Are you looking to create the next great product?
Is it a dream you have been working hard for and wish to bring to life?
Will it the next big thing that will take your market by a storm?
Whatever it is, you will be surprised how simple it is to make the jump and get started bringing your dream product to life… the steps involved from having a great product idea, to mass-manufacturing them in China the right way!
The age old fear of the struggle involved in setting up a manufacturing plant, paying your way through government approvals, hassling with labor, and so on is history. At least that’s the picture I grew up with.
“Thinking of becoming an entrepreneur? Forget it. You weren’t born to a capitalist, and you can’t set up a factory without a big capital.”
For starters, you don’t need to have your own factory to start creating your dream product… but you already knew it, didn’t you?
Secondly, as the world gets smaller and smaller, new markets, technologies, and labor all over the world opens up for you.
If you have a small capital, a working idea (something feasible and already in demand in your market), and a desire to make it and succeed, you can really make the jump and create something great out of nothing.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few success stories of people who started with a great idea and little else – no big capital, no past experience, no inside contacts… just a drive to succeed!
These people who started with nothing, made a big splash in their respective markets. I am sharing their stories here just for some quick inspiration and to tell you what’s possible –
For those who prefer video content, here’s a video summary of what you’re about to read below.
- In November 2017, Zac Park, a product director for a Digital Ad agency, and Spencer Markel, a corporate lawyer, left their jobs and came together, building on their love for the Transformers toys that convert from cars to metal creatures.
- They and their team came up with Cubcoats.
- Cubcoats soon erupted onto the scene with a plush stuffed animal that seamlessly and conveniently transforms from a toy into a wearable hoodie for kids.
- It was a hastily sewn-together concept and soon turned it into a high-quality, durable product that top retailers were excited to add to their shelves.
- Along the way they gathered 50 million + plus social media views, unsolicited national media coverage, and some high-profile celebrity backing, from the likes of Hilary Duff, Will Smith, Patrick Schwarzenegger, etc.
- In their first year, Cubcoats averaged more than 25,000 daily site visitors and record sales of 100,000 hoodies with revenue of $5 million and $10 million, with a trajectory pointing an upwards of 500% revenue growth in their second year.
Huckleberry and Co. –
- In a day and age where watch companies are going digital and “smart”, Huckleberry and Co. took the opposite path with mechanical watches – an art that requires no batteries or aging chips, just a winding key… and brought it into the 21st century.
- The product came to life out of Ricky Fung’s own frustration about the contemporary watches that were fashion focused, yet lacking in quality.
- He used to be an award winning photographer and the watches were his first product design!
- As soon as Huckleberry went live with the Archibald on Kickstarter, it got funded in six hours.
- They made AU$ 92,280 on a funding goal of AU$ 20,000
- Later, they won Gold in the Melbourne Design Awards 2016 along with getting featured in several top publications and hitting one success milestone after another.
Both of the above companies’ founders started with almost nothing, chose to crowdfund their idea, and then chose us, MorphoMFG, for prototyping, consulting for their manufacturing needs, and doing the actual manufacturing.
The above stories do give me a bit of a rush, how about you? Can you be the next Cubcoats or Huckleberry and Co., or someone even bigger?
(Now, if you are still struggling with the idea of whether or not to outsource manufacturing your products in China, here’s an article with reasons why to manufacture your products in China – How Manufacturing in China Saves Money – 2022 Guide)
To figure out EXACTLY how some entrepreneurs make it (apart from having a great product), and others don’t, I have prepared a simple checklist of all the steps involved from having a product idea to manufacturing your products in China the right way.
Ticking each step off the checklist will ensure you maximize your chances of success and minimize risk while manufacturing your products and bringing your idea to life.
Quick Disclaimer – While the list is exhaustive, it’s still a good idea to do your own research or hire the services of an expert as you start manufacturing your products in China.
7 Steps to Manufacture Your Products in China the Right Way
Step I – Demand is the key
You have a great idea, at least you think so.
At MorphoMFG, we generally work with a lot of entrepreneurs who have successfully raised funds from crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter. You may be one of them, or you are looking to start a crowdfunding campaign yourself.
While the success of your crowdfunding campaign is an important indicator of market demand, don’t let it be the only judging factor.
Take a lesson from Pebble’s story. What started as a great brand with multiple successful funding rounds on the Kickstarter platform, and going head to head with The Apple Watch, went kaput after a few years.
The reason? They failed to understand that the market demand for expensive smartwatches was there, but not to the extent they estimated.
Meaning, not nearly enough market demand. Pebble soon closed its shop.
Very saddening for someone like me who thought their story was really inspiring.
This is why, it’s incredibly important to find out if there is really a strong, lasting market demand for your product.
This is where you create an MVP (a Minimum Viable Product). To define it, a minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development. I go over this in the design step below.
This is a bit like the what comes first, the hen or the egg. The truth is, you have to go looking for what is the market craving for, and start adding features from there. Look for the features for which there’s most demand and take it from there.
Speak with your customers, find out what they feel about your product (prototyping step will help here), do some digging into what they are really looking for. People are not always direct. They say one thing, and do the other. Use their actions as the benchmark.
Does your best customer says he likes your digital watch, but only specifically buys mechanical watches?
Does he say he thinks the red and blue design looks modern, but only ever wears an elegant black?
Does he think the the step-counter and GPS features you added to your watch are very interesting, but if given the choice, he wouldn’t bother putting them to use?
The clue is in the actions your best customer takes.
You might just be surprised.
It’s a good idea to find out who your target audience is and if they are a significant number. Do you plan to profit on quantity or quality? Meaning, are you looking to sell a mass-produced item cheaply to a large market? Or are you selling a luxury item to a small niche market? Or are you aiming to profit on both, quantity and quality?
Find out your exact market, the demand, its quirks and needs, the competition, and so on.
Once you know your target market, it’s time to craft a USP (a Unique Selling Point).
Be sure to read this 3-part article I have written for you on crafting a unique story for your personal brand as well (How To Tell Your Brand Story for Maximum Growth and Impact Part 1)
If your market is already crowded, then congrats, you have demand for your product. However, it will take some work to separate your brand from the herd and stand out and attract attention to your brand. The above ‘Story’ series of articles will really help you stand out.
Once you have the market research in place, it’s time to refine your…
Step II – Build a Great Functional Product Design
Gone is the era when businessmen and companies had all the power and customers were without a voice.
The internet has turned the old business model on its head where customers have ALL the power.
Have a great product and a happy customer?
If so, then sit back and watch how the customer does all the great marketing for you and your products.
Have a crappy product that you sold with false, misleading claims and advertisements just to make a quick buck? Does the product look nothing like the photos you used to display it?
It’s only a matter of time before your customer puts a review or a viral video on YouTube that will likely rank no.1 and ensure you are out of business before the week is over.
Take a lesson from United Airlines PR Disaster where a customer put up a video on YouTube singing “United Breaks Guitars” with 19 Million views and counting.
Here’s the video –
(How saving $1,200 cost United Airlines 10,772,839 negative views on YouTube – https://www.huffpost.com/entry/united-breaks-guitars-did_n_244357)
Scary? You bet.
But, empowering at the same time for business people who care for their customers.
(Just go take a look how these brands got a lot of free “viral” marketing when they went above and beyond the call of duty to serve their customers – Peek Inside Some of the Greatest Customer Service Stories)
If you have your ethics in place and wish to serve your market, the sky is the limit.
The first step in serving your market starts with a great design. It’s imperative to have a working design and know what goes into making a durable product that looks and appears beautiful at the same time.
If you don’t have experience with product design, don’t worry, you can have a simple restaurant napkin sketch and have one of our recommended design partners take a look at it.
Your product design and USP tend to go hand in hand. This is why, a well-designed product goes a long way in how well your product is received by your market.
Even though the term ‘good design’ is somewhat relative, here are a few key guidelines for great product design –
1) Simplicity is key
Did you know, in World War II, Germany had some of the best engineered tanks, guns, and armaments?
It took 3-4 American Sherman and almost the same number of Russian T-34 tanks to beat a single German Tiger tank. An engineering marvel, if you will.
However, near the end of the war, due to the simplicity in producing the Sherman and T-34 tanks, the Americans and Russians simply out-produced German tanks with a margin of around 10:1 or more.
Also, the German tanks regularly broke down in the middle of fighting and were almost impossible to fix due to the complexity involved in building them.
This practically cost Germany the war. (…there were a lot of other factors, of course.)
Now, for a moment, let’s consider your product manufacturing as a war situation. You have just had a very successful round of crowdfunding and you have to deliver the products before the promised deadline, or your backers will be very unhappy.
Your product is sophisticated in design. You get the parts manufactured, not an easy task as they have to be engineered in a super precise manner. Now, to assemble them and due to the complexity of the task, you have to hire experts, or do it by yourself if you are one.
The complexity will significantly slow down your output and increase expenses. Additionally, chances are, the complexity in design means your products will need more upkeep, be difficult and expensive to service, and significantly reduce your company’s growth and productivity down the line.
A simple, minimalist, and durable design means your products can be manufactured faster and cheaper, won’t need a lot of upkeep, can be easily serviced and maintained, and generally increase the output, productivity and growth of your company down the line.
There are others who will contradict this argument of course.
The Occam’s Razor states – The simplest solution is almost always the best.
Be sure to keep it in mind when designing your product.
2) Usability decides the product value
Ever received a product with a big instruction manual. Chances are, you never got around to reading it and using the product in the intended manner or using it at all. I know I have.
You may be the product expert, but ultimately, your customer will use the product and get benefited from using it.
A difficult to use product will serve to massage your ego but do little in terms of the product sales.
It’s important to know who your target audience is and whether the product is designed with their use in mind.
A simple question to ask yourself is – Can they figure out how to use this product in 3-4 seconds? If not, go back to the design table, and build a product that achieves the same.
3) Only put the necessary product features
Here, it is important that you put in the work upfront researching your target market and finding out what they really want.
Try to please everybody, and you will end up pleasing nobody.
Go for the essential features, the 10% that makes 90% of the difference. Being a minimalist here will make maximum impact.
Just a week ago, I was looking to buy a simple sports watch. My needs were pretty simple – I wanted a big, clean display with clearly visible numbers from any angle, a back-light for seeing in the dark, a stop-watch, an alarm, and a sturdy design.
When I set out to find it on Amazon, I was hammered with listings of a lot of expensive “smart-watches”. I really don’t care about counting my steps or even the really expensive types of sport watches like G-Shock.
When I finally found my type of sports watches, I saw these sports watches either had too big displays, had too many features making them very expensive, many looked like kids’ watches, were not reliable (according to reviewers), or not sturdy enough (again according to reviewers).
After a lot of searching, I finally found the watch I was looking for – Just the right price, sturdy, and came with essential features. I jumped on it. As expected, the watch was in very high demand. I think they only had a couple of watches in stock when I bought one on Amazon and had thousands of reviewers recommending it.
10% that makes 90% of the difference.
Sure, a watch that counts steps, checks my temperature, comes with Bluetooth is fancy, but I really don’t care about those features. Even if I bought one, I don’t think I would use those features, ever. There’s a market for them of course. Again, the features you are going to add depends a lot on your market.
Go for the 10% that make the 90% of the difference!
4) Stick to conventions
Change may sound good in theory, but people are creatures of habit. Forcing too much change all of a sudden will create revolt in your audiences.
When you think online shopping, you most likely think the Amazon interface. When you think using a computer, you think a Windows or Mac computer. The above brands defined user experiences, and now we are so used to them, we frown upon products that go against them.
Personally, I hate it… no, I downright despise it when ‘Windows’ updates their OS and changes the user interface. I don’t want to read long complicated user manuals and FAQs to find out how to do the same thing I was so used to doing a certain way with their previous Windows version.
‘Change is good’ doesn’t really apply here. If your product design and usability sticks to conventions and is easy to figure out and use while still offering something unique, then you have a potential winner on your hands!
5) Improve with feedback
It’s wrong to assume you will get the perfect design in the first try itself. It will take constant feedback and improvements to perfect your design. Embrace this fact.
It’s a good idea to get a few prototypes and get your prospects to test them out. Be sure to put the product to real-world use yourself. The real-world will throw a lot of key details and insights you wouldn’t have otherwise figured out by yourself.
Step III – Protecting Your Intellectual Property
You researched your market, took the pains to understand what your market really wants, designed your product, and relentlessly refined the design.
Now, it’s important that you make a plan to protect your intellectual property.
We at Morpho-Manufacturing believe your intellectual property is more about how you deliver the product more than the product itself.
Do it first, do it better, and be prepared to scale. There is no such thing as a patent. Execution is the new IP and knockoffs are a good sign, a sign your product is working.
However, it’s still a good idea to make it very difficult to copy your product.
You can do this by selecting multiple factories to prepare components/parts, assembling them by your own or in a separate vetted factory. This is exactly what Foxconn and Apple do.
Technology and ideas you feel are too big a risk to share overseas can be manufactured at home or by yourself.
It’s always a good idea to file for copyrights, patents, and trademarks in your home country as well as China, so as to get formal protection there. It’s good to record eligible IP in China as early as possible by getting in touch with a lawyer in China who is well versed with IP laws there.
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Don’t forget to conduct due research on your selected manufacturers. Look for references given by past customers of your chosen manufacturers. Find out if there are any IP violations associated with your manufacturer.
Look for established manufacturers. You will find these manufacturers have decent references and track records.
It is important that you look for reputable manufacturers and then get them to sign on NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements), Non-compete agreements (NCA), to protect your IP in China, both in the country your company is established in, and in China, where you are manufacturing your products. Also, don’t forget to sign a China-centric NNN agreement).
Every now and then, it’s a good eye to browse around for similar products and look what your manufacturer is up to, as manufacturers who haven’t been vetted will find ways to manufacture and sell products similar to yours locally in Chinese markets.
Lastly, remember that it’s more about your marketing, the quality of your products, how you deal with your customers, how you scale, and so on.
Think Nike. There have been so many knockoffs of Nike shoes the world over, by now the company should have sunk.
That’s hardly the case though.
Nike is stronger than ever before.
Nike has ensured even if you buy a cheap knockoff of the Nike brand, you won’t get the incredible feel, comfort, and the satisfaction of wearing a Nike original pair.
That’s brand power, one you should commit to building from Day 1.
(…Continued in Part II of this article.)