SO YOU have a great product idea? Even better, you are a gifted designer and can 3D design your own product. You design your product and have a copy made using one of the many online manufacturing options you have like Shapeways or Ponoko. In full anticipation, you wait until the package arrives and you can open it. The product is lovely, and you think it is great. You really would like to try to market your product. So where do you start?
While the last couple of years the options to make your own products and have them produced in small quantities have improved tremendously, but more is involved in launching a product into the market. A product needs to assembled and packaged. You select packaging and order it. You assemble the product and package it. Now you have inventory, and you would like to sell that inventory. So you reach out to shops and distributors and try to convince them to sell your product. If you are lucky they’ll bite immediately, but most of the time it takes time to get your products into a shop. Especially when you are a new designer. You can improve your “brand” by attending trade shows. This means booking a booth, and when the time comes set up the booth and be there a whole week to promote you and your products. Also, you would like to reach out to relevant magazines and plug your products to journalists. It is a great way to get your product into the spotlight.
If you are successful, you can ship your products to your customers. You keep inventory levels up to date and on regular intervals order new parts and assemble your product. Of course, you need to constantly manage the relationships with your suppliers and customers. They are the ones who keep your business going. You setup monthly calls with all of them. And of course there are prospective buyers so you add them too the call list.
Does this sound like a lot of work? Well it is. It is time you cannot spend to do what you love to (“design”) or have to (“work”) depending on where you are. And I have not gotten into the money aspect of it. You have to pay for your inventory. Your suppliers require money upfront or on delivery. Your customers pay only on delivery after 30 days or more. Of course if they do not pay on time, you have to chase them to get paid.
This is something to keep in mind when you are thinking about launching your own product. In my point of view, it is one of the issues with launching and scaling independent products and designers. The amount of time to actually bring a product into the market and launch it, is prohibitive for a lot of people. The current generation of online services in this area only partially covers that market and their level of support is often limited. To really launch a product much more is involved than what they can offer.