Archive for the ‘Product Development’ Category

Can You Sell From a Prototype?

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Another frequent question we get is whether you can approach Wal-Mart or another major chain with only a prototype with the plan of getting an order to fund production.

We also get asked if Wal-Mart or other retailers will either buy your idea or product and finance the production for you.

The answer is no & no.

Wal-Mart, Target and other major chains are as concerned about prompt delivery as they are about your product’s saleability.

If all you have is a prototype and need financial help to get into production, that tells them you do not have the financial strength to do business with them.

But don’t despair. All hope is not lost. You can still use your prototype to:

1. Make a licensing or joint venture deal with a company already supplying the chain you want to get in. You will want to find a company already in your target account’s stores who is already selling into the department your product belongs in and who does not have any directly competitive products to yours.

2. Make a joint venture deal with another company to finance production. One good prospect for a JV is whoever will be making your product for you because they have a vested interest in it’s success.

3. Make a deal with a smaller retailer explaining your situation and offering them a head start over any of their competitors.

Product Development The Easy Way – Part 2

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Here’s how to make a new product a for sure winner…


When you make the changes to improve the product, do it for less money, not more! And I don’t mean just a little bit better either – make it a lot better.

A couple examples will show you what I mean.

By watching the trends in my raw materials, I found out right away when the prismatic and holographic materials started to be made of paper instead of vinyl or polyester.

At the same time thin film technology appeared to make the brighter film products much thinner to match the paper costs.

Using these new materials I introduced a seasonal product line of Christmas address labels, gift tags and stickers. What made these different was that while my earlier regular sticker product was a 4″ x 6″ sheet of stickers retailing for $1.00, I was now able to do a 8″ x 10″ sheet of stickers for the same price!

This was over 3 times the stickers for the same price! What do you think happened? If a small sheet sells well for $1.00, how will a package 3 times the size do at the same price?

How about a $592,000 order from Wal-Mart?


This example is not about one of my products. It’s from an inventor I know in Canada who has a process for making plastic and rubber products from recycled tires and scrap plastic.

He started first with those rubber protectors for ice skates. The existing products on the market wore out fast because the sharp ice skate blades kept cutting through the rubber blade covers.

His product was actually more durable and lasted much longer.

But here’s the best part:

Because he used scrap material he gets his raw materials for free! Not only did he make a better product, but instead of a $6.00 retail price, his product retailed for $2.00 and he put all his competitors out of business!


You don’t have to be an inventor to develop new products – in fact, it’s better if you aren’t that smart. It’s a lot easier to take something that already is selling well and make it better – and it’s a lot more likely to be successful too.

Product Development The Easy Way – Part 1

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Here’s how to create successful new products if you’ve never had an original idea in your life.

I’m not very creative, so that’s the only way I could create any products at all. All I’ve done is to create new products by improving on an existing product that already sells well. By doing this I’ve sold over $45 Million of products.

Improving on existing products takes most of the risk away. With a totally new invention or completely new product, you don’t know at first whether it will sell. If you start with something that sells well already and you make it a lot better, you don’t have that problem.

Here’s a story that makes the point:

When I started my first business, my partner had a small screen printing operation and we set up a joint venture together to explore products I would create and sell and he would make. He was selling souvenirs and a popular look at the time was to make decals out of prismatic vinyl. (This a metallic material with a pattern embossed into it to reflect light into rainbows.)

Though I started by selling souvenirs, before long I noticed there were hundreds of companies starting to make stickers for kids and they were collecting them. (Note how quick I was to see this – after 100 other companies were already doing it…).

Most of these stickers were just traditional paper, so I decided to try our prismatic material and see how it would sell. We put a product line together of prismatic stickers on rolls and started selling some gift shops.

Sales were incredible…..

They sold better than anything else in the store so we decided to make some more – and amazingly, they sold well too…

The next step was to put these same stickers in packages to sell to the major chains. Long story short, in another couple years we were in Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, and about every other major retailer and we were selling over $1.0 million of stickers every month!


A few years later, I started another company selling school supplies exclusively to the major chains. We came up with an entire line of folders, notebooks, pens, pencils, 3 ring binders all with the prismatic/holographic look.

All I did is take the look that worked on stickers and put it on another kids product. And that’s not all – I went to companies who already knew how to make all these products and had them made with our holographic look.

Result – another multimillion dollar success. This one even got us the “Best New Vendor of the Year” award from Target’s stationery & school supply department.


I wasn’t done yet – I had also discovered that kids stickers were sold to the medical market as give-aways for pediatricians, dentists and others to give to kids when they came in to their offices.

The products being sold at the time were all plain paper circles just like the retail market had been 5 – 6 years earlier. This time I started a mail order company to sell the prismatic look stickers to medical offices.

Another success….

After we grew to having over 10,000 medical offices and hospitals as customers, I sold this company to a larger competitor.

All in all, 3 national businesses founded and grew from one simple idea applied over and over…..make an existing product better.

Start with this concept – make an existing product better. But instead of depending on the consumer acceptance of the improvements like I did with the examples I gave you, how about making it cheaper too!

The examples above actually cost more than our competitors – in some cases as much as 4 times as much as the paper products we replaced. Retailers were initially very skeptical that the products would sell because of that.

For example, a typical paper portfolio printed in full color with attractive designs was selling for 59 – 69 cents for the nice ones and as low as 29 – 39 cents for the budget models without any art.

Our portfolio was to retail at $1.99!

Though they sold better than everything else, there was quite a bit of initial buyer skepticism because of the price.

Here’s how to make it a sure thing…

How To Find Out If Your Product Will Sell On TV for $500 Instead of $100,000 Or More

Friday, October 15th, 2010

As you will soon find out if you contact infomercial producers, it can be very expensive to produce and air an infomercial for a test.

I have an acquaintance who tests ideas by infomercial routinely but he says you need to be prepared to roll the dice for $250,000 or so for each test (30 minute long form infomercial production, talent and air time). He told me he can afford to write the checks knowing up front he has maybe a 1/10 chance of success because a hit makes him the big dollars.

Although you might find someone who can make you a low budget spot for $10,000, you’ll still need to pay for air time, a call center and analytics. Assuming you don’t have that kind of cash for testing, here’s an easy way to find out for $500 if your product will fly.

Go to a home show.

So, what’s a home show? There are Home & Garden type shows in every major city at least twice per year – spring & fall.

Get yourself a booth and have a dynamic personality do demos of your product in the booth and see what happens. As many as 70,000 people come through a home show over a 4 day period and you will see if your product and demo stops people, see if they stay to watch your demo, and if they buy.

The same things you test for on TV.

Granted your “pitchman” (maybe you) will not be a celebrity, but you should still get a sense for whether your product and attracts interest and sales from a booth cost of only a few hundred dollars.

For a schedule of home shows go to or just put your city name and “Home Show” into Google….

How To Get A Target Buyer To Help You Develop New Products

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I got the senior category buyer at Target to help me develop a new product line for them.

So, how did I do it?

I had a best selling product the previous year so had developed credibility and trust with the buyer as a vendor who made products people wanted and who could deliver on time.

Then, he helped me with the artwork for my following year product line, suggested themes, colors and designs. I sent him designs our artists came up with for his comments.

Target spends more than $100,000 each year on trend and color research so they know what their customers will buy.

So, how likely do you think he was to buy my new line – especially since his input created it?

The result was another best-seller and an award from Target!

The lesson here is that if you create products that make money for retailers, your reception for future products will be completely different.