Q: I'd like to get my product on a TV shopping channel. What do I need to do?
A: You've likely heard of Home Shopping Network, Shop At Home, QVC and Value Vision. And you know what these 24-hour cable TV shows are doing-selling products and inventions, and lots of them. It's not unheard of for an item to sell several thousand units in just a few minutes. With millions of people watching, it's not hard to do-or at least, it doesn't have to be.
This platform is called transactional-based shopping, because every purchase is done by way of credit card, check or money order. Most of the shopping networks have regular hosts, many of whom have loyal followings of shoppers who enjoy their individual presentations. As a result, many companies have made millions selling their products on TV shopping networks. So the question is, How do you get to be one of those companies?
First things first: Your product must be ready to ship. Zero prototypes are accepted for review-this is a selling platform, not a testing platform. Assuming you're at that stage of product development, let's walk through the process of submitting your product to TV shopping networks.
Now, don't just drop your product in a box and ship it off to a shopping network. You'll need to request an application to submit your product. In addition, most shopping networks will not accept product ideas from individuals, meaning you must have a business structure in place or DBA status. (Call the network's toll-free number or visit its Web site to get the specifics.) I recommend placing your product in a corporate structure to protect yourself against any lawsuits that may arise from product liability based on several thousands of units being sold. The more products sold, the higher the chance of problems with consumers-it's that simple.
Let's assume you've completed the paperwork and submitted your product. And let's assume the buyer who receives your product for review likes it and wants to place a purchase order. Sounds great, right? Maybe, maybe not. The purchase order will be issued on a guaranteed basis, meaning all products purchased and shipped will have guaranteed sale terms and conditions. In simple terms, whatever isn't sold will be returned to you. An average test run for a $19.95 item would be 2,000 units. So the good news is, you just sold 2,000 units; the bad news is, you have to produce the product, put it in a box and ship it across the country, accepting the risk that it may be a total dog on TV.
On the other hand, if the product does sell, it will continue to sell. And if the product sells out, you'll have a year's worth of business to deal with very quickly. On an average sell-out of 2,000 units, you can look forward to an order for 5,000 units straightaway.
Now let's take a look behind the scenes. Once your product is accepted for placement on a TV shopping channel, you'll be scheduled to make an appearance as the guest host so you can present your product. You'll be given approximately seven to eight minutes of live presentation time to convince at-home consumers your product is the best. Your product will be one of approximately seven items presented in an hour of programming. Within minutes of your appearance, you'll know whether you'll be taking a bunch of products home or selling thousands more.
So the next time you're flipping through the shopping channels late at night, remember that every product you see has gone through this process, from the initial application to the on-air presentation. It's not easy, but of the 24 hours of programming time available in a day, your product could get its seven or eight minutes of fame.
Dave Dettman founded Mr. Product LLC ten years ago and currently serves as president and CEO.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.