Inventor strikes gold!

When you tell someone you’re an inventor they often look at you a little odd. Some people even assume you’re a little crazy. but we’re really not. Are we?

Okay – sorry to break this to you but some of us are a little odd. In fact some inventors are downright crazy. Crazy that is for thinking the inventing industry is a place they can find achievement with little effort.

America-Gold-Rush-nugget-631_jpg__800x600_q85_cropFueled by media stories of wild success and inventor shows that hype your ability to make millions from a bar napkin idea. People often run to the inventing industry like it was the California gold rush of 1849.

In a sense I guess it is a little like the gold rush. There are wild stories of riches, people flocking to get their share, massive failure, and even invention companies telling you how rich you will get as they sell you a shovel to dig your hole.

Did he say failure? That’s right, massive failure.

You see, even the most educated and well prepared inventors fail more than they succeed. In fact, they often fail many times before they ever find success. So it’s no big surprise that the “gold rush” inventors with their lack of understanding and almost zero willingness to learn, are failing at an amazing rate.

When they do, the result is often anger and distaste for both the inventing process and the industry itself. Like many of us they invested in their dream, and like we all do at some point or another – they failed.

What they really failed at wasn’t their product or invention. What they failed at was developing the skills to succeed in the industry. Often they look for a shortcut to fame and fortune that as professional inventors we all know simply doesn’t exist.

The reality of this modern day gold rush is the same as 1849 – many will come and few will succeed.

Those who do succeed are the ones that take the time to educate themselves on the process and hone their craft. There may be a map you can follow in terms of your process, but there are no shortcuts to success in the inventing industry.

Mark Reyland

Who invented advice anyway?

I don’t know much, but I do know about inventing, and I do know about advice. In fact, I’ve been giving inventors advice for years, and I’ve seen the many mistakes inventors make when it comes to advice.

When your the inventor, you’re the one who has to make the big decisions, the hard choices. If you’re new to inventing (or even if you’re a professional) the responsibility can be daunting, hard on the self-esteem, and you may find your head spinning. Here’s a little advice on advice from an inventor who gives out a lot of advice.

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Mistake #1 – Too Much Expert Advice
We all know there is no shortage of “experts” in the inventing industry. Some good, some bad, and some very bad. So pick your experts carefully. While it’s often good to get expert advice, it can be bad to rely entirely on expert advice. Seek out the advice of experts and experienced professionals but understand it’s a single data point in a collection of advice that at some point can become unmanageable by volume.

Mistake #2 – Overestimating Outside Advice
In the inventing industry we have a tendency to mint experts. To a novice inventor those freshly minted experts are the people we look up to, the people we respect. But people who have our respect and admiration can sometimes lead us astray or take advantage of our lack of experience. Make sure you consider the perspective of these people – after all many of them have something to sell.  Even worse, many of them have no clue what they’re talking about. Remember, it’s a single data point. Take their advice and use it but don’t blindly follow it just because you’re enamored with them.

Mistake #3 – Underestimating Outside Advice
Like our experts, we also have a nasty tendency to mint villains. There are certain people we automatically discount because we read or heard something bad about them. Maybe what you heard was true, or maybe it was just the jaded rants of an inventor who had been told what they didn’t want to hear. Either way, remember it’s just a data point, put it in the mix with all the others and use it as part of your process.

Mistake #4 – Only Hearing What You Want to Hear
Inventors bring this mistake to a new level. We are masters at selective hearing because we want to hear things that further our hope and excitement. Refusing to hear the truth doesn’t make it go away. We want what we want, but we’re not going to get it by ignoring reality. You’ll know if your expectations and desires are getting in the way of your decision making if you find yourself doing a lot of rationalizing and defending. Your baby may be ugly – open your eyes and your ears to the facts and deal with them.

Mistake #5 – Not Trusting Yourself
Sometimes intuition is the best guide. Our brains work on so many levels when processing information that we aren’t always capable of deciphering the many components of what we’re being told. When that happens we turn to our intuition – the secret weapon of intellect that allows us to bring the power of both body and mind together in a singular focus. Trust your intuition to guide you through the maze of advice you will receive on your inventing journey, allow it to form your perspective.

The bottom line is to tune into your own thought process. Be honest with yourself and make sure you aren’t rationalizing things that aren’t there. Be strong and have the courage to hear the truth even when the truth robs your hope and destroys your dreams.

Mark Reyland

Walmart buys one million taco plates from inventor

By Scott Inman,

He invented Taco Plates? That’s right – An Arkansas inventor is putting his creation onto Walmart store shelves. Hugh Jarratt of Fayetteville says the retail giant put in an order for 1 million of his plastic taco plates Tuesday.

71g66VHL7pL__SX425_The plates are plastic, with slots made into them that keep tacos upright.

Jarratt was one of 800 inventors to go before Walmart buyers to pitch their products in the company’s first-ever “Open-Call” for U.S. inventors.

It’s part of a new initiative by the company to get more American products on store shelves.

“It kind of hit us for a second, I was like, ‘OK, so we got to produce a million taco plates. Where do we start?” Jarratt’s wife Nicole said.

Jarratt said he and his wife, who is also his business partner, are working with a local plastics molding company to produce the plates.

 

These inventors say Edison Nation is a Scam

There are few companies in the inventing industry I dislike more than Edison Nation. There are also few people in the industry that I distrust more than their founder Louis Foreman.

There – I said it – now you know how years of watching this company exploit misplaced trust, trample on hope, and in many cases walk off with inventor patents in the middle of the night, have shaped my opinion .

what-people-say-about-your-houseBut let’s be fair. Edison Nation only holds this top spot because we’ve (as an industry, and with a little help from Karma) have managed to drive others out of business. Companies like Absolutely New and Quirky were high on the list for years. Now gone, there is only one large, exploitive, ineffective, and many would say dishonest company left – Edison Nation.

All of that said. Don’t take my word for it. Here are some comments from people who have used Louis Foreman’s Edison Nation and report their experiences.

“That is a SCAM I myself fell with the idea of making it. Spent almost $300 just to realize i was throwing that good money through the drain, I do not trust them AT ALL.”

“As I read reviews online about Edison Nation, I came across a few that read almost verbatim to my experience with this company! I submitted an idea to them and it made it to the 3rd tier only to stop there. I thought ok, that’s fine but THEN less than one year, I saw an advertisement for my same idea – right down the EXACT illustration mock ups, ad-copy and other information that I submitted directly to Edison Nation! I was floored and angry and hurt all at once.”

“Please be very careful in dealing with these people and we need to get the government involved something is very wrong!”

“you get what you pay for” still applies. Edison Nation and a couple of bucks will still get you a cup of coffee”

“Unfortunately, I trusted Edison Nation and did not read the fine print in the contract you must submit to do business with them and I did not have a patent. I later learned that even if I had had a patent, they reserve the right to reassign the patent to themselves.”

“I was a member there for a couple of years and I can tell you that Louis Foreman and company are laughing all the way to the bank! They’ve COMPLETELY sucked in thousands of people by convincing them that they’ll be safe from all the unscrupulous inventor assistance companies out there.”

Again, we want to be fair to Louis and his company by pointing out a couple of things. First, while there are what appear to be hundreds of complaints like this online – there are also a few that support Edison Nation. Second, this is the internet, and I will be the first to caution you to keep what you read in perspective.

The fact in my mind remains. After many years watching these companies exploit inventors Edison Nation is the only large company of its kind still out there. Indications (they have laid off a good portion of their staff in the last year) are that they are starting to topple, but as long as they’re operating, people with hopes, dreams, and $25.00 are still being taken advantage of.

Do your homework, dial down your emotions, and understand there is no avoiding the hard work of personal achievement – especially not in this industry.

Mark Reyland

Developing a product Sales Deck

We’ve looked at the seven steps to retail. Then we dug deeper into the document set for positioning your product, looking first at Sell Sheets and then Order Forms. Now it’s time to take a look at the new kid on the block in terms of sales collateral.

fghdfgThe Product Power Point presentation – or what we call the “Sales Deck”

In the old days (maybe five years ago) we would have created a simple spec sheet. As you remember we said never to put any changeable information on your sell sheet. Mainly because they are expensive to print. However, we still needed to provide the information, so we used the spec sheet and staples it to the sell sheet.

Today that simple document has grown into a combination Sell Sheet and Spec Sheet rolled up into a three or four page power point presentation, or Sales Deck.

Let’s explore each page and the information contained on it – but remember, what you see here is what I build into my sales decks. It doesn’t mean you have to use the same style, or even the same exact information.

The Title Page: As it says, this is the cover of your presentation and normally contains a glamour shot of the product designed to get the reader’s attention and show them what the presentation will be about.

PowerPoint Presentation

The Data Page: This page is where we place the information that was once on the Spec Sheet. Each presentation is unique, and you can read the table for yourself. However, pay attention to some of the other things you see on this page. Items such as the MSRP, bullet statements about the benefits, a “Product Headline”. In this case the headline is “The ONLY Vented grilling foil on the market” This statement is designed to tell the reader the single most important fact you want them to know about the product, so make it central to the page and put it out there where it can be seen!

PowerPoint Presentation

The Display Page: As I’ve said before I’m a big supporter of new products bringing their own shelf. As you can see from the display page, in this case we’ve designed the displays so the buyer can order the product in a number of configurations.

There are no wrong answers here. In fact, the displays you see on this page don’t even exists. These are artists renderings designed to give the buyer an idea of what we intend to offer. We of course don’t tell the buyers that because we don’t; want to encourage them to change the displays – but we know they will. So the actual dimentionalization of the displays will happen after the first big orders. No sense paying to dimentionalize (calculate the size and produce the cut/art files) knowing they’re going to want changes. We’ll take all the retailer input and fold it into a final display design that works for them all.

PowerPoint Presentation

The Contact Page: What’s the adage? They can’t beat a path to your door if they don’t know your address. Well, it’s true. Chances are if you’re using a Master Rep, and Sub Reps, the contact information in this Sales Deck will change to reflect the sales rep using it.

PowerPoint Presentation

As you can see in these pages, the sales deck contains some very useful information for the buyer. It also gives you a chance to get more information out there that you want them to know.

Remember, in addition to being no more than four pages. The sales deck is an office printed document, always in color, but printed on your home/office computer. Why? because we know the information is going to change.

Now you’ve seen the three basic documents we use to position a product for retail. The Sell Sheet, The manual Order Form, and The Sales Deck. Not overly complicated, but when a retailer asks for a sample – all three documents should be in the box.

Mark Reyland

Old School order form? Still important

We live in a day and age where most things are electronic. We purchase items online, and with our phones. We communicate and process data every day, never touching a single piece of paper.

Most larger retailers do the same thing using one of two primary ordering platforms – Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Walmart’s Retail Link (RL)

sdgadsgadElectronic Data Interchange (EDI) is an electronic communication method that provides standards for exchanging data between companies. By adhering to the same standard, two different companies or organizations, even in two different countries, can electronically exchange documents such as purchase orders, invoices, shipping notices, and many others.

Retail Link If you are a supplier who has done business with Walmart, you have certainly heard of Walmart’s Retail Link. Through Retail Link, Walmart essentially gives vendors all the information about their product by Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) and then makes the supplier responsible for the profit.

Of course, these are the two primary ways most large, and some medium retailers process their orders – but not all of them.

Some medium, and certainly most small retailers don’t use these systems because of their cost and complexity – preferring to order goods the Old School way – with a sheet of paper.

For that reason let’s talk for a moment about the good old trusty order form.

To properly position your product for retail will require you to have a fulfillment function where orders are sent, and goods are processed before being sent out to the retailer. This is where much of the information on an order form is needed. So let’s take a look at the main areas of the form itself.

The Company Information: This is of course the name and address of the fulfillment center or wherever you happen to be fulfilling the orders from.

Bill To Section: Obviously this is the information where you or your fulfillment center are going to send the bill.

Send To Section: Not always the same as the Bill To address so you need both sections.

Payment Information: In this case the order form accepts Credit Cards, you may as well, or maybe this section would contain information on who to make checks payable to, or how to wire funds.

Sales Reps: You likely have sales reps set up by either geography (not done much) or by account. You need to tell the fulfillment center which sales person sold the order (each rep is normally set up in the system with a unique identifier) so they know where the commissions should be sent.

Trade References: When a company is ordering product they are essentially taking out a loan. You will be expected to put up the money to the factory, and extend credit to the retailer for 30,60,90, even 120 days. Make sure you check the retailers Dunn & Bradstreet number (commercial credit rating normally referred to as a Dunns number) and trade references.

Item Information: Obviously you need to show them what you’re selling and give them a place to tell you what they would like to purchase. Each item you offer for sale has an item number (you just make those up) and then the cost and MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) about the product for sale.

Authorized Signature: This is important, the order form is a legal document. It must be signed by someone at the retailer who has the authority to spend money on behalf of that company. Ensure the actual buyer is signing this form, not one of the assistant buyers, or an administrative person.

Order

Note: The form itself is best printed in triplicate on carbonless paper. This allows the retailer, the fulfillment center, and you to all retain copies for your records.

As you can see, even know the manual order form is Old School, it serves an important function in capturing sales from the lower end of the retail market. The exact place most inventors start out.

So take some time to develop an order form that works for your product, your customer, your fulfillment center, and your sales reps -it will make life a lot easier and you’ll be glad you did.

Mark Reyland

Do Inventors really need a Sell Sheet

Do Inventors really need a Sell Sheet. No, but your sales person sure does.

Yesterday we talked about the basic components that make up product positioning. Today we will dive into one of the three documents needed to interact with retailers – Sell Sheets.

kjgkjhgkjgTo start off we need to explain that there are two forms of sell sheets. One, the “Retailer Sell Sheet” and two, “The Manufacturer’s Sell Sheet” (used for licensing your product) In this post we’re talking only about the Retailer Sell Sheet developed as a sales tool for your reps.

While the designs vary widely, the layout and information on a sell sheet is pretty standard. I’ll use an example of a sell sheet I did recently to show you what I’m talking about.

A retailer’s sell sheet is always an 8.5 x 11 inch, glossy, double sided document.

On the front you will have several key components.

1) A clear and descriptive product title placed in a way that ensures it’s readable and seen.

2) The product “glamour shot”. This is always the central image of your sell sheet front. It shows the product exactly as the buyer will receive it, so don’t play any photo shop tricks with your imagery. Hire a professional photographer or a great graphics renderer to create the images. (every image on this sell sheet is a rendering)

3) Bullet points about the benefits of the product

4) A small paragraph about the product. Not war & Peace, just s few lines of text.

5) The company contact information – not personal contact information

GrillFoil_SS

The back of the sell sheet contains an entirely different set of information. Again, it can vary in design, but on the back you’re getting into more pragmatic detail about the product.

1) I always try to use what I call a “Use Shot” – an image of the unboxed product being used.

2) You need to include the dimensions of your product, along with any details such as thickness, or special standards you meet. In this case 25 microns and over is considered Heavy Duty foil. We know the buyer is going to wonder how many microns this the product is so we tell them.

3) Displays, packages, and groupings, are always on the back of a sell sheet. Big pictures, not small detail. The buyer is going to spend just seconds looking at the sell sheet, so pictures work better than words.

4) Again the company contact information

GrillFoil_SS

Remember, this is a double sided full page, glossy document- It’s not cheap to produce.

If you look closely at the information on both the front and back you’ll notice we included nothing that could change. No pricing, no sales reps names, not even a phone number. This ensures we can use this sheet throughout the life of the product without suffering the expense of making changes.

As an inventor you’re probably thinking, I don’t need anything this fancy. Well, actually you do, that is if you’re going to sell your product to major retailers. These are the professional standards you must meet to work at this level. Anything less will mark you as an armature and they’ll see you coming a mile away.

Oh, and for those of you wondering. With photography, this is about a $4000.00 sell sheet.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about document number two – Order Forms.

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