The next three blogs will address three topics important to inventors:
Today's topic: Feedback
The process of dreaming up an idea, transforming it into an invention, then a product, and getting it into the marketplace is a meticulous, difficult and lengthy process. Along the way, we tend to become personally attached to the product to the extent that we often lose objectivity and may view any criticism of it as an attack upon ourselves or at least our credibility.
The ability to maintain some detachment and to objectively consider all feedback is crucial for success as an inventor.
Below are three types of feedback inventors typically receive about their products:
- Paths to market
- Product features to keep or omit
- Pricing, packaging, etc.
Paths to market
Years ago, I met with a key buyer from JC Penney about my Savvy Caddy wallet. He liked the product, but made it clear that the company did not work with “small entities” like mine. In other words, my plan to sell wholesale to Penney and to get into their retail stores was not likely to succeed. Instead, he told me I might license it to Buxton and then they would take it to all JC Penney stores. I had envisioned one path to market and he recommended a different one.
Later I was rebuffed in attempting to license to a large manufacturer. My contact suggested I consider selling the product on QVC instead. He told me that my product required a “story” or some explaining for consumers to get it. No one in retail stores would take the time or effort for that. In both circumstances, instead of being offended, I asked a very important question: why? The answers to the why question were elucidating and very helpful.
Product Features to Keep or Omit
This kind of feedback is most common to licensing discussions.
The inventor typically likes all of the bells and whistles of his or her product.The manufacturer, however, prioritizes features based upon consumer appeal versus cost to manufacture. Features that increase manufacturing costs can only be justified if there is a strong consumer appeal that may increase sales. Feature critiques are often difficult for the inventor to accept. All business deals require give and take.
Pricing, Packaging, etc.
As anyone who watches Shark Tank knows, pricing misperceptions are common. The inventor thinks a retail price of $29.95 is fine for their premium socks when stores typically sell 3 pairs for $9.95. Why would a consumer pay three times as much?
This type of feedback can be beneficial if the inventor will listen and consider the reasons behind the suggestions.
Not all feedback is on target, the inventor may have solid research to back their approach. What is crucial is that the inventor consider all feedback in an open-minded way and not be afraid to make changes they had not previously planned upon.