Inventive Ideas Inc
7 Ways to Beat Product Knock Offs by Carrie Jeske

7 Ways to Beat Product Knock Offs

Carrie Jeske is a Direct Licensee, Licensing Agent & Product Scout Team Founder

We live in a fast moving, quick changing world.  The opportunity for independent inventors has never been greater. The risks never more crippling.   Be smart when launching new product ideas.  Beating knock-offs can be a dirty business or a magical mystery tour.  Here are my tips or the latter (while taking a dip in the former.)

1) Stay Pure

Use private submissions till you’re ready to go public.   The public domain can generate consumer interest, but it comes at the price of increased market competition.   Don’t take your product idea public too soon.

Many manufactures in every category and especially on As Seen on TV shelves need time to test the product before investing capital. In TV, it’s about survey’s, web tests and 2-minute TV commercials. Getting a positive result with a strong marketing message takes time.

Stay pure. Find a partner you trust and gather inside feedback to make your pitch and product the strongest it can be.   Leverage industry insiders by giving permission for candid feedback and considering negative feedback before dismissing important product and market competition information. If opportunity arises, sign a licensing agreement BEFORE going public. It’s likely the direct licensee can capitalize on the head start so everyone makes more money.

Improve the prototype, product pitch and demo video so when you do go public, you’re putting your best foot forward.  Stay pure, till you’re seriously ready for something more. When you’re in position, put your best effort into going viral. Try crowdfunding.

With 60 Second Salad, the inventors gave WIL the opportunity to complete the testing cycle before going public.  We had an early advantage over competitors. Even so, within weeks of the viral video, Asian knock-offs began flooding Amazon and my email.

2) Marry A King

Once you go public, you’ll get suitors or hear crickets. If a billion-dollar company comes calling, get hitched, if they are willing. Be charming, smart and marry for the money!   After all, this is business. You’re not having human babies together.  The King controls the distribution channel and has the power, time, money, connections and experience needed to make your product a financial success. Let them do it.

Don’t make the mistake of telling a King how to run a business or spend money. Just say “Thank you” and collect a royalty check in the mail then live a happy life, in community with friends and family.

The alternative; become a competitor and battle in the open consumer market. Call it a knock off, a follower or capitalism. Either way, it’s coming.

A Speedy Wedding  

Be fast and first. A big company with current products already on store shelves has a fine tuned operational infrastructure humming like a sailor on shore leave.  They want more products!  They move fast. Don’t over haggle or delay the prenuptial or they’ll tire with you and move on to another or leave you at the altar. A business marriage is not a lifelong commitment.  It’s a term agreement to make money together. Don’t confuse the two. Make money.

Bring Protection      

Patents

Having a fully granted utility patent is helpful, but only in the hands of a large experienced company. Most independent inventors cannot afford the legal fees to enforce their patent.

Fighting legal battles is what attorneys are trained for.  Don’t be naive.  Knowing how long to draw out a court case, when to settle, and how to leverage product sales to the last penny is a strategy.  An inventors best bet, is to have their patent protected by a direct licensee, large funding source or pro bono legal firm.

Funding

If you’re determined to do it yourself, make sure you have the funding in place to handle large purchase orders.  Start with equity partners, factoring or investor notes then move to credit lines with caution. I strongly discourage credit card debt or high interest business loans.

Partners

Connecting with the right partner is one of the single most important decisions an inventor can make. Working with someone you trust, who has your back can avoid many pitfalls.  There are no guarantees with product inventing, but feeling good about the people you work with… priceless.

With 60 Second Salad, WIL secured a billion-dollar partner to handle the operational rollout. They took our testing data and ramped up product development and lined up retail buyers in under three months. That’s the power of a King. 

3) Flirt with Social Networking, Online Selling, Crowdfunding

If there are no wedding plans, play your own game. But keep an eye out for suiters to avoid being knocked off.

Remarketing

Use Remarketing campaigns through Google AdWords and fall in love with social networking. Paying for clicks or sales isn’t easy or cheap but there are low cost strategies that gain market awareness. If you don’t have big bucks, it costs TIME and SKILL.   There are many free pre-view training programs that will share one to three good ideas for free, in hopes of selling the program.  Before you buy, trying DOING the three free steps.  Too often, inventor entrepreneurs focus on the “knowing” rather than the “doing”.  Both are important, but before I’d pay for a program, I’d see if I could implement a few suggestions for free.   Take the free classes, learn and do. See what works.  The secret is testing to determine your target market.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketers choose the products they want to sell. Sellers provide a unique affiliate code that is used to refer traffic to the target site. Most affiliate programs will offer ready-made text links, banners and other forms of creative copy. Affiliates simply copy the code and place it on their website to start referring traffic. When interested visitors click on these links from they get redirected to the product site and if a product purchase is made the referrer makes a commission.

This was a boom in the 1990’s and can still be a fantastic strategy.  Today, inventor entrepreneurs must wade through the mass of internet service providers, affiliate marketing programs.  I don’t have any answers, but if I were investing in a product with this as a strategy, I’d require an credible expert on the launch team.

Direct Sales

A no brainer. Your margins are better, but you still must market the site and fund inventory.

Crowdfunding

Get funded and go viral. Be noticed. Just remember; a marriage to the King is still the best end game.

4) Know Who You Are

If you’re on your own or seeking a partner, know who you are, but let the product lead. The jockey and the horse work together to win the race, but quality horses are harder to develop then good jockey’s.  Leverage what you’ve got.

  • Friendly– great customer service. Excellent return policies.
  • Giving– donations to causes. Affiliation with those causes.
  • Caring– environmentally conscious materials?  Does this matter to your target market?

5) Do It Better

Ultimately, it’s the product that will stand on its own. Focus on:

  • Uniqueness– product design and problem / solution consumers will pay for. Think soberly on the truth and integrity of this requirement. Is your product solid or are you making a mountain out of a mole hill?
  • Marketing. Develop legendary branding. Put together a well thought out marketing pitch that is compelling to your target. Be the purple cow.
  • Diversity. Create many product lines. Consider adding accessories and product extensions to broaden the value of your offer. Most knock-offs won’t go the extra mile. Always count the cost.
  • Trademarks.Unlike patents, trademarks are harder to get around. If you have a clever name or brand that the direct licensee values or that the market knows, this could be important.  If not, it’s not. Spend wisely.
  • Value. Price competitively. Is there a strong value proposition?  Today’s consumers have many options for spending money. Is your value clear?
  • Quality. Make the best quality at the lowest possible price to consumers and highest profit margin for you.

With 60 Second Salad, the viral testing video and crowdfunding campaign used a white prototype.  The final rollout product is red, a part of an existing product line, and comes with a bonus knife for added value.

Knock Offs verses Kings by Carrie Jeske Reveiw.

6) Two Is Better than One

Sometimes it’s best to knock yourself off.  There are a couple of good strategies here.

Different Distribution Channels

With some products, the best of both worlds is possible.  License one version of your product to one market, then make and sell to build a business in another market segment.   Two is better than one.  Get a big company working on a version of your product that works for them and keep on your own path to marketing.  Double dipping with a partner reduces risk for the inventor entrepreneur.

Do this yourself if you can fund the manufacturing and distribution. Working multiple channels where the market pulls product, rather than pushing it up the hill is the way to go.

Different Price Points and Feature/Benefits

Some experts claim covering three price points with a mix of feature/benefit works to keep the big companies at bay.  Try low, medium, high price prices, giving consumers a wide array of choices that all say “Buy Me”. The risk is too much inventory and higher operational costs.

7) Love the Masses or Know Your Place

Think soberly. Is the product a mass market consumer item or a niche?  There’s nothing wrong with niche products. In fact, it’s easier to sell niche products on your own sometimes because it takes less money to reach a select group of customers.  Is your product more geared to people who love biking? Is it sports related or fishing?

Finding the right customer is like having 12 ponds to fish in.  You must figure out what pond has fish and then understand what bait they bite on before you run out of time and money.  The faster you find your target, the more sales.

Mass market products are at greater threat because big companies have greater need for products and more resources to produce them.  They sell more and make more, which by default, means greater market competition for dollars.

Niche products can fly under the radar and become nice lifestyle businesses for inventor entrepreneurs.  The risk of knock offs is much lower with a niche product.

Conclusion

In my way of thinking, making money on a new product idea is the goal.   Avoiding knock offs is an important key toward that end.  I trust these steps will help inventor entrepreneurs make wise decisions, find high quality partners, service providers and direct licensees.   There are a lot of good people in the inventor community and a few scoundrels.

I hope we can work together on the next big retail rollout.  It is my singular business focus. Please:

1) Give me “First Look” on “As Seen On TV” product ideas. Submit to carrie@WillitLaunch.com

2) Join my Product Scout team.

3) Participate online in video Co-Inventing Workshops.

See you on the shelves!

Carrie Jeske

PS – Carrie Jeske has been happily married for 30 years to her Jr. High School sweetheart. They travel extensively but reside in Kansas City.