product.  When one person after another complained about the press, Teng knew he had a winner, and his product’s sales of over $600,000 a year demonstrate that the Garlic Twists benefit is indeed truly obvious.

Don Debelak offers affordable patent work. Check out http://patentsbydondebelak.com/

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