Every inventor loves his/her invention as if it were their child. We love it even if no one else does and we bristle when an outsider has any criticism of our invention. Right? You know it is true.
Here is the problem. You will never succeed with your invention with that attitude – it is the Achille's heal of almost every inventor.
Here is a link to a post I wrote a couple months ago on responding to criticism. But, in this post, I want to take the topic to the next level.
Click on the Mining Gold from Criticism red button for lots more information on receiving criticism.
Seek Feedback and Criticism for Your Invention
Do what most inventors dread – actively seek feedback and criticism about your invention as soon as you can.
But, remember, your family, friends, and work colleagues do not count. They will tell you what they think you want to hear – a glowing report of your great idea. While this may feed your ego, it will certainly not fuel success for your invention. So they don't count, sorry.
You may say, “but, I'm not ‘ready' yet.”
If you have a working prototype so that someone can understand your invention and you can clearly show it's benefits, you are ready. But whom should you contact to get feedback and critique? The good news is you don't have to go very far or spend any money.
Whom to Approach and How to Approach Them
Let's say that you have an improved garden tool that makes sowing your seeds and weeding your garden dramatically easier.
You have lots of nearby sources to get feedback on your product. Lowe's, Home Depot, and any local nursery and garden store. The key to getting valuable feedback is in knowing whom to approach and how to approach them.
Ideally, you are looking for a store manager or a buyer. When possible, meet with the store manager. Be aware that the store manager is busy and is not typically taking appointments from people just dropping by.
Here is your approach.
Do a bit of research on the internet. You can find the names and profiles of several store managers with a quick search on LinkedIn. A Google search may also give you some information. With a bit more research, you could find the store manager's name at your nearest Lowe's before you even leave home. If you know the local store manager's name in advance, it gives you a bit more credibility. Let's say it is Brian Smith.
Take your invention with you, but leave it in the car.
You should go to the store during a time of day when it is not too busy (if possible) and ask someone at Customer Service what is the best way to get in touch with Brian Smith. If you don't know the store manager's name, ask who is the store manager. They may have his business card or at least his phone number or email. Ask if he is currently available in the store (he may not be). If possible, go to see him if he is available. A direct approach is great whenever possible.
If he is available, very briefly mention to him that you have developed an improved garden tool that might work for Lowe's. Tell him you'd love to simply get his opinion and that you are not trying to sell anything, just to get his feedback on the product and its utility. This is pretty non-invasive. If he seems interested, then say, “actually I can grab it out of my car if you have 5 minutes.”
If not, ask if you can set up a very brief, 15 minute appointment with him, at his convenience, to briefly show him your product and get his opinion.
What to Do When You Meet with the Store Manager
Plan on taking no more than 15 minutes of the manager's time. Once you have shown him your product and briefly described its benefits, then you want to ask just 3 questions:
- Does this look like a product that could sell at a Lowe's store?
- What does he think might be the retail price for your product in a Lowe's store?
- What would be a typical wholesale cost for your product?
Short, sweet, and simple. If he says no to question 1, ask him without being defensive, why not. The answer will be of value to you.
You will get valuable information from the above exercise. Years ago, I did this with a buyer at JC Penney corporate HQ (which is in my town) for my wallet product. I knew he wouldn't buy from a ‘small entity.' The wholesale price was significantly less than I'd hoped as was the retail price. It was disappointing, but valuable information.
After your first meeting, plan to meet with other store managers or buyers using the same approach. More feedback is always better. You might use the information to make some changes or improvements to your product.
Don't forget to click on the Mining Gold from Criticism red button below for more perspective on handkling criticism.