We Have a Product – Now What?
We’ve visited tradeshows, or a sourcing agent found us a product. We’ve requested samples and have a product that we want to pursue getting to the market. What happens next?
Testing and Modifying
This is where we get to pretend to be a scientist and put on our lab coats.
Well, not really, but you get the point.
We evaluate, measure and use the product samples we receive. We test them to see how they hold up. We may even have a few other people test them out for us and see what they think. During this process, it is pretty likely that we will find at least one or two design flaws that need to be fixed. While this doesn’t always happen, very rarely is a product perfect on the first try.
In some situations, when a design has flaws, the designer will give up on the product or sell a product that isn’t quite up to par. But at Outshine, we are determined to make our products exactly the way we would want them in our homes, so we go to work to make the best product possible. Failure is an essential part of all product designs and it is what helps us make our products great.
If we’re lucky, the design flaws we discovered are minor and easy to fix. It could be designing something to be a bit more airtight, a heavier weight paper for a piece of stationery, a size adjustment or a tweak in the color of the paint. As a designer, you can’t be discouraged. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Let the Negotiations Begin
There is one thing that is almost always true about sourcing – you get what you pay for.
You’ve found the right manufacturer and worked out all potential issues with your product, but now you have to negotiate several things with your manufacturer. When negotiations are done with a manufacturer, you are working out not only the price of the item, but the quality, terms of payment, delivery, and the relationship you will have with the manufacturer.
Each supplier will have a price that they cannot go below and if you force them below this price, you are likely to pay in other areas. They may cut corners and use cheaper materials, or opt for shoddy packaging. It is usually worthwhile to pay a bit more for your product, especially if it is the first production run. It is also worthwhile to work not only to specify the product qualities needed, but also those for the packaging. Your product is worth nothing to you if it doesn't arrive in the US in a saleable condition, or cannot be shipped without being damaged.
Another issue that often deters some people when negotiating with suppliers is minimum order quantities. It isn’t uncommon for a manufacturer to require a person to commit to purchasing hundreds or thousands of units. This can be difficult if you are a young company with limited funds. The good news is that MOQ’s are almost always negotiable.
Keep in mind the reasons why manufacturers request a minimum. There may be a lot of upfront work, or a specific mold needed to create the item. Once you understand why they are requesting a certain quantity, it can make it easier to negotiate with them. Compromises may include giving them a deposit towards a larger order, but producing small amounts at a time, or paying more per unit.
Planning for Distribution
After discovering and fixing all the design flaws, now it is time to get down to business. We make a plan to get our product in front of people by marketing it. If a product has a fairly niche market, a great website may be a perfect marketing plan. However, if you’ve tweaked an already popular product and believe that you’ve made yours better, it may be time to meet with some big brand stores to see if they would consider adding your product to the lineup. This part of the process depends greatly on what your product is.
Whatever direction is taken, it is important to have a clear vision for what your brand is and what you want to portray with your brand. At Outshine our products are designed to be splendidly original – just like you. We bring style and originality to every day goods for modern women. We know if we would love it in our homes, you probably would too, and we wanted that to come through in every one of our products.
Just as in any business, when selling products on Amazon or any other eCommerce site, quality control is important. Quality control is vital throughout the entire manufacturing process so that problems can be found early and not after the entire production process has been completed.
To ensure quality, you need to be very specific about the materials to be used, the process in which the item will be produced, the final specifications of the product, and any tolerance for a variance from these things. Be sure that all of the details are put into writing. You may also want to consider hiring a third-party inspection agency.
While this is an extra expense, it is often an expense that is a worthwhile investment. It isn’t uncommon for manufacturers to not follow all of the specifications of an agreement, and that’s where an inspection comes in to play. You can hire a domestic inspector, but it is often cheaper and more helpful to hire an inspector located in the same country as your manufacturer. Tell your manufacturer that you will be hiring an inspector from the very beginning so they know your intentions.
There are different types of inspections offered by most third-party companies. A full inspection where every single product is reviewed, or a random/spot inspection where roughly ten percent of your inventory is inspected. They will look for verification of quality, conformity to your requirements, workmanship, and function.
So what happens if mistakes are found? You can accept the risk of your shipment if a few pieces were found damaged, or you can pay for a full inspection and ask the manufacturer to correct or remake the product.
Although this is by far not the best option, if you don’t want to spend the money for a third-party inspection, you can request that a post-production sample be sent to you before all of your order is shipped out. You can also request that photos and/or videos of your shipment and the manufacturing process be sent to you.
Now the product is designed, manufactured, and been inspected. What happens next? The inspection of the product itself is just part of the inspection process. The next big step is preparing the shipment to get to the United States and into the hands of Amazon or a warehouse. So, stay tuned for our next blog to learn all about the last steps before a product lands in your home!