What Does It Take to Get Your Product on QVC? The head of a company that hooks up inventors with the popular shopping channel dishes on how inventors can show off their products to millions.
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Every entrepreneur has thought about how to get his or her product in front of the right people. We know consumers will want what we have to offer -- if only they knew about it!
These days, there are so many different ways of bringing a product to market. You can try to license it. You can test it at a Maker Faire. You can harness the power of the Internet via crowdfunding to help you. All of these options are fantastic, but none have the ability to broadcast your idea into the homes of more than 300 million people worldwide. Only QVC, the home shopping network, has the power to do that.
QVC is the "world's top multimedia shopping company in terms of viewers and revenue and ranks among the top online mass merchandise retailers," according to its website. In 2014, the company took in $8.8 billion in revenue among the seven countries in which it broadcasts. Notably, 41 percent of ecommerce orders came from mobile platforms. That's wild.
Related: How a 10-Minute Spot on QVC Turned This Woman Into a $100 Million Cosmetics Mogul
I sat down with Tom Czar, president of Media One Products -- a company that has been doing business with QVC exclusively for more than 15 years now -- to discuss what kinds of product ideas are right for the platform.
Why would an inventor pursue getting his or her idea on QVC?
Well, the company's distribution is amazing, for one. For inventors that have a highly demonstrable product, there is no better place to show your idea. QVC has the ability to bring a product to life. The format allows us to create a presentation that truly highlights what a product is capable of doing.
For example, we sell an iron called the Eurosteam 1000. The concept behind it is popular in Europe, but not in the United States. It looks like a regular iron, but there's actually a boiler tank inside. The amount of steam it generates is comparable to a commercial steamer. In that way, it's extremely unique! You won't find it anywhere else in America.
If it sat on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar store, consumers would have no idea what it's capable of. It looks like every other iron. But on television, we're able to show how powerful it really is by shooting steam five feet in the air. That's eye-catching.
What are you looking for?
We're always actively looking for new products. New products are the lifeblood of QVC. We try to find things that are unique and different. We look for what isn't currently on QVC but should be. We are seeking out categories and brands that fill a void and can be grown into successful businesses.
To be more specific, we typically take on products that have already been completed. One SKU, or even one prototype, can suffice. The product doesn't need to have distribution. We like to be the first to launch a product.
We're also looking for products that tell a story. Whether the story is about the product itself, or about the inventor, or about why it was invented, we love storytelling. We have the time to do it.
Like I said, we're also looking for something unique and different. Me-too products, products that you can readily find at retail stores -- those aren't right for QVC.
And again, it's all about demonstrability. Is it a good fit for TV? Is it visual? That's a must. Sometimes we will actually have the inventor come on to talk about the product him or herself.
Related: 8 Steps for Nurturing a Winning Business Idea
What does your company do?
We act as a liaison. It's on the inventor to get funding and to find a manufacturing partner. We have contacts we're happy to connect people with, of course.
What we do is sell the product into QVC. We facilitate the entire process. For example, we hold our clients' hands in getting their products through quality assurance, in dealing with any legal claims, in negotiating price points and terms of the agreement, as well as packaging, animation, etc.
How do you review ideas?
Typically a relationship starts with a phone call. I want to understand your product, so I ask a lot of questions. What does it do? How does it do it? I also want to educate everyone I speak to about the business, so they're better able to determine if it's a good fit for them. Then I'll ask for samples.
Do I believe in the product? Is it a good fit? I look at each product very carefully. Physical samples are great. Getting to see a video demonstration of the product is helpful too.
Does an inventor need more than one SKU?
No. We will absolutely sell a one SKU item on QVC.
What mistakes do inventors make when trying to get a product on QVC?
Some talk too much! The buyer loves it and is ready to move forward, but for some reason, the inventor keeps talking and talking. You don't have to over-sell. There's also a balancing act. Some smaller companies and inventors order a lot of inventory before a retailer is interested. Then they feel a lot of pressure, because their money is tied up.
What is the biggest benefit QVC offers inventors?
The ability to tell their story. Typically seven to eight minutes are dedicated to the launch of a new product. Having a product appear on QVC gives inventors the chance to relate their experiences to millions of people. Why did you invent this? How does it differ from competitors? Why is it special? There's an education component.
It goes without saying that QVC isn't for everyone. You need to have the resources and the desire to oversee manufacturing and stock inventory. At the end of the day, I look at it as yet another tool that's at your disposal. And when it comes to getting your product out there, there's simply no comparison.