This month, all of my blogs are going back to basics to answer a question:
What are the first steps you should take with a new invention idea to move forward in the best way?
Today's blog is New Invention – What Should be my Third Step?
If you haven't read the prior 2 blogs in the series, just click below to access them directly:
The Third Step – Simple is Always Better
Today’s blog is about your third step forward – it will pick up where last week’s blog left off.
I mentioned that in many ways, launching a new invention is a bit like buying an expensive racehorse – you may easily spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars over a period of years. You want to make sure in the beginning that you move forward in ways that give you the best chances for success, to actually make money from your invention.
So, what is your third step? You must be able to answer the below question:
Is my product a simple, inexpensive consumer item or is it more complex, more expensive?
Unless you have deep knowledge and industry expertise and lots of contacts, I highly recommend against moving forward if your product is the latter: expensive or complex.
Even if you are an industry expert and you have a great network of contacts, achieving success with an expensive, complex product is analogous to pushing a very heavy rock up a steep hill – at any moment it could roll back to the bottom of the hill and you will have to start all over again! Put bluntly, your chances for success are very low with expensive, complex items.
Why do I say that? Read on for details.
Don't sell an iPhone Type of Product Unless You Are Apple
With the huge success of the iPhone, it is easily forgotten that the new, innovative cell phone when it first launched in 2007 was controversial and had a lot of consumer pushback initially. At that time, consumers were used to simple, inexpensive cell phones, many of which were flip phones that were quite compact. All had keyboards for doing simple text messages. At that time, cell phones were used primarily for actually making phone calls and some text messaging. Users liked the miniature typewriter feel of cell phones that had keyboards.
To consumers, the new iPhones seemed both complex and expensive compared to the simple phones they had owned then. In 2007, $499 was a lot of money for a cell phone and there was no keyboard or keypad, only a flat glass screen with a bunch of iconic images. Many consumers did not like the idea of tapping on a flat glass to make phone calls or text messages: where was the keyboard they all knew and loved? They had iPods and other devices to play music. Why would they want to use a phone to also play music?
As a result, there was a lot of push back in the beginning and it required millions of dollars in ad spending by Apple to teach consumers how using these strange new phones, that were expensive, would actually be beneficial for them. It is expensive when you have to educate consumers before they can use your product and there is a lot of risk that many consumers simply won't bother to do so.
My point is that Steve Jobs was willing to take the calculated risk that he hoped would pay off in the long run – and he was right. He knew that he and Apple would have to weather a storm of criticism and skepticism in the beginning. But, Apple was even then, quite a large corporation and they could afford to weather the storm. The rest is history.
Quick and Easy Does It
Most people today feel overworked and overstressed. Many spend hours every day at work either sitting in meetings or reading and responding to emails in addition to handling their ‘real' work each day. At the end of the day, they feel mentally exhausted. They want quick and easy choices when they buy consumer products. They feel their brains are already overtaxed. They expect the products they buy to work ‘out of the box' with little (and preferably no) assembly. The last thing they want to do is buy products with instructions and user's manuals. They don't want to be ‘educated' in how to use all the ‘bells and whistles' of a product – they expect it to be easy and intuitive to use immediately.
Lastly, hesitate before buying more expensive items, they feel they must ‘think' about it first. If your are marketing such a product, consumers may spend months or years ‘thinking about' buying it. Retailers don't like slow moving items and yours will be just that if it is more expensive or complex.
But it is easy to justify buying a $19.95 product or even one for $24.95. When the cost gets above that point, there is considerably more consumer resistance – this is a key reason that so many as seen on TV items sell for $19.95. Cheaper is better and opens the doors to millions of buyers. Furthermore, inexpensive consumer items sell well during strong and weak economic times.
If you can design a consumer product that is very inexpensive to manufacture ($5 or less), sells for $20 or less, and solves an annoying problem that millions of consumers experience, you could have a hit on your hands.
Something to think about.