Inventing a product is one thing – selling it is something entirely different.
There are some lucky product developers who are blessed with natural talent for both inventing and marketing/sales – however, the vast majority find themselves in need of some assistance when it comes to figuring out how to actually sell the product they’ve spent so much time on.
There are a couple of different avenues you can take to get your product into the market. It’s important to note that these avenues apply only if you’re retaining all rights to your product, and not licensing to another company. If you’re licensing it, that company will handle all sales and marketing activities.
The internet’s made life easier in about 100 million little ways (that’s an estimate, of course), and one of them is connecting businesses with potential customers.
If you’ve got a product that you’re ready to sell, it’s possible to get it on the market in literally hours. All you have to do is use an online marketplace like Etsy, Amazon, or eBay, assuming you meet all the site’s specific criteria for sellers.
In general these online marketplaces are best for smaller runs of products, which means they can be a great way to test whether your idea is commercially viable. Starting small means you don’t have to make a huge financial investment up front, plus it allows you to garner feedback so you can make adjustments to your product as needed.
The same is true of setting up your own website to sell your product. This is a bit more time- and resource-intensive, but it can be worth it if you’re fairly certain your product has market viability. Having a nicely designed site for your product can help it gain credibility – and that, plus a customer base, can help you when and if you need to approach investors or retailers.
If you want to see your product on physical store shelves, the best choice in most cases is: start small.
Unless you’re working closely with a company that already has a relationship with Target or Costco, don’t expect to get your product in national retailers for a long time, if ever – that kind of exposure can take months or years to work up to, and selling a product through a retail giant is still an exception, rather than the rule.
Usually, your time will be much better spent in pitching smaller and/or local retailers. They’re much more able to take risks with new products because they can just order, say, 5 at a time to see how they perform.
This also takes some of the pressure off of you, as by starting small you stand a better chance of keeping up with demand. This is something larger businesses will want to see if you decide to approach them later down the line.
Finally, small businesses are a wonderful way to solicit feedback. The store owners will likely be willing to share their own thoughts on the product with you, as well as let you know what customers have said. If you’ve got a good relationship with the retailer, this information can prove invaluable as you continue refining your product and your marketing plan.
And if you do want to approach large, multi-location or national retailers, be sure to use your network. Use LinkedIn, talk with colleagues, and go through your contacts to see if there’s anyone who might be able to help you get an introduction at the retailer.
Getting your product onto the market doesn’t have to be hard. All you really need – at least, at first – is to get it up online, so you can start making a few sales. Having that customer base will make it much easier to get your product into brick-and-mortar stores, whether they’re small boutiques or massive chains.
For more on selling and marketing your product, check out our ebook “Turn a Great Idea into a Thriving Business.“