Launching a New Product in Today's Changed Reality

The Internet Is now the best way to launch a new consumer-oriented invention. It may be the only way.

During the past few decades the economics and strategies of launching a new product have radically changed. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the changes even further to the point that it's now pointless to even try and launch a new consumer product via bricks and mortar distribution.

In the pre-Internet stone age, the process of making a new product was hard. 3D printing and CAD design barely existed and China was just beginning to open for business. But while the steps of designing, prototyping and manufacturing were difficult and expensive, introducing the product to the market was pretty easy. There were big trade shows with buyers eagerly searching the bargain basement booths for new products and editors of magazines and newspapers were pleased to run stories on innovations and innovators (and those magazines and newspapers had large audiences).

Today the situation is reversed. Turning an invention idea into a manufactured product is pretty easy. But getting it in front of customers has never been harder. Sure, you can get your product onto Amazon and set up a store on Shopify in a day or two. But getting people to check it out without losing your shirt on paid advertising? That's never been harder.

This reality confronts both inventors seeking to launch their own new products as well as the companies inventors might want to license to. But before getting into that, I want to take a step sideways. A weird thing about pandemic retailing is that bricks and mortar merchants like Home Depot and Wal-Mart are killing it. They have seen huge growth in sales because people are spending more time at home cooking and doing DIY projects. This has also been a great time for the established manufacturers that already have products on Depot/Wal-Mart shelves (if they can get inventory). However, at the same time (in our experience) there's no bandwidth for anything new and licensing on the premise of bricks and mortar distribution is impossible.

That leaves inventors and new product manufacturers with selling directly to consumers via Internet and, to a lesser extent, via TV and printed catalogs (still a thing). If licensing is your goal, then you need to target companies that have online success.

Here at Invention City we're responding to the new reality by re-committing ourselves to crowdfunding via Kickstarter and Indiegogo. A successful launch will give us the option of selling the product on our own and a big leg up in possible future licensing deals. Those of you following us closely may remember that we tried a kind of half-way crowdfunding of our VertiGrille on our own platform a couple of years ago (it's doing ok but not brilliantly). Discussing why that launch was a dud and why we're still optimistic for VertiGrille's future is a blog post for another time. But the bottom line is that we now believe there's value in using an established crowdfunding platform rather than going solo.

We have six projects in pre-launch stages with more in the wings. As I've written previously, the single most important ingredient for crowdfunding success is having a large base of interested backers in place BEFORE you launch. The trick is building an email list of people who have expressed interest in a non-existent product AFFORDABLY.

We've been searching for magic list-building bullets that we can use on our own and have looked into hiring companies that might have already found them. So far, we can't find any enchanted bullets and no one else seems to have them either. What we have found is that taking a new product from idea through successful crowdfunding is nearly as expensive as launching a full fledged company. The ONLY difference is that you don't need to invest in tooling and initial inventory. There's no fairy godmother. Just grinding away day after day.

This means that for a simple product in the idea stage, you might expect to spend upwards of a year of time and $50,000+ to raise $100,000+ for a first production run... which, after cost of goods etc. are deducted, will probably net you roughly $0. BUT, you'll have a customer base and be positioned to make profits on future sales - in other words, if you have an entrepreneurial outlook, that means the glass is half full! (If it was easy and sane, everybody would do it).

We continue to be open to licensing great new product ideas. If you'd like us to consider yours, please submit it to us for consideration either free (no feedback) or through our Brutally Honest Review ($95 and great feedback). If we say "yes" we'll offer you a deal that will cost you $0 for us to take the invention forward.

- Mike Marks

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