Who Needs 'Em?

Overcoming Obstacles

Inventors have always had a tough time selling retailers products that have uncertain market potential, but e-tailers want products that aren't sold everywhere else. They don't worry about the product appealing to a small market segment-after all, they attract customers from around the world. Internet retailers also like products that tie in to Internet search terms, as Conscience does with "ethics" or "moral standards." Such tie-ins not only promote products, but also bring people to e-tailers' sites. And if the product doesn't sell, there may be only five or six units in inventory rather than thousands' worth.

If you want to sell your product to an e-tailer, you might want to try Winchell's four-step approach:

1. Get the name of the buyer who purchases your type of product.

2. Prepare a sample Web page, or Web page copy, to illustrate how your product will attract customers. Include search terms people might use on the Internet.

3. Send your information package to the appropriate buyer.

4. Follow up at least five times with the buyer to try and close the sale.

You're not alone if you're having trouble selling your products off your Web site. That's why the better approach is to take advantage of a big Internet store and sell your products there. Winchell still hopes to land his product on the shelves of the big toy retailers, but in the meantime, he's satisfied with the sales from Internet retailers. It's a good place to start-and it just might work for your own product

Don Debelak is a new-business marketing consultant and the author of Bringing Your Product to Market (John Wiley & Sons). Send him your invention questions at dondebelak@uswest.net.

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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Who Needs 'Em?.

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