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Today I’m going to take you through every step of creating and sourcing a physical product.
This is a quick overview – for lots more details on the steps involved see the blog posts and episodes linked in the resources below.
Do remember to download the free resource for this episode – created by me, with input from Gemma Whates, Founder of All By Mama. It’s a complete checklist of the steps involved in creating your product and setting up your business.
If you’re looking to make, rather than source your product there may well be a few steps that aren’t as relevant to you, but do still listen as there’s still lots in there!
How to create or source a physical product - step-by-step
Welcome to the, bring your product ideas to life podcast, practical advice, and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products. Here's your host Vicki Weinberg.
Vicki Weinberg (00:00:21):
Hi, wait. It's so nice to talk to you today. And I haven't done a solo episode in a while as well, so it is quite exciting and I've got a new set up as well. I'm in a different rooms. I don't know if it sounds different. You'd have to tell me that once you have a listen, I'm over a year into this podcast now. Well, over a year, in fact, and I haven't yet recorded an episode where I go through every step in the product creation process, and we've definitely touched on elements of it over, over the episodes safer, but I thought it'd be really useful for you to have a complete overview of all of the steps. So, you know exactly what's involved. I have a fantastic free download for this episode, which talks you through all of the steps with some additional ones that are needed to get the business side set up. Those provided by Gemma Whates.
Vicki Weinberg (00:01:02):
Who's the founder of all by mama and a business startup mentor links to the checklist. Plus the episode I did of Gemma I'm in the show notes for this episode, which you can get by clicking on the episode details wherever you're listening. And there's going to be lots and lots of things in there today, because there are lots of episodes in the archive that go through some of the aspects we'll talk through today in more detail. And I'll be sure to link to all of those today is going to be a bit of a quick sort of whiz through. It'll just really to give you an understanding of what's involved and all the pieces that sort of, sort of, you need to be thinking about when you're looking to create your product. And as I say, there's so many resources available on my website that can talk you through different aspects of that in more detail.
Vicki Weinberg (00:01:45):
And of course, if you want to talk through any of it with me personally, then you can always book a product creation call via my website, which is Vicki wine.com. If you are looking to create your product yourself. So perhaps you're looking to have, make your products, then some of the steps, particularly when we start talking about sourcing, I probably not going to be as relevant for you, but bear with us because once we get towards the end and we started talking about marketplaces and preparing your product to sell, then I think you will definitely want to listen to that part. Okay? So let's get going. The very first thing you will need to do is define what your product is and who it's for. And I suggest you really take some time to think about this.
Vicki Weinberg (00:02:26):
So what is your product? What problem does it solve? And who's going to buy it to give an example. What I mean by this is rather than saying, well, my product is a blanket. Maybe you would say, well, my product is a really super lightweight blanket. And it's for parents who wants to keep their babies snug and warm and secure without them overheating. That's just an example, knowing who your customer is, can really help ensure that you create the product they want. It makes it easier to find them, which you're going to need to do because in the next stage, I'm going to suggest you actually talk to your ideal customers and you find out
a little bit more about what they're looking for in a product like yours. So knowing what your product is, even if you don't know all of the details, but sort of knowing what you're looking to achieve and knowing who will be the person that will buy it will help you so much.
Vicki Weinberg (00:03:13):
So that is the very first thing I suggest you do. The next stage is validating your products idea. And my top piece of advice here is don't ask your family and friends, or don't just ask your family and friends. This to me is really important because, but for a few reasons, one is that they just might not be your ideal customer. They also might really want to support you. In fact, I'm sure they will want to support you so they might tell you what you want. They think you want to hear. They might say, yes, this is brilliant. You know, this is really good just because they think you want to hear that that might not necessarily be their opinion and that's lovely and really supportive, but lungs have, that might not be that helpful. Or they might go the other way and be really cautious because, you know, maybe they're a bit risk averse at that.
Vicki Weinberg (00:03:56):
You know, they, they're sort of worried about what you're undertaking and that might sort of put you off a little bit. So I'm not saying don't talk to your friends and family. I'm not saying don't listen to their opinions. I'm jus saying that unless they really are your ideal customer, do you take it over for pinch of sow and focus on the people who, you know, will ultimately be the people that would be potential customers for you? So maybe, you know, some potential customers, personally, maybe they're people in your sort of friendship group or people that you know, or if you don't know any personally, I think you should be able to find them. I think Facebook groups are really good place to find people or other online or even offline grapes.
Vicki Weinberg (00:04:36):
So you need to basically find them and ask them some questions. So I did an Instagram post about this awhile ago, and I've also blogs about it before. And I will link to the blog posts in the show notes. My very favorite question to ask is if you were buying a let's use blankets and example, if you're buying a blanket for your baby, what would it need to do? What would it need to be to really exceed your expectations? What would make it really special? And I'm worth you purchasing it? I guess it's about finding out what their priorities are for a product like this. You can also ask if they've bought a product like this before, so maybe even ask them which they brought, what they consider buying, what features would put them off, what they'd expect to pay.
Vicki Weinberg (00:05:17):
It's all kinds of things you can, you can ask. We'll give you really good information when you're thinking about what your product actually is and entails. And I just want to say as well, you can see all of this about giving too much away. If you don't feel comfortable saying to somebody, I'm looking to great this product, can you help me? You know, I'd love to know your opinion. You don't need to do that. There's nothing wrong with just asking someone in conversation. Oh, have you ever bought one of these? And what did you think about it?
You don't need to say that you're looking to create one unless you want to, of course. And even if you do, you can still keep it fairly close to your chest. You don't need to share all the details. If you don't want to. At some point, I recommend that you do, you do, you know, you do tell people the product's coming, but that can be at a much later stage.
Vicki Weinberg (00:05:59):
We'll talk about that when we get there. So once you spoken to your ideal customers, the next thing I suggest you do is carry out some marketing, competitive research. And by this, I basically mean look at other products that are out there. This is so, so easy to do online, which is great because at the time of recording this, the shops actually mainly shot. I like looking on Amazon as there's so much information there. If your products are handmade. And I think at CBRE to be a really good place to look. And what I would do is look at the features of products that are perhaps similar to yours. Look at the price, look at the photos and read the reviews. I especially love reading reviews because they will tell you an awful lot. I really like to keep spreadsheets, this sort of thing.
Vicki Weinberg (00:06:38):
Maybe that's just me, but I think it's quite nice. It keeps me organized. And also it means that I sort of remember what I've been looking at. You might even want to buy a few comparable products to have a look at. If you keep them in good condition, you can always return them. You know, you might, even, if you just want to look at how they're packaged, for example, there's nothing wrong with ordering a few, taking some photos, making some notes and sending them back. Or maybe if you've got, you know, if you allow some budget for this, you could actually use them for whatever they're intended for and, and see what you think, think there, but evil either way, at least have a look at what else is on the market and just get a feel for what's for what's out there. So once you've done all of this research, the next thing to do is to finalize the specification for your product.
Vicki Weinberg (00:07:21):
And you can use what you found from doing all of your research to make your product the best it can be. So I suggest given these questions and four, so how can your product meet your customer's needs? Because you've spoken to your customers. Now, you know what they're looking for in a product similar to yours, you probably got some idea of the problems that they're facing and how your products can help to have a really good think about that. And the other question is how can I improve on the products already on the market? Because by looking at what's out there and hopefully reading some reviews, you might have picked up that let's stick with this blanket example, or maybe you've been reading some reviews for blankets and for one product, you can see everyone said, oh, this blanket was so small.
Vicki Weinberg (00:08:02):
My baby grew out a bit really quickly. So in that case you might think, well, actually my blanket needs to be larger than that solve that problem. Or maybe somebody there's another product and people say, oh, it, it
doesn't wash well. So you can think, okay, well my really needs to wash well, and maybe there are other things, perhaps there are other products and people say, oh, I really like the neutral colors. And you can think all people seem to like neutral colors. I'll keep that in mind. So that's the kind of thing that, I mean, and I'm certainly, I just want to say, not talking about copying anything anyone else is doing. It's just looking at what's out there and creating a product and thinking about where yours might fit. And I know that I've asked you to do an awful lot of things before you even get to the fun bit about, you know, sourcing your product and stuff like that.
Vicki Weinberg (00:08:47):
And thinking about how it looks and packaging and you know, the more creative things. But I really, really do think it's worth spending the time upfront to do your research, because I think that gives you such a much better chance of success. So your specification. So we're going to go down into real details now really needs to include everything that our supply with need to be able to quote for your product correctly. You're not going to send it to any suppliers at this point, but you really need to have a really detailed view of what's your products made of how big is it sort of all the components that make it, what it is. And you probably won't be surprised to hear, I have a full episode on this, so that will really help you.
Vicki Weinberg (00:09:28):
And that's also available as a blog post if you prefer. So the next thing I suggest you do now that you know exactly what your product is, you know, you've got a really good view of the spec it's to make a decision about pricing. Now there's a reason I like to do at this stage, which is because it, in my opinion, it means I'm most likely to get it right. So if you think about it, you done lots of research. You've asked lots of people, their opinions, you know, the market because you've gone and had a look at what else is out there. You've seen what your competitors are charging, and you should also know how your product compares against theirs. So is your product is going to be sort of the top end of the market. Is it going to be somewhere in the middle?
Vicki Weinberg (00:10:08):
I think that you should hopefully have a really good understanding of this. And I think that puts you in a really good position to price fairly accurately, in my opinion. And I know not everyone would agree with me here. The danger of pricing later is that you price your product based on either the production price. If you're, you know, if you're outsourcing production or what it's going to cost you in money in time to make it yourself with the aim of making a profit. So you might say, okay, I know this is going to cost 10 pounds make therefore I need to charge 15 pounds to make a decent profit, let's say, but that price that you choose might not actually be viable. It might be way above anything else in the marketplace. And maybe your product just doesn't support that.
Vicki Weinberg (00:10:50):
So if you price this way round, so you do it now, before you have any idea what it's going to cost to produce. When you get the prices for production or you sit down and work them out. If it's something you're doing
yourself, you can see if a profit is possible based on the price that you've chosen. And if not, you can do something about it. So you might try licking other suppliers, you might try sourcing and other countries, you might tweak your spec a little bit, whatever you do. I just think it sort of negates the risk of you put in a pocket products into the market that is way more expensive than anything else out there, not making the level of sales that you need, because it's perhaps slightly overpriced because you've priced, you know, just based on getting or making a profit.
Vicki Weinberg (00:11:31):
So that's, that's my view on that. And that's why I like to do this step early. The next thing you might like to do, and this is completely optional, depending what your product is, is you might want to start thinking about contacting a designer and thinking about branding and logos and that kind of thing. As I say, this is optional. It depends what you're selling, but I think at the very least, you'll probably need a logo. I use 99 designs for all of my design work. I really liked it. And again, I will link to it, but of course you might want to find a designer elsewhere. Just bear in mind that if you're looking for someone to help you with your packaging, you will need to find a designer who specializes in packaging design because that's slightly different. So the next thing I suggest doing is deciding where you'd like to ideally source your product.
Vicki Weinberg (00:12:16):
I say, ideally, because depending on where you're listening to this farm, it might be the case that actually in the country that you live in certain products, just start made, say I'm based in the UK. I did a whole episode fairly recently on sourcing products in the UK versus sourcing product overseas. And in conclusion, it really depends on what you're looking to sell because as I say, not everything is made everywhere and also
sometimes the prices just might not be affordable for small brands as well. So I always weigh up both options. I would perhaps look at different countries where you can source your product from it. Doesn't just have to be the UK or the us or China.
Vicki Weinberg (00:12:56):
There were plenty of other countries where production facilities to make all kinds of things. So maybe think outside the box a little bit here, if you have the time, I think you can always look. You can always look at both options. So perhaps you might look outsourcing your product in the UK and say Turkey. As an example, perhaps she was contact supplies in both you'd then be as compared to the cost, the quality of the lead times and everything, and make a decision. So you don't necessarily need to decide where you're going to source your product from right now. But I think you need, need to think about where you're going to look because soon we'll have that in the very next stage step. I'm going to suggest you start researching some suppliers.
Vicki Weinberg (00:13:36):
Now I did a whole episode on this as well, because it's a very big topic. My main advice here is to be farmer, say, you know what, country you're looking at this stage, and now you're going to start looking at suppliers
that you believe can help you and can produce what you want to produce. My other piece of advice is there's nothing wrong with Google. So Google is a great place to find suppliers and also to do some research on verifying your suppliers. There were also other marketplaces that you can go to. Well, mainly for one, mainly if you want to say in China, Alibaba is a big one. I talk about that a lot in that episode that I mentioned, if you're looking for, to search for suppliers in your own country.
Vicki Weinberg (00:14:17):
So for example, if I was looking for suppliers in the UK, I would probably just rely on Google because while there are some sort of marketplaces out there, in my opinion, Google is the best place to work. Say, the next thing you want to do is prepare the, your supplier communication. So this is what you're going to send out to a supplier to say, hi, this is me. This is what I'm looking to make. And this is my spec. Again, there's a full episode on this and I'm so sorry to keep saying that, but there is. And what you're looking for here, which I think I mentioned a bit earlier is a brief that's so, so tight that anyone looking at it knows exactly what you want and there's just no acuity that covers the spec, but you also need to have some sort of cover email that goes with that.
Vicki Weinberg (00:15:01):
And in that I suggest asking everything that you need to know at this stage. So you're, you know, the main questions and perhaps your deal breakers. So you're w you're going to want to know what the cost price is based on the information that you've given them so far and get an idea of lead times, but you might also have some sort of deal breaker questions. For example, you might be looking for supplier with an in-house design team, because you know, there's still some elements you need help with. You might be looking for a supplier that can also package your product. So wherever it is, if there's any absolute deal breakers, make sure you ask those questions in your initial communication. And then once you've got the, your communication ready, it's time to contact them.
Vicki Weinberg (00:15:41):
So, in my opinion, this is where it gets really real and where it gets a bit scary if I'm honest. So you're going to start spend sending your specification and some sort of cover email out to shortlisted suppliers and really, really just wait and see what you get back. So you're going to get lots of, hopefully you're gonna get lots of responses, just to be honest with you. There will be people who just don't apply to you. That's always the case. So I suggest contacting as many suppliers as is feasible for you. And then you need to start sort of cutting that list down. So you end up with just a few potentials. So I suggest, first of all, disregarding anyone who can't meet your specification, which sounds really obvious, but it can be easy to get swayed.
Vicki Weinberg (00:16:24):
I remember when I was looking to source my first products, I was looking for product, which was a hundred percent bamboo, and I was getting suppliers saying, well, I can't do that, but I could do 80% bamboo and eight and 20% organic cotton. And I did waste a lot of time thinking, oh yeah, maybe I could do it. Does it
have to be? And which was silly because I knew what I wanted. I had it clear in my mind. I shouldn't have even been entertained in that. I should have just said, thank you for your reply, but no, thank you. And the other people I would suggest disregarding is anyone where communication is a bit of an issue. So whether that's a language barrier or whether they're simply not great at responding, you know, you send an email and wait five days for a reply, because remember you're looking for a long-term relationship here.
Vicki Weinberg (00:17;06):
And communication is really, really key something else I'll say at this stage, because I noticed something that people can worry about is you don't need to send like all of your designs and you know, the exact details for your products at this stage. And in fact, I certainly wouldn't recommend it. You just need to give them as much information as needed to quote. So for example, if yours is a printed product, you know, it's going to be in two colors, say it's in two colors. You don't need to send over the full, you know, the full designs at this stage. That's something you'd be looking to do with a few trusted suppliers once you've, once you're happy. And you know, if you want some sort of to get some sort of legal agreement in place or some sort of NDA before you send that, those details over, that's something you can do as well.
Vicki Weinberg (00:17:51):
So next stage, because let's say you've now narrowed it down to a few suppliers that look like they can meet your spec and the price looks okay. The next stage is to order some products, samples. I really, really liked this part. I suggest you order two or three samples from suppliers that you feel happy placing an order with assuming the supply, the sample is up to standard. And then the samples are going to get made either to your specification, or perhaps you're just asking for stock samples. Again, I've touched on this in previous episodes. I like getting samples made to your spec if you can afford to, but as with everything, it really comes down to what kind of product you're looking to create. So when they samples arrive, I suggest waiting until you have all of them.
Vicki Weinberg (00:18:32):
So you can compare them with each other. If you have similar products at home, perhaps you could, or you've ordered some products while you're doing your research, you can compare the samples today's as well. If your product is something you can use or wear or whatever, then I say, do it, you know, wear it, wash it, play with it, whatever, see how it stands up to day-to-day use. And if there are any issues, hopefully you'll find them before customer does. Because remember at this stage you can still change things. You haven't ordered, you know, a big production. You've just got one thing and it can still be tweaked depending on how comfortable you feel or how relevant this is. Maybe you want to show your samples to other people. Maybe you want to let other people use your samples.
Vicki Weinberg (00:19:15):
You know, I'll leave that completely up to you depending on whether that's relevant or not. That is just another idea. And it's quite a nice way of getting people engaged. So it's, now, now you've done all of that.
It's now decision time. So if so, you've seen all this, all of the samples, you've got all your quotes in, you know, this might be just home where you're looking to place your order. If you did want to discuss costs or order quantities, you know, perhaps the cost is slightly too high, or you want to order a few less than, you know, then your supplier with like, this is the time to try and negotiate. Now you may or may not get what you want. You may meet somewhere in the middle, but this really is the time to do it is because now the suppliers know that you're serious.
Vicki Weinberg (00:19:56):
They're going to be well aware of initially that you're going to be reached out to lots of different people and having lots of different conversations. And, but now they know you're serious and you're serious about working with them. You know, they've, you've paid them perhaps for sample. And you know, this is, this is basically the time when I think you can start to negotiate. Okay? So let's say you've placed your order so well done. That's amazing if your product is being sourced somewhere other than the country you live in, you're going to have to think about shipping. So if you're sourcing abroad, you need to work out house, get your products here. And again, there is another whole episode on this, which is well-worth listen. Shipping is an upstate minefield, and there's a lot to get your head around. If you only listened to one of the episodes that I've sort of highlighted to you today, I think this one actually might be it.
Vicki Weinberg (00:20:40):
You might also want to think about shipping before you even place your order, because remember, while I'm going through the steps here, this isn't set in, you don't have to do things in the exact order that I'm suggesting other than the research at the front, do they do need to be done first, but it might be that the shipping methods, the shipping terms that you choose will impact on your final product cost. If that's going to be the case, I suggest perhaps looking at shipping before you even place an order, you also need to work out how on, where your store and ship your products, basically a plan for how you're going to fulfill them. So will you store your products yourself? If so, where would they be in a spare bedroom? Would they be in a garage where wherever they're going to be also think care about how much room they're going to take.
Vicki Weinberg (00:21:24):
I know lots of people, myself included have made the mistake of having boxes sent to their home and thinking, Hmm, this looks like a lot more than I expected. I've got no idea who I'm going to keep these and then having like a living room full of boxes for weeks or months or whatever it is. So do try and think about this in advance and for fulfillment. Will you be sending them out to customers yourself, or will you be using a fair party? It is time to make a plan. If you're going to be fulfilling orders yourself, you might need to buy boxes or bags or something to ship them in. Have a think about all of this now, because once you've placed your water, you are going to have some kind of lead time, whether it's weeks or months. And this is a really good time to get organized and just think through sort of all of these other aspects.
Vicki Weinberg (00:22:05):
I also suggest you use this time to decide where you're going to sell this product. There is an episode on this, which I think is starting to be my catchphrase for this episode. And in that episode, I gave three lots of marketplaces and I talk about the pros and cons of each, what kind of products they're good for. And if you're undecided about where you're going to sell your products, I do think it's worth listening to, and just take some time to think about this, in my opinion, a simple website, and yes, there is an episode on creating a simple website to sell your products. Plus, one of marketplace is a really good place to start. You don't need to sell everywhere on day one. And in fact, I don't recommend it. I say start simple.
Vicki Weinberg (00:22:46):
You can always add different marketplaces as you go, but don't make things too hard for yourself at the outset. Once you know where you're going to be selling your product, you might want to think about opening some accounts of online marketplaces. And if your product is on the way you could use this time to get set up, you could research the marketplace, figure out how to get your listing online, how the SEO works and all of those things. So Amazon, for example, is the marketplace that I work work on most frequently. And I'll be honest with you. It isn't always that easy to get started. So if you give yourself some time, so you're not up against the deadline, I think that's a great idea because what you don't want is to think all my products are open in a week. And you know, you have some sort of issue when you can't get your listing live and you can't book your stock into the warehouse.
Vicki Weinberg (00:23:29):
If you're looking to do that, that's quite stressful. You want to avoid that. If you can, other things you can be doing at this time, I write in your product description. My main advice here is to research and write your product listing for the marketplace. You're selling on, say, you know, make sure you've done some keyword research. Again, I have a whole episode on this. It's mainly focused on writing product listings for Amazon, because that's what I know, but you know, the advice does apply to Mesa replaces. I also personally think that Amazon product listing format is a good one that does translate well to other marketplaces and, you know, use an expert if needed your product listing is actually really important because that's one of the ways if you're listening on a FERPA party marketplace, particularly as one of the ways that people actually find your products.
Vicki Weinberg (00:24:14):
So it needs to be researched and written well. So this is one area where I think it can be worth getting some help. Next thing to think about is product photography. So maybe you have some customized product samples that you can use for this. Maybe the final sample will be chose. If not, it's probably worth waiting for your final products to arrive so you can get these done really well. In fact, if you didn't have packaging samples at the outset, then it possibly is worth waiting until you have those. You can get some pictures of your products packaged as well. Remember that you don't necessarily need to pay for a product photographer. You can take professional looking photos, yourself, just using a smartphone or a simple camera. And I promise this is last time. We're going to say it, but there is actually an episode on that.
Vicki Weinberg (00:24:56):
So there you have it. If you've gone through all of these steps, then your product is here and it's either ready to sell or very, very close. What the next steps look like will really depend on your products and the channels you've decided to launch on either way. I suggest talking about your product and getting people as involved as possible before even arrived. So excited to buy it when it is available. And finally, good luck. Remember there were lots of free resources, including the checklist version of this episode. There were lots of blog posts and a back catalog of episodes available at my website, which is Vickiweinberg.com. And all of this is free. And all of it, I really hope helps you. And if you need sort of any bespoke advice for me on anything I've covered or anything that I haven't covered, then you can contact me through the website, which again is Vicky weinberg.com.
Vicki Weinberg (00:25:45):
So thank you so much for listening. Have a lovely week and I will speak to you again soon.