Wade Sun, inventor of the Disc Eraser™, a top 30 finalist on the American Inventor TV show and a relatively new father (congratulations Wade), has written an article for us sharing the wealth of knowledge he's accumulated while bringing his product to market.
Here's part 3 of a 3 part series on Bringing Your Product to Market - Selling on the Internet.
Part 3: Selling on the Internet
Set Up Your Website:
Setting up a product website is vital in this day and age, but you will have to put in the time, set up links and advertisements to drive traffic to your site, which can quickly add up in cost. If you don’t have html experience, you can hire a website developer from Craigslist.org to develop a 5 to 8 page website for a few hundred dollars. Web hosting is cheap, around $35 per year. You will have to find your own domain name, which you will have to register in advance. You will need some keyword research, pick easy to remember words, a short combination of descriptive words, etc…the ideal domain name would coincide with your product name, in my case, DiscEraser.com. Try keeping it as short as possible, but to the point. Don’t just pick a name that you like. And, don’t just pick names that your friends or family suggest for it. Research, research, research!
Pick a Good Product Name:
This is VERY IMPORTANT. A name will make or break your product! It should be descriptive, but more importantly, it should distinguish the product from the competitors. Let me give an example: I always come across a few skeptics who don’t agree with the Disc Eraser name, because to them, the word “Eraser” implies that the disc can be re-used or re-recorded over. Obviously, “Erase” has gained that connotation due to pencils, tapes, video cassettes, etc... all of which can be erased and recorded over. But the truth is, it’s just a connotation (if you look at definition of the word “erase”, it means rub out, remove, delete). Surely, the Disc Eraser name gives the general public all the more reason to be curious about the new product, with or without that connotation. It is better to choose an attention-grabbing name. What if I had listened to them and changed my name to “Disc Deleter”? That would have been a bad marketing name for my product.
You must focus on what the majority of people think, not the few skeptics. For most people, Disc Eraser has no connotations of re-usability. They already know that CD-Rs are “burn once” and cannot be re-recorded over. Disc Eraser is a simpler, more descriptive name for the product and its purpose. Your decision must be based on the majority, not on the few skeptics. More examples suggested by my good friends: Why don’t I call my product “Data Destroyer” or “Disc Safe” or “CD Recycler”? The latter two connotates a CD storage system and a CD recycling service, which would not make a good name for my actual product. Technically speaking, my product disables a disc from ever being read, but because “Disc Disabler” doesn’t have the simplicity or the intrigue of “Disc Eraser”, I have correctly chosen the more popular name. And keyword traffic confirms this…many people search on the internet for CD eraser, CD-RW discs are erased, and there are CD eraser pens for CD labels, etc...
To choose a good product name, you must understand trends and jargon: most people shred, cut up, or break unwanted CDs. The idea of disabling a CD is unknown, so I would not generate as much search traffic, if any, had I chosen “Disc Disabler”. As far as distinguishing my product to be easy to use, clean, and producing no waste material, “Disc Eraser” connotates cleanliness much more than “CD Destroyer” or “Disc Breaker”. As a matter of fact, there is already product called “Data Destroyer”.
Adopting a similar pre-existing name is a no-no, you will most likely get into trouble. Because website domain names are cheap, I suggest reserving a few backup domain names in case your top choice doesn’t work out later on. When you have an innovative product, you definitely want your product name to stand out from the competitors. When brainstorming, think about keywords, which words do internet surfers search for more? Type it in Google search, and see what comes up. You’ll also need to do some trademark research to make sure you don’t infringe on names that have been trademarked. Go to www.uspto.gov and use TESS to search trademarks. Once you have decided on your trademark name, you can officially register yours for $275, all online.
Drive Traffic to Your Website:
After setting up a website, you need to drive traffic to it. I have used certain SEO (Search Engine Optimization) methods and Google Adwords, which require much research in keywords and fine-tuning. Again, find an expert to help you with internet advertisement, but don’t spend too much money on it. Keep testing and tuning your ad message, because you must constantly monitor and adapt your ads according to trends.
Market your product with a unique twist. For example, compare my website www.DiscEraser.com with any CD shredder website, and you will notice the different marketing angles that have made my product successful. For my product, one important theme of mine is Recycling. Because the Disc Eraser is the only device that promotes Recycling by leaving a CD intact, people feel good about buying it…not only are they getting a nifty little gadget that quickly wipes out their unwanted data, they are also helping out the environment!
Research, research, research! Find out what sells, what tag lines you can incorporate into your ads, and the buzzwords to use to grab people’s attention. People and trends constantly change, so you must keep informed and pay particular attention to certain keywords and formalities. Be sure to re-submit your URL to main web engines (Google, Yahoo, etc…) every 2 weeks or so. Make sure your website is optimized for search engines, you can learn all about it online, just search for SEO – Search Engine Optimization. Again, there are services that perform URL submission and SEO for you, you can pay them to do it, but I would rather do this on my own because it is easy to do, and you don’t have to submit to hundreds of search engines to get noticed…just the big ones…Google, Yahoo, and a couple others.
Outside of the virtual worldwideweb, publicity always helps. I was fortunate to audition and advance to the top 30 round on ABC’s American Inventor. I was also a guest on a radio talk show, and look for local events to attend and people to meet. Get as much public exposure as you can, because you need to get the word out about your product. But remember, exposure alone does not get people to buy your product. You must reach your target customers and cater an effective sales message to them.
Continue to Improve Your Website:
Once you begin selling your product and get feedback from your customers, you will have many helpful suggestions and get more ideas. I have had a major revision to my website and have tuned my ads. Compare my current website to my first version at http://www.disceraser.com/old. I hired a professional web developer to design the current website layout only after verifying the correct sales message and content from my first version (It passed the concrete sales test - I received hundreds of dollars in actual orders from the first website). I had a friend start this basic website, which I then added the ad messages and pictures. Getting a nice-looking lady to model the product sure helps! Being an engineer, web programming came easy for me, and I was able to put up pictures and text, and change fonts and colors.
As far as PR, writing and submitting good press releases are great ways to get your product noticed, both online as well as print. It’s also a great way for salespeople to find your product, and help you expand. Think of a catchy title, make the article concise, yet entertaining. Focus on what’s important. To get some ideas, you can view my press release at http://www.prweb.com//releases/2006/9/prweb436005.htm.
Monitor Your Site:
Website monitoring is vital: Analyze site statistics and check your referrals daily; it is a good idea to visit your referral site and see people’s reaction to your product if there is a comment or blog section. Blog about your product on pages and forums where your target market will read it, and always include a link to your website in your “signature”. You don’t want to come across as a salesman, so keep your sales pitch low-key and your blog short…briefly mention a few key benefits of the product, i.e. why it is better or more convenient.
Sometimes if it’s an open or anonymous forum, you can sign in as a guest or an alias. So instead of presenting yourself as the inventor or seller of a product, you can post a testimonial from one of your customers on there… the power of testimonials is actually a sales pitch in disguise, because the public is turned off by sales and spam, and reading a good comment from a satisfied customer gives your product much more credibility, and removes sales pressure.
Pay for On-line Ads:
Paid online ads are a great cost-effective way to get targeted customers to your website. The most effective way I have found is Google Adwords. Sign up for Google Adwords. You can run different ads, and experiment with keywords. Brainstorm and enter your keywords into the keyword traffic estimator to choose the higher ones. You will want to use the specific keywords in your ad title, which Google automatically bolds if the searched term is matched. You can list different variations of ads, and you can monitor the effectiveness based on the click response, which can be automatically tallied daily, weekly, monthly, and all-time. For starters, set a limit of $2.00 to $5.00 a day on click ads (Don’t worry, you don’t pay unless your ad gets clicked). Your average bid per individual click should be $0.20 or less, if you choose a more competitive keyword, it could go as high as $1.00 or more per click! You will find that changing some key words will affect your clicks. Because you only get 2 lines of description, you can run different ad messages at the same time. If you want a specific message to target a specific ad group, then set up separate campaigns.
Google lets you select optimization (displays the most clicked ad variation more often) which is a great mode to run in. Experiment running about 5 to 10 different ads to find the right ones before increasing your daily budget or click rate. It is true that a higher click bid guarantees a higher placement, but paying $1 to $2 more per click is not at all necessary, as long as you get placed on the first page of the search is good. Top 5 to 7 position usually means a few dollars difference, especially if you are in a competitive market. For my keywords, I found that big retailers have the funds to pay for $3.00 per click to be in the #1 position, which is pretty bold, but too expensive. After you narrow down your ad choices, you can remove the lesser-performing ones. Fine-tune your highest clicked ads to optimize traffic to your website.
Final Thoughts and Advice:
It has been hard work, yet fun. I get up early, excited to work every morning. As an inventor, it is very satisfying to get orders for my product and ship them out. This isn’t just because the product can sell itself – I’ve spent much time in research and read countless articles and books to come up with effective marketing strategies and angles, which I constantly refine and tune. I am well on the way of breaking even because I kept my startup costs low, and have found the “sweet-spot” price point to sell the product.
In terms of expansion, I don’t plan on selling the Compact Disc Eraser on-line for long…it’s just a starting point to generate the first sales, to find the correct marketing strategy/positioning, and to fine-tune the advertising messages. I look forward to transitioning into wholesaling and getting into specialty magazines, and to retail stores. I could eventually partner up or sell my business to a bigger company based on the company valuation and profitability, which can easily be hundreds of times more profitable than licensing. I want to thank the many entrepreneurs/marketers/ businessmen who have helped me along the way.
Success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes many months and years of hard work. Be resourceful and find experts to help you. Keep an open mind, constantly ask for feedback and opinions, and don’t get discouraged by those who don’t know what they are talking about, especially when it comes to sales and marketing. Test everything yourself, and try to keep your costs and production volumes low.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you thoughts of this article, or any questions about inventing or bringing your invention to market.
To see Part I and Part II of the Series, go to: