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The Cantonfair – All you need to know about the biggest expo in Asia

With the Cantonfair in April 2019 around the corner I thought I’d give you guys an insight on the exhibition, how you can prepare, what you can find there and who it isn’t for.

I first went to the Canton Fair in 2005 and things have certainly changed since then. There were literally not many places to eat, find an ATM or book hotels around the area.

China and the Cantonfair have seen the potential and improved the general experience a great deal since then. I can only imagine how it was 20 years ago.

Some general information first:

The Canton Fair is the holy grail of exhibitions. This event is so large that it is held twice a year and each time runs over a span of 3 weeks in three different phases. Each phase comes with different product categories.

As of 2014 there were over 22,000 exhibitors. This exhibition is a must for me and it should be for you too. You will find a lot of suppliers, big brands, small factories, or the product you have been looking for for so long.

Plan at least 2, or better 3, days for your product category/phase. Sign up once and get a badge that will be valid forever.

Insider tip: Don’t throw away your badge. You can use it for your next visit without paying 100 Yuan for a replacement card.

 

How to register?

Most exhibitions require you to pre-register if you want to get in for free. Registration on-site is also possible but usually there will be a fee of 10-20USD. You will need to provide a name card for your registration.

When you pre-register online, just fill in your company’s details and print out the confirmation. Bring that confirmation and you will be handed a badge for entry.

The Canton Fair has the same procedure, however you can keep your badge for years to come. If you lose your badge you will have to pay a fee of 200RMB for re-issuance.

There is a first time registration fee of 100RMB. If you have a supplier who can invite you, you don’t need to pay any fees. Also remember to bring along a passport photograph for the application (required). You can register here, among many other useful tools for the Canton Fair:

http://invitation.cantonfair.org.cn/Home/Index

Remember to keep the badge for the Canton Fair, as it is valid for years to come.

 

Know your goals

Remember you don’t have all day. I usually try to finish an exhibition within 1 day (except the Canton Fair). But this is also because I know how to spot the good from the bad ones and know which questions to ask. As a first timer I recommend you take some more time but don’t try to spend more than 20 minutes per booth with each supplier.
If you spot some item that really catches your attention and you would like to discuss further steps with the supplier right away, take your time. It is likely you will have 2-3 meetings that can take an hour.

Price preparation

You will likely be looking for a category of a product so you should prepare yourself with some basic prices that you have received from suppliers beforehand. Knowing your prices is essential before going to an exhibition.
If you are looking at new products and are not aware of prices try my “rule of thumb” calculation of 30%, adding this to your margin and calculating your selling price. You will quickly figure out if the price the supplier gave you at the booth is realistic or not.

Prioritising

The Cantonfair is enormous in size. Grab a map at the entrance or the information counter of the exhibition and take a moment to study the areas of interest. You can also look online prior to going to the exhibitions at which hall or category is where to save some time.
Once it is clear where your suppliers are situated, start there. Go through each hall in an organised way and prioritise the halls by importance.
Once you completed all the halls you wanted to see you could go to the halls that were initially of the least interest to your business. You may find some ideas on other products in less interesting halls too.

Hotels during the exhibition:

Many hotels will provide a free shuttle bus to exhibitions. Check with the hotel staff to see if this service is provided.
Book hotels now if you haven’t booked them yet! Hotels during exhibitions can get very expensive. The sooner you book the better.
I usually won’t stay too far from the exhibition area, as I don’t want to waste time. Unfortunately that carries a price tag.
If your budget doesn’t allow this, find a hotel near a subway station (MTR).
Whatever you do, don’t take a taxi TO and FROM the exhibition. Take the subway or free shuttle buses provided by your hotel. At the Canton Fair, for example, it is impossible to get taxis at night. You can take a taxi in the morning TO the fair; that should be ok.

First things first. Here is what I bring to exhibitions:

• Name/Business cards (an absolute MUST)
• Trolley to carry all the catalogues that I collect
• My own (printed) company presentation
• Notebook & pens
• Passport photo (some exhibitions such as the Canton fair require a passport photo)
• Comfortable shoes (you will be walking all day)

At the exhibition:

Once you are at the exhibition, get a map; you should be able to get them anywhere at information counters.
Walk the aisles until you find something that interest you is definitely an approach but I prefer to prepare a little and do some research on my main interests.

You will want to work with manufacturers only at the exhibition and not with representatives. There are hundreds of representatives at the fair ground offering translation services, negotiation, insight etc. Do not go with them! They usually charge very high fees and aren’t totally honest with you. They are probably also no experts in every product category and that might end up in a disaster.

Never place orders right away. You should negotiate prices, ask questions and maybe show more than interest and tell the supplier that you may want to order when you are back. But don’t tell them to enthusiastically that you want to order right away. Why?

  • The prices you get at the fairs are usually not the best prices. Negotiate when you are back home.
  • You will want to clarify your terms first via email/phone calls before you place an order. Have him sign a purchase order agreement.
  • You will want to compare prices of more than one supplier for the same product

To determine if the person you are speaking to is a manufacturer or representative make sure to ask a lot of questions:

How to act and ask questions at exhibitions

I usually prepare a little speech before I go to the exhibition. It depends on my project or product that I am looking for but I like to introduce myself a little bit and give the supplier a professional image of me.
He is likely more interested in giving me answers, good prices or proper email feedback after the exhibition. Here is how it could look:

Hi, I am Manuel and I am the Managing Director of Mandarin-Gear Limited in Hong Kong.
I manage/own a sourcing and buying office for many large retailers worldwide.
My customers are looking for product “X” and I am interested in discussing more details or receiving a quotation based on my customer’s requirements.

Then I ask my questions and once I am satisfied I will ask him to provide me a quote based on my requirements. I will hand him my business card and I will MAKE SURE that he wrote down everything we discussed.

Could you please send me a quote of this item (from his booth) based on “X” quantity, including certification “XY”?

I will also take his name card and catalogue to study later.
Here are some questions that I ask the suppliers. You can adapt these to your product or requirements as necessary. You can also make yourself a checklist with these questions and print it out for each supplier meeting you have.
Obviously you can also memorise these questions and make notes on your notepad.
Clip the supplier’s name card to your notebook and write down answers to these questions:

• When was his factory established?
This is important as to figure out if he has been doing business for a long time or if he is newly established. If the factory is brand new I will be wary of dealing with them, while if they are older than 5 years I will probably go ahead with further questions.


• What is the total count of staff, workers, engineers and managers?
A well-organized factory has at least 200 employees. That could be 160 workers, 30 sales staff, 10 engineers and 10 managers.

• What certifications can he provide for product “X”?
Know the certifications that you need for your product. If a supplier has no idea about FCC, CE, RoHS, ERP, GS or other certifications of a chemical or other nature, you can probably leave the booth right away. If he is aware of the certifications and requirements but hasn’t applied them to all his products it’s not an eliminating criteria, but make sure to ask if he is willing to apply for the certifications after order-placement.


• Who are his main customers?
Do you know the customers he is talking about? Do they have a certain reputation in your country that would make you feel comfortable working with him? If he is working with customers that you know, it should be a good sign of his competence.

• Mention a few of your competitors or bigger clients
Drop a few names of the bigger competitors or clients of yours. If he knows them it’s a good sign. If not, it is very unlikely that they are doing overseas business and perhaps aren’t even interested in your business, knowing that your requirements are too high or “too much work” for him.


• What is his main market?
If he operates already within or near your country it is also likely that he can fulfilll your requirements. It’s usually a good sign if he works for countries like the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the United States, Canada and other first world countries. It means that his factory is able to pass audits, tests and certifications needed for these countries.

• What is the factory quality management standard?
Remember that good factories are also easy to spot if they have a certain quality management System (QMS) such as ISO 9001, BSCI and so on.


• What is the MOQ?
Can he actually provide the low or high MOQ that you need? Is he willing to produce a first order based on a very small quantity or does he have the capacity for large volumes?


• What is the rough price of this item based on X quantity?
Most suppliers will give you a very rough figure for the product they are exhibiting. These can be vague as often these are “blank” prices that do not include any certification, licenses, etc. But it is necessary to ask for prices (and write them down in your notebook) for your follow up. You can also use my “rule of thumb” to add on 20-30% on top of the supplier’s price to calculate if the price is competitive.


• What certification is included in his price?
Does the product currently fulfill your minimum requirements for certifications or standards? If not, is he willing to apply for certifications after order placement? Is he aware of the different certifications that you need or do you get the feeling he doesn’t know what you are talking about?


• Ask if he can provide samples after the exhibition
If you would like to have a sample after you come back home ask him if he is willing to send samples. Most likely he will agree but make sure you remind him once you are back home to send you the sample. Some suppliers will actually sell or give you a sample right on the booth if you ask for it. It is actually not allowed but if there is a sample I would need right away because it’s that good and I want to show it to customers back home, I will ask anyway.


• Ask for payment terms
Are his payment terms a K.O. criteria? Make sure he agrees to your payment terms and doesn’t insist on 100% payment upfront.


• Ask for his top-selling items and who his customers are
Sometimes you may not have time to look at all products so you might miss the best selling items. Ask him either to show you his best selling items or send you a quote later for his top-sellers. Make a note that you are expecting his prices and offers later.

If I get the feeling after 1 or 2 questions that a supplier has no idea what I am talking or asking about, I politely end the conversation and leave the booth. There is no use in screening a supplier with all questions when I already know he is not interested or can’t fulfilll my requirements.
After all, I need to scan the entire exhibition and I can’t waste my time with suppliers that are ignorant or need a basic education on my market’s/customer’s requirements. You will develop a gut feeling pretty soon if it is worth it to speak to a supplier longer or if you should leave the booth right away.

Hall arrangement:

Once you arrive you need to pass trough the registration area which is pointed out through signs. Don’t forget to pre-register trough the link I gave you and bring 2 passport photos. At the registration area you will have to line up for “pre-registered buyers”. You will be guided trough the process by the staff there and then get your entry badge. You can then move to the main halls.
There are 3 main areas on each phase:
http://www.cantonfair.org.cn/hall/en/index.aspx?start=bn

Once you choose your phase you can hover over the hall and see what products you will find in these halls. Within the 3 main areas (A,B,C) you have numbered halls as for example 6.1. (ceramics). Within this hall you have over 200 suppliers!

Depending on your priority products I recommend you start with the most important halls first.
During the registration you will also get a printed guide with all hall details that helps you to navigate. But you can already write down the main halls now when you look at the link above.

At the Entrance of each hall:

Look at the main halls you want to see and prepare to walk them trough in order. It is your first time to visit the fair so I am guessing you have no appointments with suppliers. Therefore I recommend you just start walking until you see something of interest. That could either be a product that you have on your agenda or an item that really pops out.

In the halls/at the booth:

Suppliers will either be eager to give out brochures of their products or you simply walk into the booth of this supplier if there is anything of interest for you. Unlike in the US or at European exhibitions, the suppliers are very open and welcoming in receiving you in their booths. No appointments are required. Just walk in and introduce yourself and what you do or what you are looking for. You don’t need to hand out any business cards at this point since you don’t want to be spammed later from suppliers that do not interest you anyway.
If you see anything of interest within the booth point to these products and start asking the questions I mentioned above:

If you are happy with the discussed (make sure they also take notes) hand over your business card and tell them to email you all the details. Nice touch with the “thank you in Chinese” on the back by the way
Take a catalogue or a brochure from the supplier as well, have him staple his business card on it and note down what is important to you. Try to get catalogues from each supplier that you visit. They will be happy to give you a catalogue in exchange of your business card.
You will quickly see which booths you should walk in. The goal is to find manufactures or good trading companies.
For example avoid booths that have only a few products in the shelves (A) or booths that have too many different kind of product categories (B). Go for booths that have maybe 3-4 product categories but seem to be specialised on each category (C).

A: Few products only indicate a small trading company with high margins and no real expertise and little value


B: Say you see a booth that has all these products inside: towels, pet supplies, electronics, ceramics etc. It’s a clear sign that this supplier trades everything and anything. They may have expertise in certain areas but their prices are high.

C: A booth that has 3-4 product categories. For example a booth that has: bathroom accessories, shower cabinets & faucets. They all relate to each other and thats a good sign for a real manufacturer. Try to focus on these.

Miscellaneous:

Food: There are a few western restaurants and coffee shops on every corner
Money: There are a lot of ATM’s everywhere in case you need to withdraw money.
Printing services: Printers and business centres everywhere available.
WiFI: Is available for free. Just ask for the log-in at the info centres.
Hotels & ticketing: Travel agents are available on several main levels to book flights, train tickets or hotels
Bus: There are buses leaving to major hotels during peak hours (9am 5pm) for free. Major hotels also arrange buses TO the exhibition. Check with your hotel.
Taxis: Taxis are a nightmare to get. You can take a taxi to the exhibition in the morning from your hotel but in the late afternoon you can sometimes wait up to 2 hours to get a taxi. There are illegal taxis everywhere but they charge 10 times the price. I recommend to take the hotel bus or the Subway.
Subways: There are 2 subway stations at the exhibition grounds. One at the beginning & one at the end. I usually take the Subway as it is the most convenient way to get back to the hotel. When booking your hotel see to book one close by a subway station.

I hope this gave you a bit of an overview and I wish you all the success at your trip during the Cantonfair 🙂

Happy sourcing guys!

Importdojo

 

find your niche on Amazon

How to find your niche and develop your own product in 2019

10 Ways to Find a Private Label Niche to Sell on Amazon

How to find a profitable product in 2019 and onwards

How do you find a private label product to sell? This is the number one question I get asked on an almost daily basis. Be aware this is a very long post as I tried to really include my entire thought process. 

There’s no one method that’s right for everyone. Instead, there are many different methods you can use to find the perfect private label niche and product.

In this post, I’ll explain ten of my favourite research methods. Take a look and find one that works for you! The first few methods are traditional methods that still work well but in the last part I want to let you in on how I find or develop successful products to sell.

1. Follow your passion

Let’s say you love the outdoors, hiking, camping, and exercise in general (like me). There are so many products to choose from, but you have two advantages:

  1. You know what you like.
  2. You know what your product should be able to do.

So you already have an edge over many of your competitors.

Put your passion for this category into your product. For example, if you were disappointed about the quality of camping mats you purchased in the past, you already know what to tell your supplier to improve upon. Choose products you can talk about, improve and be passionate about selling.

Here’s a real-life example. A friend of mine was really into hiking and trail running but not satisfied with the products on the market. He started a outdoor gear company a few years back. Today he has a portfolio of 20 different outdoor gear products and making 6 figures every month. It wasn’t an easy journey and I followed along but it was well worth it.

2. Use your industry knowledge

Let’s imagine you have 17 years of experience selling electronics (like me). What was the first product I picked? It was an electronic item. Why? Because that’s where I had my experience.

I believe you should not just have passion about your product, but also experience. If I sell a product online I want to be able to answer customers’ questions and inquiries. So when I started my own brand I improved an existing item based on my industry knowledge and felt confident answering questions as well as re-presenting my brand.

What if you don’t have experience in an industry? Do you have a hobby? Or are you a parent? If you are a parent you’ll have lots of experience with your children and could perhaps start in that category.

3. Brainstorm and research

You shouldn’t worry if you don’t have a social media following, products you are passionate about or industry experience. Most people I know are in this scenario and there are still many success stories.

Here’s a brainstorming and research approach that I recommend:

  1. Take out a notebook and list your interests, hobbies or responsibilities. Yes, actually write it down. Call me old-fashioned, but I still find writing to be the best medium for generating ideas.
  2. Subscribe to newsletters from companies that talk about or sell products related to your interests. You’ll find some ideas for this in Part 2 below.
  3. Over time, gather a list of at least ten product ideas in that niche.
  4. Research existing products, consumer demand and selling prices using Amazon, eBay, Jet.com, local shops, tools like Jungle Scout etc. Is there space for one more seller (you)?
  5. If there is no demand, is it because the product is in its fledgling stages? If you can improve the product, create a to-do list of improvements based on reviews, feedback from friends and family etc. Then move onto finding a supplier.
  6. If there is no evidence of demand and you can’t improve the product, but still think it could sell, then follow your gut feeling and also ask around your friends. Move onto finding a supplier if you remain sure.
  7. Move onto the next product in your list of ideas.

Let’s say you have found your niche, category or general product idea. You are now ready to find your first private label product.

4. Lose yourself on Amazon

You can look for hours on Amazon in the different categories and niches, if you already have a product idea.

If you have no idea at all, I suggest you start with the best seller lists. Many categories are saturated on Amazon already so I recommend that you look into emerging and trending markets. This could be drone-racing, augmented reality or any other industry that’s just getting started. Be careful however not to choose a hype that’s going to fade in a few months. By that I mean a category like fidget spinners.

5. Blogs, gadget and trend sites

One of my favorite sites to find interesting blogs and trend websites is Kadaza. It’s a collection of the best sites in many different categories. Click on any of the categories and you will find websites in that niche.

For example, I found The Gadget Flow through Kadaza, and by subscribing to their newsletter I get weekly updates on trendy items that may not even be on Amazon yet.

They have a lot of products that are currently on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. But you know what? If it’s only on Kickstarter now, it means it isn’t on Amazon yet. You can take the product idea and even improve on it.

The point I want to get across is not to copy these companies, but to find ideas on blog sites and see how quick it is to buy from Alibaba or Global Sources. Add an accessory, change colors or do whatever you feel could improve the product. The best thing about subscribing to these sites is that you get ideas delivered for free to your email address.

6. Research tools

You may have heard of Jungle Scout already. Jungle Scout is probably the most advanced tool when it comes to navigating Amazon and finding best-selling products. It integrates into the Google Chrome browser to streamline product research. Jungle Scout can extract sales rank, sales volume, FBA fees, categories and more. From the early days only available to Amazon.com it is now available to track sales in almost all countries where Amazon is present. Last time I checked it didn’t work in Australia but all other countries seemed to work.

Junglescout has several tools at your disposal, from the “Niche Hunter” to the “Chrome Extension”. It is a paid tool but it has helped me many times to confirm a validity of a product that I wanted to sell. Personally I love their chrome extension that you can simply install and then scan the Amazon category pages. You get a lot of data from sales per month, potential profits and much more. My favourite has to be the “Opportunity Score” which can quickly tell you whether a product might be worth it to pursue. It ranges from 1-10 and while anything below 7 isn’t considered great with some of my following strategies you can still have an opportunity. The market might be saturated but I can still find gems with scores 7 or higher. Just the other day I found a product for one of my clients with a score of 10 (which is nearly impossible).

 

7. Get out in the world

There are hundreds of trade shows each year in many countries. You get to meet the supplier, see the products, and talk over details such as prices, models, and much more. On top of all of that I guarantee you that you will get inspired.

To find local trade shows just Google an exhibition center near you, then browse their upcoming events and apply for a ticket. You might need to provide a business card and contact details, but you can order cards online for a few dollars these days. Going to a show prepared and with a professional image gives suppliers a great impression of you.

Another way to find new products is simply when you are out in a shopping mall or a local store.

To start your own import business means that you also working when you are out shopping with friends or family! Keep your eyes open, and when you see something cool make a reminder for yourself on your smartphone to look the product up later.

Traveling is also a great way to find ideas. When you are out of your country or state you are likely to see items that you can’t find locally. There are many reasons why a product might not be available where you live, but it’s always worth checking an idea out.

I remember about ten years ago, a friend told me about Bubble Tea and Fancy Green Tea drinks sold in Hong Kong and Asia. She was from Germany and she had never seen these drinks back home. She didn’t pursue that idea but a few years later back in Germany these drinks started to pop up and were a smash hit!

Even an idea that at first seems like nothing could be worth millions! Share it with a few friends and brainstorm it.

8. Sourcing sites

When you sign up on Alibaba you generally need to say which product categories you are interested in. Based on this criteria, and your recent product searches on Alibaba, you’ll get automated emails with new product deals.

You can also simply type “newest products” in the product search function and you’ll find a lot of the newest and trendiest items from their suppliers.

It’s pretty similar with Global Sources. After signing up you’ll get automated emails with great product deals.

They also have a section with the great product as well as an “Analyst’s section over HERE newest products in every product category: But my favorite part is their Sourcing Magazines that are updated on a monthly basis with the hottest and newest products on the site. Whenever the magazines are updated you get a free e-copy delivered to your email. It doesn’t get easier than this and I’ve found some gems in their magazines sometimes.

9. A combination of trends and existing markets

Sometimes I look at existing products and see if I can improve them with a design trend. Let’s say for example you Google for “design and interior trends 2019”. You then visit these sites that have reports on them and see what trends there are for the particular year.

The other day I combined an existing product with a design trend. So if for example floral patterns are in for 2019 perhaps I could sell bed sheets or pillow covers with floral patterns (just an example).

If the color “millennial pink” is in for 2019 I could think of a few products where I could apply that color.

If vintage is a trend for 2019 I could look into furnitures, lighting, or decorative items that exist and give them a vintage look or color. All you have to do is find an interesting and potential niche and see if you can implement a design trend into that particular product.

What also helps is Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner (It’s free if you have a Gmail account). Just head on over there and type in a keyword and look out for the monthly searches. Anything with a search volume greater than 1-10,000 is a good indication. Google trend also helps me because it also gives me keyword related keywords that I may not have thought of. So for example if I type in “vintage decor” I can see other suggestions or trending keywords in that niche below:

find your niche

I could now look into vintage bathroom decor or vintage suitcase decor on Amazon with Junglescout and see if I can find an opportunity.

10. Innovation before Improvement

Now that we’ve discussed traditional methods I want to discuss what is in my opinion the most important part on having a successful product on Amazon – innovation before improvement. Meaning that you actually listen to what the market needs and wants, ideally develop your own product, instead of thinking what you think the market needs. This may be contrary to above methods but I suggest that at some point you develop your own products.

Here’s my step by step checklist on developing a successful product:

There’s a saying in the tech industry: you’ll succeed by setting the industry standard and not to improve existing standards. Just think about Apple or Nike. These companies are leading the way in their industries.

Let me explain how I go about developing products. The goal is to create 1 or more rockstar products that define your brand and guarantee the success of your company. Think about a seed that you plant for the future, everything takes time.

Ideally the first product is what defines your brand and you should also stick with these values. Just like Nike or Apple are famous for their expertise in their field, you should be known in your field. Same goes for every industry. For example if you think about the best Italian restaurant in town they are probably famous for their pasta or pizza and not for having a fusion of Italian and Mexican food. Stick to your assortment and branding strategy. I am not saying you shouldn’t sell underlying product groups or assortments but don’t sell Bluetooth speakers and shower heads. Focus on 1 core assortment.

That’s were many people make their first mistake, starting with a product without defining their niche. Yes, 5 years ago you could go onto Alibaba, select anything and it would sell on Amazon and later you’d think about other products that would fit. But those days are over. What you’ll need is a clear branding and marketing strategy as well as a “product to market fit”. This term is one of the most important factors in the commerce.

Find your niche

First, find your niche. I’ve already discussed a few ways above but I want to give you an actual example later. Many people start with the idea of a product first and then notice that the market entry level is too high (either dominated by brands or too much capital needed). So find your niche first and have at least somewhat of an interest in the niche. All my brands are selling things that I have either a passion for or that I have an interest in.

Amazing products connect with the target audience

If you have amazing products and a target audience then you have the recipe to success. Think of it this way, if you have a happy customer or fanbase how likely will it be that they buy from you again? Very likely. People already trust you because of your rockstar product and they’ll buy from you again.

Finding interesting and established markets

So the first thing to do is to find interesting markets. Obviously you can follow the news but that’s perhaps not the ideal way. Most people want to make easy money but if you don’t venture down the more challenging part now it will be more difficult later.

If it were so easy to make money online everyone would be doing it right? A lot of people fall for marketing gurus that sell you pipe dreams like “make 40,000$ in 1 month with little to no work”. I can promise you that business does not exist.

You need to finding existing markets that have reached a mature size otherwise you don’t have customers – this is the most crucial part- product to market fit. These markets/niches can also give you the best feedback. If you don’t have a mature market where you can collect feedback from it will be very difficult as you would have to establish a whole new market by yourself.

If you don’t have a product to market fit and you need to establish the awareness or market at first you’ll need a lot of capital for marketing.

Suggestions on finding your niche

Make a list of your areas of interest, split this list down into niches. Only list general interest at first and then research each one. This could be something that you identify yourself with, a hobby, an expertise, part of your profession or similar. Break down the niches and go into the smallest niches. For example if you are into outdoor sports go down into sub-niches:

There might be a core community on Facebook, forums or Reddit you may want to check out. You will want to solve a problem for these guys and really connect with them.

In an ideal world you’d find interests that you’d be totally enthused about. But don’t be an artist. Artists don’t survive on Amazon. Don’t try to invent trends that don’t have a future or demand. Don’t fixate yourself on one idea or industry because you personally are enthusiastic about it. Remember – product to market fit.

The right mindset

At this point it’s also important to leave your ego out of the business. I saw a few people in my time (including me) that were too attached to ideas and convinced that there idea is what the world needs. You need to see your business objectively and don’t let your personal emotions or preferences interfere too much. Only concentrate on what the market needs and not what YOU think the market needs.

Of course it is important to invent, develop and look into new markets but always keep the product to market fit in mind.

Do something that you aren’t comfortable with. That could even be items in a higher price range assortment. Most items that I release, cost more than 15$ in buying price.

Few people actually go into higher priced or difficult categories. But that’s where the air isn’t so thin as in low priced and common items. You could argue that you may not have the capital for it but on the other hand this is a business as any other and sometimes you need to take the risks. 15 years ago it was unimaginable to start a business that could generate 100,000$ within the first year with just a 5-10,000$ investment.

We have all the tools today that make it possible; social media, Junglescout and others. So it takes a bit of the following components: gut feeling, data analysis, community access and brand building to succeed.

I often hear that people don’t want to invest 200$ into a custom made sample for their idea. If you aren’t willing to invest 200$ into your business then maybe this is not for you anyway.

Research problems in the industry

During your research, find out what the problems of the industry are. Or what people ask for (a good example in a bit). Sometimes it’s simple things that make a product easier to handle or just more aesthetic in design. Can you do something about a product that makes people’s lives easier and make you a hero while doing it? Sometimes these communities are just waiting for the bigger brands to solve their problems or introduce the product that they so desperately want.

Obviously you want to tap into mature markets but also into markets that are still growing. A bad example would be fidget spinners. Not kidding you, when the trend came out I got 20 people within 1 month asking me to source fidget spinners for them. Imagine how many people went to other sourcing companies or sourced on their own? This really confirms that the majority wants to make quick and easy money without too much work.

You have to be the one who doesn’t jump on these trends but bring innovation to the market. This does not mean that you redesign the fidget spinner or bring it in other colors. You have to convince customers from the beginning and not bring a great feature only on your second product. Customers want to be wooed.

Your 1st Rockstar product should also be something that you can sell over and over again for a long time. Basically a cash cow in the long run. Sure, competitors will come and copy you, but you’ll always be ahead and ideally work on your next product once the competition catches up. Thus the competition will always try to catch up.

Your focus should not be on your competition but developing new products and think one step ahead. If you have 1 or 2 cash cows that bring a constant amount of money in, you also act much more relaxed when developing new ideas.

Access to the market

Before you even get started with the product idea you should make sure that you can actually reach your target audience and customers. A good example where you’ll fail would be branded goods like women’s bags. Consumers trust or want to have branded things. No matter if your product is superior.

Let’s say you had the idea of a women’s tote bag, found a supplier, ordered the product, listed it on Amazon and now you come to realize that people are not buying your bags. Naturally; because women want to buy branded stuff like Gucci, Louis Vuitton etc. You’ll also have difficulties getting magazines or influencers to write about your bags because they usually promote the big brands

To tap into such a market you need connections, years of marketing and essentially a lot of money. This can quickly be the end of your ecommerce career. What’s more, on high competition items like women’s bags you also have high PPC costs that can quickly evaporate your profits.

So again, you need access to the marketplace & its customers. Access to market is critical and you should be thinking of that right from the start, otherwise you are constantly in survival mode and run after sales. If you are constantly in survival mode, you simply have no time for product development, long-term strategies, or other important things that will shape the future of your brand. So – cash cow products, audience and access to the market.

Once you’ve settled on a niche, you should think about product ideas. For example what is currently selling well in this niche? Are there any technical or groundbreaking trends coming in the future? For example when I heard rumors in November 2015 that Apple wants to remove the audio jack on the iPhone and only offer the earphone with lightning connector, I was thinking about what that means for the future and the iPhone 7.

So I spoke to some suppliers and developed earphones with lightning connection. Granted it was a big risk to develop a product based on rumors but then when the rumors became true in September 2016, I was the only provider of iPhone earphones with lightning connection (other than Apple). Obviously many sellers came after but for about 12 weeks I was the only seller of certified iPhone lightning connector earphones and I made nearly $30,000 on a $6,000 investment. The moral of the story is that you sometimes have to take a risk but more importantly listen to the community or solve an existing problem.

What does the community want?

Listen in on what communities are saying in your niche. What are people talking about right now? Is there a certain problem within a niche? Here the community work is really very important. You can be active in 1-2 communities and really listen in on what customers prefer, what brands are popular, what are those brands doing or not doing at the moment etc.

A great indication of whether a product is needed is when people say that they have to use other products in combination with the actual product to make it work more smoothly.

For example, when Bitcoin and all the other cryptocurrencies came out, you could download the wallets to your computer or save them online on exchanges. Many people worried what if the exchange goes belly up or if their computer dies on them?

Then Ledger came and developed a hardware wallet that would store your cryptocurrency. You could then put your Ledger hardware wallet in a locked up safe or store it somewhere safely. Ledger was sold out for months and couldn’t even cope with demand. Again, someone listened to a problem in a community and solved it by offering a solution.

All these things will define your product. The more you incorporate problems of the community and try to solve them with your product you’ll minimize the risk of failing with your self developed product.

You will always see the following attributes for successful products:

1) A great solution,

2) Quality that you can trust, easy to get and easy to handle.

Are these all attributes of your article? If not, how can you apply these attributes to your product?

Imagine you are your own customer. Would you be satisfied with your product? Why would customers not buy your product? What does the product do for your customers? What doesn’t it do? At this point, you also have to come back to the point: Are you your own biggest fan or are you solving an actual problem with your product? Consider the product or idea objectively.

To further define your product, split your product into 3 categories:

1) The functional part (which problem does your product solve?).

2) The emotional part (how do people feel when they buy or use your product?)

3) The social part (is this product an icebreaker? Does it show a certain social status?)

Remember your product should solve a problem or be part of your costumer’s daily life. Why does someone need your product? Can your product solve complexities or frustration with other products that the customer experiences?

Entry barriers

At this point, it is important to take another step back and look if there are any other entry barriers. For example, sometimes industries are tied down and all suppliers are actively working for these brands or major customers. Like smart-phones. This industry is dominated by 4-5 big brands. Do you have a chance to even work with the suppliers of these brands? Are there any patents, license or royalty fees? Sometimes the costs, licenses or certifications required to succeed are simply too high.

Sometimes you also need to be honest with yourself and ask, “Do I have the technical know how” to develop such a product?

Ask your supplier which certifications; costs (including tooling) could arise. Or are there continuous product costs, royalty, licensing fees etc.

Another point would be your selling price. Can your target audience even afford your product? You could talk to your active communities and just ask what people would pay for a certain product.

Another option to validate a product or its price would be to simply start a PPC campaign on Facebook with a “buy now” button that leads to a listing where people can buy samples of your product at a certain price. Obviously there is no stock but this method makes it easier to show if people are interested at all. You can then look at the analytics and data and make better decisions for the price & product development.

Can you scale the business? Is there a point where you just cannot expand the business? (E.g. fidget spinner)

Conclusion

At this point, you are probably overwhelmed with all the theories and work ahead when developing a product and you are already thinking this will never happen.

Simply put, good things take time and you don’t need to rush. Imagine a long hike that you have to plan ahead of time. For example I always wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in the US. The whole hike lasts between 4-6 months and you just have to prepare yourself with good equipment, read about how to find water and food, get maps etc. So it’s a long process to get prepared.

There is no shortcut in any business. Sometimes you can be lucky and struck a gold mine quickly but you can’t rely on that.

There will also be days when you have to ask yourself unpredictable questions or face unpleasant situations. There will be days when you are super excited about your idea, going to bed unable to sleep because you love your idea. And then on the next day, a difficult situation will bring you down and make you feel depressed about your idea. At this point either continue and ignore your ego, make improvements & changes to your product or actually say – ok this is too much to handle.

Once you’ve answered all these questions for you, it’s time to start sourcing with suppliers, negotiate prices, ordering prototypes, and putting everything together. Also, don’t give up too soon just because the first suppliers don’t want to do what you ask or completely redesign their existing product. Just because you haven’t found a supplier after 7 days doesn’t mean you won’t find one.

For one of my own products, I looked for a supplier for 6 months and I finally found them that at a trade fair. Of course it also makes sense to go to China (or go to local trade shows in your country) when it comes to selecting suppliers.

But also be open for suggestions from the suppliers you talk to. Talk to suppliers about modifications or suggestions that could improve your design. Do not cling too much to your ego when 10 out of 10 suppliers say it doesn’t work that way.

Now that the community, trend & general research is done you should have a pretty good feeling with your product. Often you actually don’t have to go through all the above steps and sometimes results will come much quicker in a way you didn’t anticipate. My point is to be aware of these situations.

Once you’ve actually cleared all doubts and realized “yes the world needs my product and it will even sell very well” then there is actually no reason left, not to do it.

If a big investment of say $ 20,000 is your only problem, then entrepreneurship or this business is not for you. A certain risk will always exist but with this strategy and calculated risk, there is really nothing left to stop you.

Now you could say, yes but should I not start with something simple first? Sure, I’ve explained how and when in Steps 1-9. But considering that the competition is getting bigger and bigger and the strategy I just laid out for you worked on many of my products, you may want to ask yourself if you want to improve or set standards.

Because if you are always just making me-to products and just trying to improve other products with an add-on or other colors or more accessories, you are behind the market. But if you have several self-developed products on the market that bring you more money in the long and always put you ahead of the competition wouldn’t that be worth pursuing? To make simple products at first is totally OK but if you want to do this as a full-time job, you have to think innovatively over time and follow this process.

Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel but just adding a different colour to an existing product in today’s market won’t be enough. Listen to what your customers want or need and take it from there.

 

Bonus:

Last but not least if you are still struggling to find or develop a product I may have a solution for you. In January 2019 I released a service where I personally will find a product for you to sell on Amazon!

I receive emails on a daily basis from people asking me to help them find a product for them. This lead me to introduce a new service on ImportDojo. I now offer the help of finding a product for you and preparing an entire strategy along with it.

Last year September I did this in a live workshop in Austria. I selected 15 people to attend my workshop in where I gave them a product based on their hobbies, interests, skills and passion. Combined with my 20 years of experience in retail, eCommerce and manufacturing I worked out a unique product for each attendee. During the workshop I presented the product to each attendee along with a tailor made product and branding strategy. The workshop was a great success and I have now decided to do this again for my readers.

I’ve prepared detailed information on what is included in this package on my website along with the most frequently asked questions over here:

https://importdojo.com/find-me-a-product/

I’ll be doing 8-10 hours of research on each product plus 1 hour coaching with the student so act fast as I will limit this to only 15 slots available for each month!

When I released this service, slots were sold out in 2 days and the waitlist is ever growing. So make sure to watch out for my email or subscribe to my waitlist here at the very bottom of the page: https://importdojo.com/find-me-a-product/

ImportDojo

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