How I increased my sales by 37% at the Chicago Golf Show

Hi! My name is Curtis Florence founder of inventorsdaily.com, the place where inventors come to share their lessons on bringing products to market! In this post I want to share with you six critical changes I made based on lessons I learned from my first year of trade shows which helped me generate a surprising 37% increase in sales at last year’s Chicago Golf Show.

After doing my first 3 trade shows in 2011, I was really looking forward to my return to the Chicago Show. For one, it’s in my home town, the great city of Chicago and two, it was by far the most profitable event I attended my first year doing shows. I was really anxious to apply the lessons I learned from the previous year and to re-connect with customers from past year to see if and how my product had helped them. I knew if I was going to have a successful show, I would need to correct some things that I missed the first year.

There were six critical changes that I made this past year which led to a surprising 37% increase over last year’s sales.

The first and most important was securing sponsors. Every year the Chicago Golf Show does a really nice annual prospectus with the previous year’s results. Their attendance has been increasing every year and has most recently surpassed 16,000 attendees. I was able to put together a nice letter using attendance and demographic statistics for prospective sponsors. I also included a detail line item description for the different sponsorship contributions, for example booth sponsor, video sponsor, bag sponsor, and raffle sponsor. Thankfully, I was able to secure two major sponsors (Thanks Forest Security!). And quite honestly, without them, I would have most likely missed the show. The clutch went out on my car a few weeks before the show, dealing me a major unexpected financial blow. With the sponsorship funds, I was still able to secure my booth and purchase enough products to sell for the three day show.

The next thing I did to help increase sales was to make changes to my product. I have to give a lot of credit to the late Steve Jobs and what he strived for with Apple products. After reading his biography, one of the biggest lessons I learned as a product developer is that even if you create a highly sophisticated product it should still be simple & intuitive to use. Hey and I’m not comparing the Putt Pad to an iPad, but after looking at my product, I realized that it lacked basic indicators to show how it worked. The beautiful thing about my product is that if I want to make changes, I can make them graphically. There are no expensive costs to create or modify tooling. So, I ended up adding arrows to point to where the user should square their putter. I also added numbers to the measure marks so that the user would know exactly how many inches their backstroke would need to be in order to roll the ball a certain distance. This second critical change helped tremendously. This year, I looked up several times as I was performing demonstrations, I could see people touching and talking over the product and they knew exactly how it worked. Some customers didn’t even need to try the product, they just bought it!

Last year I thought it would be a great idea to get a corner booth on a major aisle. So, I did it again this year. But, I made one key change. Last year I thought it would be smart to set up directly across from the longest putt contest because I knew this was a major attraction at the show. AND, I thought people passing by would be in a putting mood. As it turned out, the contest ended up being more of a distraction. Some people would stop by the booth due to the long line at the putt contest. There were even a few people that left my booth and sank a long putt in the contest, but most people were more interested in watching to see if the putts were going in for the contest. So this year, I kept my corner booth, off the major aisle, but I moved just one aisle over from the putt contest. With this third critical change, I still got a steady stream of traffic but by the time people got around the corner, they were back to looking for new products and great deals.

Thinking back to last year, the one things that makes me laugh are the homemade signs I had describing the product. Don’t get me wrong, they were beautifully done with poster board and Sharpies, but after walking around the show, I realized that if I wanted to establish my brand, I would definitely need some professional looking signage. So, for my fourth critical change, I had my graphic artist design some signs that could hang down from the top of the booth almost to the floor, right in front of where we were demonstrating the product. This signage transformed the booth and generated a lot more interest as people passed by.

Eric Alexander shows customer how to use the Putt Pad

I was lucky this year to have my good friend Eric join me again at this year’s show. He’s a natural salesman and he did a really good job with the customers last year. Along with Eric, I added another good friend of mine, Randy, who worked the main aisle. This fifth critical change turned out to be a difference maker. As people would come down the aisle, Randy would greet them and explain the product. If they were interested, Randy would send them inside the booth to myself or Eric to demo the product. If they really liked the product, they bought it right on the spot. Now here’s the key, a lot of people liked the product, but wanted to shop around the show before spending their hard earned money. I’m happy to say, that most of the customers came back, and when they did, they just made their purchase from Randy, right off the aisle, smooth, easy, and simple. This created maximum efficiency for selling because neither Eric nor I had to stop doing demos to process a sale.

If you are thinking about selling your product at a trade show, you must remember, some buyers are fickle. If they see that you’re busy, even if they want your product, they might just keep walking. So, you must make it as easy as possible for them to make a purchase.

The sixth and final change that I made this year was making sure I could process credit cards. Last year I opted not to spend extra money to run power to my booth, and I knew I would not be able to have a cash register or process credit cards. Thankfully, with the advance of technology and smart phones, this year I could process credit cards right on my cell phone using Square. A technology designed to do just that. They even sent the card reader to me for free. After swiping a customer’s card, I could have them sign, right on the phone and email them the receipt, a simple and paperless process. By the end of day two, my sales had already matched my three day total from the previous year. Over 60% of my increase in sales was processed with credit cards. So, if you are going to sell products at a trade show. Make sure you get or borrow a smart phone so that you can process these transactions. It could make a big difference to your bottom line.

I’m going to end this post with a story from the show which taught me a big lesson. A guy came up with his son, who was just about two years old. So, I quickly grabbed the kid putter that I keep in the booth and began helping his son with holding the putter and trying to show him how to make putts. Usually the parents are good about moving the kids along because they realize that we are trying to show our products to a lot of people and make sales. But, this particular customer remained for several minutes. In my head, my timer started going off and I started thinking, “I hope this guy is going to make a purchase”. And, eventually, when it was all said and done he bought a set of Putt Pads. About 20 minutes goes by and I look up and there he was again. He says “you know, I think I’m gonna to buy another set as a gift”. I said “great, thanks for the support!” About 20 minutes later he’s back again and said “I thought of one other person who could use a pair.”I said, “Great, I’ll give you a discount since you’ve come back twice now.” And, he says “great, thanks!” About 30 minutes later, the guys back again inquiring about the putting greens that we were using and if we had any for sale. It turned out that my putting greens shipped late from California, so I didn’t get them in time for the show. But, luckily I had one left from last year’s show still in the box, which he happily bought for $85. He spent more than any one customer at the show. And, afterwards, I couldn’t help but think how glad I was to keep my cool and remain patient as he and his son were in the booth. It’s important to take your time and be patient with your customers because that person could turn out to be one of your best and loyal supporters.

I want to take the time to thank all the customers that have stopped by my booths at the local trade shows. Especially Tim Bland, who made a point to come back to the booth this year to tell me he had dropped his handicap from a 12 to a 4. In a year’s time he consistently knocked 8 strokes off his score by using the Putt Pad! I’d also like to give an extra special thanks to Damon, Damo, and Troy Watson whose tireless efforts inspire me to keep pace with all the hard work they have invested and will continue to invest in order to reach greatness. I started designing products with the desire to help people not as some scheme to get rich! Stories like Tim’s and the Watson’s are what keep me motivated. And, I hope to develop many more products in the future!

Troy Watson's Tournament Winnings

Thank you for visiting inventorsdaily.com. I hope you were able to learn from my experience on bringing products to market. Please let me know if I can provide additional info and I will try to incorporate it into future posts. Make sure to sign up on our email list and follow us on twitter @inventorsdaily or like our Inventorsdaily.com fan page on Facebook.

Walmart’s Get on the Shelf Product Contest

Inventing a product has been a life long dream. I invented the Putt Pad almost a year and a half ago and have received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from customers from all over the world. I have sent the Putt Pad to half the states in the US and to several countries, including England, Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, and Germany! Through the process of developing my own product, I have learned a tremendous amount about myself, business, and the effort it takes to not only understand but to really connect with people.

I’ve learned first hand, while major corporations have several teams of people working to ensure the success of their products, being a one man show isn’t easy.At the recently held Chicago Golf Show, I increased my sales 37% over last year and sold close to 400 Putt Pads in a three day period! With this continued success, I feel like I am on the right track. And now, to keep the momemtum going, I need your help.

I recently entered Walmart’s Get On the Shelf Product Contest and the first round of voting has begun and will contine through April 3. You can vote once per day by:

Texting 1080 to 383838

and / or by clicking this link

http://getontheshelf.com/product/1080/The-Putt-Pad
To learn more about The Putt Pad visit www.theputtpad.com

Thanks,

Curtis Justin Florence

3 Critical Lessons I Learned From My First Tradeshow

Click here to listen to my latest post on three critical lessons I learned from my first tradeshow and how I am using technology to solve some of the problems I had last year.

Hi! My name is Curtis Florence founder of inventorsdaily.com, the place where inventors come to share their lessons on bringing products to market! In this post I want to share with you three critical lessons I learned from my first tradeshow and how I am using technology to solve some of the problems I had last year.

As I get ready for the 2012 golf show season, I want to tell you about all of the changes I’ve made in order to be better prepared for the upcoming year.

I will be the first to admit, just having invented the Putt Pad before last year’s show, I didn’t have a clue on how to plan for a trade show. All I knew was that I was going to three different cities to promote my product. I decided to do a show in Chicago, one in Milwaukee, and one in Fort Wayne Indiana. I wanted to stay in the Midwest to make it easier for me to travel to the different shows by van.

Once I figured out which cities I was going to, I created a list of everything I thought I needed. This included the amount of product, staff, the equipment I would need for demonstration, and some signage to enhance the booth.

I was lucky that the first show was in Chicago, my hometown. This made me feel a little more comfortable, because if it turned out that there  was something I didn’t have, I would know exactly where to go to get it.

All in all, the show went really well. I decided to get a corner booth right across from the longest putt contest because I knew this would be a high traffic area. We struggled at first with deciding how to setup the booth before deciding to maximize the 10 x 10 space by adding 2 demo areas. This allowed us to handle twice as many customers as the traffic increased.

But there were three critical things that I didn’t have last year that I have worked to correct for this year’s show: booth sponsors, a way to track my inventory, and a way to process credit cards. 

The first should have been obvious, but it wasn’t to me. As determined as I was to be at the show. When I listed out all if the stuff I thought I needed, financially I was a little short. I was reluctant to seek sponsors because having never done a show, I wasn’t sure I could create enough value for a would be sponsor to support a first time show participant with an unfamiliar product.

But this year I can easily explain how well I did last year, the amount of traffic I saw, and most importantly, exactly what I would do with the money, like create a video from the show and put their name in the credits. This is something that will live beyond the show and could have a lasting impact on their business once placed online. I could buy better prizes for customer raffles to increase traffic. I could get customized bags and put all of their company brochures in them for booth visitors. I could give away products to kids under a certain age. I could provide them with the names and email addresses of our customers for follow up. I think you get the point. Having more money enables you to create a better experience for your customers which in turn helps build your brand.

Another thing I was missing last year was a way to track my inventory. At first, we would have the customer demo the product. We then pitched two different offers and if they wanted to buy something, we were fumbling with bags trying to close the sale while others were waiting or just kept passing by. So, we quickly made an adjustment when we got a break. We pre-bagged a bunch of product and if they wanted to buy, the cashier would have it ready and waiting. This made for a much smoother transaction for our customers.

With this system we were able to more than double our first day sales on the second day. The system was good but we still had no way to track our inventory. I recently found an app for my Android phone called Inventory Droid. This program will allow me to know exactly how much product I have in real time. So this year, I will be able to verify my income based on the inventory sold and use it for accounting purposes.

The last thing that I didn’t have last year was a way to process credit cards. Because most convention centers use union labor for installing and setting up the show, I decided not to have an outlet run to my booth for an extra $400 dollars. This would have enabled me the ability to have a cash register and a credit card machine but I chose not incur that expense. As a result, it cost me some big sales. For some of my bigger ticket items like putters and putting greens, customers weren’t able to make the purchase because we were only accepting cash. But once again, thanks to modern day technology I found a company called Square that will allow me to process credit cards right on my smart phone. The best part is, the setup is free and they even sent me a little piece of hardware that fits into the headphone jack of my phone so that I can swipe credit cards. And, the money goes right into my business account within a day or so.  Having funds in my account this quickly will allow me to order any additional products I may need before the next show.

If you are considering taking your product to a tradeshow, make sure to develop a checklist for all the items you think you might need, think of some creative ways to get traffic to your booth, make sure that when people pass by they know exactly what the benefits and features of your product are, and the most important thing is to make sure you have a way to collect names and email addresses from your customers. It is important that you follow up with customers after the show so you can develop a relationship. Their feedback will be critical for changes you may need to make to your product or your sales approach.

Thank you for visiting inventorsdaily.com.  I hope you were able to learn from my experience on bringing products to market. Please let me know if I can provide additional info and I will try to incorporate it into future posts.  Make sure to sign up on our email list and follow us on twitter @inventorsdaily or like our Inventorsdaily.com fan page on facebook.

How Blogging Can Help Turn Your Best Ideas into Great Products!

Click here to listen to how I created my first product and how blogging can help you turn your best ideas into great products!

Hi. My name is Curtis Florence founder of inventorsdaily.com, the place where inventors come to share their lessons on bringing products to market! In this post I want to tell you my story on how I created my first product and how blogging can help you turn your best ideas into great products.

Blogging is something that is quickly becoming one if my favorite things to do. Before I knew much about blogging, I thought that these were sites that people set up just to rant their personal views and opinions about stuff nobody cared about but them. But once I realized that many of the sites that I had frequented for my own personal interests were not actually websites but they themselves were blogs, I quickly began to see the value.

I want to tell you my story on how I developed my first product, the Putt Pad. If I had it to do all over again, I may have taken a much different approach to developing my product, but let me start from the beginning.

In February of 2010 I was given a copy of the book the 4 hr Work Week written by Tim Ferris. Before I had even finished the book I was on fire thinking about what products I could create and what I needed to do to outsource my life, which by the way is still a work in progress.

Since I loved to golf, I decided to pursue a couple different golf product ideas. It just so happened at the end of February, there was a big golf show in town.  And I told myself, if I went to the show and didn’t see my product that I would get started immediately. Needless to say, I didn’t see any products that looked like what I had in mind, so I got started.

I used my mechanical engineering skills to design a virtual model for a golf putting aid. Even though I was able to show the concept, I knew the product needed to be refined by a professional company. I had heard that a lot of those invention Submission companies were not to be trusted. So, I found a company by the name of Lambert & Lambert that would not only evaluate my idea but if they liked it, they would put funds behind it and also help secure a licensing deal. Not having a lot of time and resources I figured this may be my best option for getting my first product to market.

After sending in my explanation of the product and a $200 fee, I waited patiently for them to send me a response. After a few weeks, I received a report with evaluation criteria that completely broke down the strengths & weaknesses of my product. As I read the report, I begin to get excited because I seemed to be scoring high in a lot of the categories, until I turned the page. To make a long story short, I scored in the 80s and I needed to score in the 90s in order for them to back my product.

While most people may have felt like they wasted $200 dollars or that the company didn’t know what they were talking about, my reaction was exactly opposite, mainly because I had a plan B. Rather than tucking my tail between my legs and feeling like my dreams were crushed, I took their evaluation criteria and applied it to a second idea that I had.  One that I felt I could do on my own. Because of their evaluation process, I was able to adjust my design and enhance the features to make my product convenient to use and more unique.

To get to the point, after filing for a provisional patent, a trademark, setting up a website, having my product debut at one of the biggest golf shows in the UK and attending several golf shows in the Midwest, which I will cover in more detail in future blog posts, I am still chasing down my ideal customers and trying to convince them that I have a great product which can help them improve their putting alignment, speed and distance control. There are 60 million golfers worldwide and I am only 1 guy so that’s a lot of chasing.

If I were to do it all over again, I might consider doing things differently.  Let me explain why! When I went to the PGA Golf Show in Orlando earlier this year, I was completely amazed.  It was as grand as the auto-show, but instead of cars it was full of golf equipment, products and clothing.  But the thing that shocked me the most wasn’t all of the bright lights and fancy displays, it was all of the small independent companies with great products that I had never seen or heard of. Which made me think, who are these companies and are they shelling out thousands of dollars to be at the big show because they are chasing their ideal customers too?

Through this process, I’ve spent a lot of money developing and now trying to get people to notice my product too! And, lately I have been wondering, for a fraction of the cost, maybe I could have just started a blog about golf training aids, attracted some loyal subscribers and with their help, get a better understanding of what was out there, what was selling, and what golfers really wanted. This may have led me in a completely different direction as far as my first product. To develop something for people that I would already have a relationship with, would most likely mean immediate sales. And, sales are essential for the growth of any small business.

For example, if you look on the right side of the InventorsDaily blog, you will see a blogroll. This is a list of valuable blogs and websites that keep me up to date with what’s going on in the product development world.

If you are considering launching your new product, you may want to take a step back and create a blog or find some expert blogs, chat forums, and trade associations related to your product idea. Having a blog may make it easier for you to connect with professionals and potential customers, through sites like Facebook, twitter, and Linkedin. By connecting with the right experts, they can help make sure you’re on the right track and that there are no industry or regulatory changes that may make your product unusable. It could even lead you down the path to a lucrative licensing deal!

One of the worse things you can do is to spend time and money on a product(s) that nobody wants! Trust me; I have heard many horror stories of people obsessed with developing their product that quit their job, mortgage their house and spend thousands of dollars creating a product that nobody wants. More importantly, this may make your spouse very very mad and also discourage you from pursuing other good ideas you may have now or in the future! So, keep the ideas rolling, but make sure to do the proper due diligence.

To learn more about blogging, I have included links at the end of this post to websites that have helped me get a better sense of the benefits of starting a blog.

Thank you for visiting inventorsdaily.com. I hope you were able to learn from my experience on bringing products to market. Please let me know if I can provide additional info and I will try to incorporate it into future posts.  Make sure to sign up on our email list and follow us on twitter @inventorsdaily or like our Inventorsdaily.com fan page on facebook.

 

Blog Platforms

WordPress

Tumblr

Blogger

 

Reasons to Blog

Susan Gunelius

 

How to Blog

Howtoblog.org

Darren Rowse (Problogger)

 

Earning Money through Blogging

Yaro Starak – Blog Profits Blueprint is a great resource. To date, I have not taken any paid courses from this site.

Gideon Shalwick – Roadmap to Become a Blogger is great, but I have not taken any paid courses from this site.

 

 

3rd Annual Chicago Inventors Conference

If you weren’t able to attend the 3rd Annual Chicago Black Inventors Conference at the Illinois Institute of Technology, you missed a world-class event! I got the chance to meet the licensing king, Stephen Key, who turned out to be a genuinely down to earth guy who wants to see all of us independent inventors become successful. Stay tuned for a full recap of the event!

 

 

Blog Update!

Click here to listen to the most recent blog update!

Hi everyone. This is Curtis Florence founder of inventorsdaily.com, the place where inventors come to share and learn lessons on bringing products to market. I just wanted to give you a quick update on the status of the blog. The blog is officially up but I’m considering it more of a soft launch because there are some videos that I’m working on that will help lay the ground work for the type of content that I want to have on the site. So for now, I’m just collecting things that I run across that I like and are interested in sharing with you. Make sure to check out my blog roll. There is valuable information on all of the sites that I have listed. There are also some great interviews on InventRight Radio and Got Invention Radio. Make sure to take the time to explore the site and subscribe to our email list. I would greatly appreciate any feedback that you might have. Just to remind you again, the licensing king, Stephen Key, will be in Chicago this Saturday at the Chicago Black Inventors Conference at the Illinois Institute of Technology. It is an all day conference and I would encourage anyone who can make the trip to come. It’s a free. So even if you live a few hours a way, it is worth the drive. Trust me. Last year’s conference blew me away with all the experts and guest speakers.

Thanks for stopping by inventorsdaily.com. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter @inventorsdaily or like our inventorsdaily.com fan page facebook.

3rd Annual Chicago Black Inventors Conference

Calvin Flowers and Dennis Daniels have done it again! They have attracted some of the biggest names in the industry to share their thoughts, lessons, and experience for FREE at their 3rd Annual Inventors Conference . The conference will be held October 22, 2011 at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the Hermann Hall Conference Center located at 3241 S. Federal in Chicago, Illinois. They have put together a wonderful program which includes keynote speaker Stephen Key (author of One Simple Idea) and a lineup of many other great speakers and panelists. There were over 300 attendees at last year’s Conference and they anticipate even more people this year. Take the time to register for the Conference and you won’t be dissapointed!