Copyright 2006 Joe McVoy
Heres how to create successful new products if youve never had an original idea in your life. I’m not very creative, so thats the only way I could create any products at all. All Ive done is to create new products by improving on an existing product that already sells well. By doing this Ive sold over $39 Million of products to major retailers.
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 dont have that problem.
Heres 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 thats 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 Targets 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.
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 $2.00!
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……
MAKE IT BETTER, FASTER & CHEAPER
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. Its 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!
THE BOTTOM LINE
You dont have to be an inventor to develop new products – in fact, its better if you arent that smart. Its a lot easier to take something that already is selling well and make it better – and its a lot more likely to be successful too.