How to Build a Quick and Profitable Product
Did you get a chance to watch the TV show Pitchmen on The Discovery Channel before it was cancelled? If not, maybe you can find episodes on the Internet. I suggest you watch a few shows because it will make you feel so very good about what you’re about to discover in the book you’re holding.
You probably have seen Billy pitch stuff like cleaners and gadgets on television for years. He was very entertaining and sold a ton.
Though the show was entertaining, it was also sad in a way. Here’s how a typical segment of the show worked:
An inventor whom we’ll call Gus worked for years designing a new-and improved gizmo like a cup holder for the car or perhaps a pocket fishing rod. He sank his lifesavings into designing the product and having it manufactured. Now pallet after pallet of them sits in a warehouse. It seems that his own version of Uncle Moe had plenty of advice on how to sell them but nothing worked.
Through hit and miss, Gus became aware of the Pitchmen show and he wrangled an appointment. He got to stand at one end of a conference table while he demonstrated his cup holder to Billy and Sully for perhaps 60 seconds. The guys asked two or three questions and formulated an instant impression of the product.
In the vast majority of cases both Billy and Sully looked at each other—then, as politely as they could, they thanked Gus for his interesting product and ushered him out of the room. Another inventor’s dreams dashed. In a handful of cases Billy and Sully took on the new product and cut a deal where they financed the next phase in exchange for a very healthy cut of the profits.
The next phase involved making sure the product didn’t infringe on someone else’s trademark or patent, and they reviewed how easily and cheaply it could be mass-produced. Finally, they made a test commercial and ran it in several markets.
The cost of this next phase was always in the five figures and sometimes into six figures. Judging from comments on the show only a fraction of those product candidates ever broke even, never mind making a substantial profit.
I found the process sad because the odds were so stacked against these people making it to the Big Time. They usually mortgaged their houses and sank their lifesavings into the project, in most cases only to be rejected by Billy and Sully. Even when they made it to the final test round, their chances of breaking even were slim and the chances of realizing their dreams and making a fortune seemed to be about as likely as winning the lottery.
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