Alyson Miller, PivotGuildJust got back from the largest Colorado Maker Faire, which always puts us in touch with the highest desires of creatives. Some “makers” simply enjoy getting their hands dirty, getting down with the creative process for the joy of it. Others intend to make money and take their invention, art or technology to market. If you’ve been working that plan but haven’t gotten a good sales flow going– here are 10 success factors to self-evaluate where YOU are on the product-to-market continuum. Keep in mind these are not start-up questions. You always have opportunities to PIVOT and improve throughout the life of your product and venture!

1.  If someone purchased your product today – how would they view it and review it?

Have you manufactured and packaged to a quality standard?  Have you addressed different use cases and safety issues?  Does it provide a memorable experience and deliver on your promises? In today’s hyper communications environment, your sales could explode or fizzle based on online reputation.  If your buyers aren’t engaged in positive word-of-mouth marketing on your behalf, why not?

2.  Is your pricing right for your customers – and right for profitability?

Many new marketers determine pricing based on competitive products. But there’s more science (and a little alchemy) to pricing right.  How much does it cost you to produce one unit and achieve one sale? Which of those costs are controllable and which are variable?  Do you need wholesale and retail tiers in order to attract distributors or re-sellers?  Pricing to attract customers is one thing but pricing to make money is another.

3.  You don’t determine the value of your product – your customers do!

Value isn’t about pricing!  A client told us the other day that someone actually offered to pay MORE for a service she provided. Why? He valued what he received and wanted to assure “preferred customer status.” Conversely, one disgruntled customer can question your quality online and set off a stream of devaluing reviews.  So think hard about how you can influence perception (and communication) of value. Does your product solve a big problem? Help clients feel safe, avoid pain and enjoy more pleasure or convenience?  HINT: Don’t guess.  It is wise to ASK your customers what they value most.

4.  Only amateurs think there is no competition for their product. 

One of the worst things a new marketer can say, is “we really have no competition.”  You might as well wear a neon sign that says, “I know nothing about the marketplace.”  Here’s the deal: as long as customers have choices for solving problems and meeting needs, you have competition!  Duct tape is cheap and can be used for 1000 fixes.  If your product addresses one of those fixes, your customers have a choice and you have competition.  So it’s always important to understand your distinction and make the case why that distinction is valuable to the customer.

5.  Customer relationships with you – and your product – can make or break sales.

You can never know enough about your prospects and customers. It’s like dating: there is joy in the discovery process. Each new thing you learn spurs you in the direction of where you want the relationship to go.  But too many new marketers make assumptions about customer behavior.  The only reliable way to understand – and address – customer needs, preferences and emotional triggers is to engage with them.  Yes, we’re talking about having different forms of conversation on a regular basis, asking the right questions – and listening to the answers.

6.  Finding and attracting customers is a Maker’s #1 challenge and expense! 

Think about how YOU find and buy products for yourself. Do you ask friends for recommendations? Research on the web? Read trends and industry reviews? Click on online ads? The answer is: it depends. It’s the same for your customers.  They research and make purchases in a variety of ways and it’s up to you to get seen where they are looking.  No easy task – and yet it is done every day by successful marketers.  So if matchmaking is NOT your strength, this is where you will need to invest in professional marketing.  Creating the most efficient and cost-effective sales process is a key to profitability and future growth.

7.  Marketing is an investment; word-of-mouth is free.  You need both. 

While your marketing reach can be limited by lack of resources, money alone cannot build reputation, attract champions, build a team or increase sales. Today, your marketing mix needs to include the conscious development of formal referrals and informal word-of-mouth reviews. For instance, when your product gets positive exposure in the media, the saying is: you can’t buy that kind of advertising. Knowing how to weave your paid marketing efforts with customer-generated support from your fans is one way of applying limited resources to biggest impact.

8.  No successful product marketer has ever done it alone.

If you are a fan of entrepreneur biographies or have simply done your homework and talked to experienced product marketers, you know this: it’s impossible to create and control all the moving pieces of a successful venture on your own.  So ask yourself:  Do I have a reliable community to support me through the ups and downs of this path I’ve chosen?  Have I lined up turn-to advisors who complement my subject-area strengths with strengths of their own so that the sum of our efforts is greater than our individual parts?  Can my champions help to continuously improve my product(s), manufacture, distribute, sell, publicize and scale up successfully?

If your consideration of any of these success factors reveals some vulnerabilities and potential for change – well, congratulations. As said from the outset, there is ALWAYS opportunity to PIVOT, improve and grow.

Your comments and product to market experiences are welcome below.


NOTE:  An abbreviated version of this post originally appeared on our sister site showcasing Makers and their creations:

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