Have you ever looked around your gym and thought -- I could make that? These guys did. Here's their advice for making and marketing fitness equipment
Stop reading for a second and visualize a gym. Aside from the machines you could make most of the equipment yourself or have it cheaply made by a welder. The best equipment is often the simplest:
A steel cage
A thick rope
A piece of rubber
A dead weight
A different shape of dead weight
A dead weight with a handle
A different kind of ball
This equipment is simple. It’s the creativity of amazing coaches that makes it come alive. New techniques are constantly emerging. But what about the equipment itself?
Have you ever looked at a piece of fitness equipment and thought — Why didn’t I think of that?
Have you ever looked at a piece of fitness equipment and thought — I thought of that, why didn’t I create it?
I have. But instead of following people I idolize and gossiping about them I take an inquisitive look into their lives and think, how I can get to where they are?
So I approached some of the creators of popular fitness equipment and asked them what they think aspiring inventors should know about making marketing fitness equipment. Here’s what they have to say:
Josh Henkin – The Ultimate Sandbag
1. I came from a Strength Coach background and really didn’t know anything about manufacturing. In retrospect I would have partnered with someone on this side of the industry as it would be like trying to get fit just from infomercials. Unfortunately manufacturers don’t always have your or your clients best interest so unless you know what to look for or what questions to ask it could be a long growing process.
2. I probably would have named it something that people already didn’t have such a strong attachment to. Kettlebells were pretty much unknown when they came to the market and people wanted to learn. People THINK they know how to use sandbags because they have seen homemade one for years. It does a great disservice to the training system and the training implement itself to think they are even in the same genre. Having this past of “homemade” paralyzes people in seeing the true potential of our Dynamic Variable Resistance System.
3. One word, three times: Benefits, Benefits, Benefits. While features of the product are important the marketplace is so saturated with equipment inevitably you have to show people “why should I use your product?” Especially in the last year we have really taken a focus to this as the power always has to live in your education system and not the product. Tools have no power, knowledge means everything!
Marc Lebert – The Lebert Equalizer
1.Make sure you have the right business partner. After testing my little Frankenstein bars for a week, I met with a business man who would soon become my partner. I knew his wife (an aerobics instructor) and son (taught him boxing) and he liked the idea, but the clincher was that his wife liked it. Being in the fitness industry, she saw that the Equalizers would have some widespread appeal and use. It was important that my business partner had lots of business/marketing experience as well as extensive experience in bringing products to market. It was a good fit and has made for a great team.
2.Say goodbye to your clients. It takes an enormous amount of resources- both time and money- to launch a product. In most cases it will take six figures to get a product off the ground! You have patent work to do, product to manufacture, warehouse and distribution costs, travel expenses, marketing costs, trade shows, web site development, and more. And that is before you start selling! In some cases, entrepreneurs will put their house and life savings on the line while doing LESS of their day job. Do you believe in your product enough for that?
3. Ideas are cheap. A great product will do you no good if you don’t get it out there to the masses. You will need a great web site and presence to show your product. Generate social media traffic. Form strategic with fitness distributors. We also outsourced distribution to a fulfillment house that provides warehousing, shipping and handling of our orders. And finally do as many demos as possible. I just did one today for a guy at our warehouse. Put it out there- if it is a great product, you will get people excited as you!
Anthony Carey – The Core Tex
1. That marketing is more than half the battle. The best product in the world is not the best product if no one knows about it. Once research and development is done and you have a product, the majority of your resources will shift to sales and marketing. Our initial goal was to get in a major catalog, which we did. But that was not enough by itself. And the fact that the benefits and unique characteristics of the Core-Texâ„¢ cannot be communicated well in still photos made the need for other marketing that much more important.
Trade shows have been critical for us because people need to feel what the Core-Texâ„¢ does. Tradeshow booths, staff, travel, marketing collateral get very expensive very fast.
The marketing budget will eventually dwarf the original product development costs. So if you are thinking about dumping your life savings or mortgaging your home for research, development and manufacturing costs, then you might end up with a garage full of product that no one knows about.
2. How valuable focus groups and feedback (formal and informal) would end up being in developing the Core-Texâ„¢ message. Those that we did were well worth the time, money and effort. But if we had done more and done them at regular intervals in the developmental stages, we could have avoided many false starts and wrong turns.
My advice is to make a prototype that gives proof of concept. Find people in your target market and those with industry experience willing to give you feedback. Have everyone sign a non-disclosure. I showed an early Core-Tex prototype to business people, equipment manufacturers, fitness professionals, physical therapists and athletes. They understood the product and were able to offer very valuable feedback and validation that we were on the right track.
3. The role education would play in our product’s success. You would think as an educator I would have known this. But only in recent years as equipment becomes more versatile, has education played such a large role in product success. If you look at the Core-Texâ„¢, TRX or ViPR, these pieces of equipment are capable of so much. Yet to the uninitiated user, they might see 3 or 4 things to use these pieces for.
Although the Core-Texâ„¢ is reaching its 3rd year on the market, it was incubating for many years before that. At that time in the industry, education for specific products was much less emphasized compared to today. If we had known that, the product launch and the education to support it would have been much more synchronized.
Ken Zelez – The Stick
1.How awesome the product really is! I wish I knew about the product earlier in my career. I am an Athletic Director and Sports Medicine Instructor. Our athletes and the athletes that I coach have greatly benefited by using The Stick on a daily basis.
2. As a health and fitness product, I assumed that as soon as I started distributing The Stick, there would be mass appeal and orders. I was incorrect, so I turned to advertising. Advertising was not the correct approach (even though I was told by some it was, and by the main company it was not). I should have listened to my mentors and backed off of pricy advertising campaigns. Word of mouth and patience is by far the best way to go.
3.Trying to run my company all by myself. I tried to be a one man show. My advice is to outsource as much as possible and “Stick” to your strengths. For example…I am not an accountant, so after 3 years, I hired an accountant.