Don’t quit your day job just yet – do the homework first. Starting a new company? I hear fairly regularly from those who have this intent. Maybe they have a prototype they have created. When I don’t hear first, sometimes I catch who they are through the modern-day miracle of Google Alerts. So maybe we chat, maybe I take a look at a website, learn how they are going about getting their funding, and I ask if they know about products that may be similar to what they are doing. Or have they browsed online catalogs, or spoken to non-profits (if that is one of the target audiences). Have they studied market sizings and surveys from Nielsen to Pew to MetLife? And so on. So here’s a recap of advice for the pre-early stage – more another day:
Read research. Boomer/seniors are regularly surveyed about their propensity for any activity and every potential purchase. Why is it important to include boomers? Simple. They are the adult children of seniors, they have all the money ($230 billion of consumer product goods), they want to buy useful products for their parents – and soon for themselves. Rather ironically, according to Nielsen, the consumer products companies still don’t focus on them. Duh.
Review catalogs. Did you know about ElderLuxe, FirstStreetOnline, and Senior Care Products? These sites extend well beyond incontinence supplies – and frankly, shouldn’t be intermingled in the same catalog as a computer, hearing assist, or cell phone anyway. Can your product be considered by them for future editions or updates? Is your product an 'assistive technology' appropriate for a site like AbleData?
Understand stats. What percentage of older baby boomers still have living parents – a key factoid that tells you the size of today’s prospective purchaser market? What are the latest numbers on life expectancy – by education level? Specific chronic conditions – hearing limitations, high blood pressure, vision loss, mobility limitations due to arthritis, Parkinson’s? What percentage live alone? What percentage are family caregivers? What percentage of families need and/or hire in home caregiving aides (if you’re considering home care as a business)?
Know leading products in category. So you want to make a computer, a tablet app, a smart phone app. My favorite among these is the smart phone app – for some reason, only 11% of the 65+ population has a smart phone – perhaps they would prefer not to spend their life savings using up their data plan watching YouTube videos on their phone. Yet, here they come: smart phone apps for seniors, one after another.
Buy competitor’s product. How important is quality (job 1) service (job 1) and marketing (also job 1) for the competition? What are their vulnerabilities? If products sell through retailers, have you seen one in the store? Do store salespeople have a clue about its use? If you think yours is better, show yours at an event where the competitor is exhibiting, even if it is a 1-1 demo in a room offsite.
Consider channels carefully. How will channel partners put ‘skin’ in the game of selling your product? What’s their sell-through track record with a competitor? The idea of dealers sounds great! They do the work, you get the money. Nope. You do the work, train them, track them -- train them again. Go with them to endless shows, stand in their booths. Train them. If your product isn’t selling really well, this is wasted effort. You will have to find other channels or sell direct.