There is a special fulfillment in being an entrepreneur and having one business product last over 20 years. In this, I’ve worn most of the hats. I manufacture my own patented design and have sold wholesale/distributor and retail. There are a few things I’ve learned and observed over the years that I don’t think a lot of companies quite get.
Working individually, I get to understand the product intimately: how it is made – the quality of the raw materials and the final piece – and the reactions from the customer. This is the most rewarding part and many a time, when the work has been taxing and I’m contemplating pulling the plug, a random customer would call or send a note to let me know that not only did they like the product (“Wonderful” was often used) but it added to their positive experience with breastfeeding. And I just had to continue on. I also got to know and enjoy the people who sewed or worked with me. And it was a delight to build working relationships with really awesome retailers and health professionals.
When I first realized that I had designed a nursing pad that had benefits over the current offerings, I ran a Market Test with women who knew somebody who knew somebody. There was no reason for this person to like my design or to try to find something they liked about it in order to not “hurt my feelings.” (In other words, don’t ask your friends to give “the” opinion.) Each set of 4 pads went out with a questionnaire about the quality and use, but also asking if they had a product they already used and what they thought about it. There were about a dozen women testing, and their comments were invaluable. I made a change and sent them more pads. About 9 of them purchased more. That’s when you see that you have offered something worthwhile. (One gal didn’t purchase more; but, sent me the questionnaire almost a year later with her happy review. She simply hadn’t leaked until she weaned.)
In order to apply for a patent, it is important to do your research. I had to look seriously at the similar products out there, both disposable and washable. I had to not only ensure that my design was unique and not already offered, but I had to formulate just how it was different. I would consider how it could hang beside other products in a storefront and present itself well. Is the product a repeat of other products, or does it compliment the selections as another viable option? The packaging and the product also reflects on the retailer, so it also needs to express a professional look and guarantee customer satisfaction. “We offer six selections of nursing pads….The Milk Diapers quickly became the popular choice.”
When a person likes a product, they tend to talk and share. They come back and buy more. As noted above, the product could sell itself. Health professionals often said that they’d been looking for something like this. And its attributes conformed to the recommendations of good breast care.
So even if you don’t apply for the protection of a patent, this kind of research is the basis for any product you develop or distribute. Give yourself time to gain a full understanding of your intentions and of how the product performs and how the competing products perform. I encourage you to choose products or services that “sell themselves” and show respect to your customers or clients. It’s pretty amazing when a customer tells you that “someone” has been recommending your product and you’ve never sent them any of your sales pitch!
What’s the best compliment you have gotten as a business owner or blogger?