Step 1: Ideate your product
Start by ideating your product through validating a problem to solve, prototyping a product and testing the MVP.
- Always start with a problem not a solution. We talk more about that here. There’s nothing worse than spending dozens of hours and capital launching a product that doesn’t solve anything / bring value to anyone. By starting with a problem and then mapping the solution you’re building a strong foundation.
- Prototype your product. Once you’ve established a problem you need to find a product that offers a solution. This is the fun part. Envision a range of product solutions, visualise them with sketches, create a mock up and bring them to life with 3D drawings.
Make sure to use a free PMI (plus-minus-interesting) template to help you prototype your product.
- Test the MVP (aka your prototype). This is can physical product testing by putting it to practice but also with initial beta testers by sharing it with communities (online groups like Indie Hackers) to receive feedback.
Done? You’re ready to source your product!
Step 2: Source your product
Sourcing can be a breeze or it can be a logistical nightmare. Your best bet? Put in the work upfront and complete in depth research of the suppliers available in your product niche. This will save your hours of pain down the line. But how?
- Determine if you want to source domestically or internationally (there are pros and cons to each). Try not to fall into the trap that international suppliers are always the best option — it is really product dependent!
- Get a sense of the marketplace landscape from where you can find suppliers and your product. An article from us to come on this soon!
- Once you’ve established location and marketplace contact over 100 suppliers. Yes, 100! Consider it like a funnel. You’re casting the net wide (top of funnel) to capture as many potential suppliers as possible and then you run them through a set of criteria which naturally causes churn as they move through the funnel. By the time they reach the bottom you’ll be left with 5–10 high quality suppliers.
- Sooo the strategy sounds good but how do you actually execute?
Start by making use of our free script templates for contacting suppliers.
- These provide a great basis for initial contact with suppliers. Use this script to contact 100+ suppliers. From there you start qualifying. What does that mean? It essentially means creating a set of criteria (response time, quality of response, professionalism, quality of product on offer, price of product, shipment time, authenticity of the supplier etc etc). From this set of criteria you can score your suppliers and discard ones that don’t meet the mark.
Want an end-end system that helps you achieve this? Check our Product HQ.
- So you’ve found a supplier? What’s next? It’s time to order a sample! This is a crucial step. Sampling your product from at least one (ideally 2–3) suppliers allows you to see if they meet their promise.
- Be sure to note the process of shipping, receiving and conduct a proper test of your sample product when it arrives.
Everything all good? Time to place a bulk order!
Step 3: Order your product
The real action begins! You’ve solving a market validated product, found a supplier and tested samples. Let’s place a bulk order.
- Take your finalised supplier and place an order for the appropriate quantity. That simple?! Not quite. Whilst you should definitely move forward with the supplier that showed the most promise you should setup some guardrails before you jump straight into order a bulk order.
- Negotiation. You should certainly negotiate price, shipping, warranty, returns, IP and ongoing contractual arrangements. Everything is up for play! Look out for our upcoming article on tips for negotiating.
- Shipping. This is a huge one and often overlooked. Don’t just rely on your supplier to manage all shipping operations for you. Do your research on the options available and engage with a freight forwarder to help you.
- Contracts. Whilst it can be difficult to establish a legally binding contracting if you are operating with an international supplier you should still certainly seek to cover your ground. A purchase order agreement is a great start. If you’re committing a lot of capital consider engaging with a professional service to gather advise.
Grab our free purchase order agreement template here.
- Payment. Another important step! You’ll want to consider your options. Whilst Paypal is definitely the safest choice not all suppliers will accept it and there are benefits in using the payment service native to the platform you’re ordering free (e.g. Alibaba).
- Receiving the product. You’ll want to establish a process of document the product your receive. This includes testing to ensure the quality is the standard you expected, nothing was damaged in shipment and everything is running smoothly. Maintain frequent communication with your supplier during this process and also after you’ve received the product. Quick tip — keep the supplier involved in your business operations by sharing metrics around sales and visitors. It helps build a more authentic relationship.
- Start selling to your customers! How to do that is another whole process that we won’t touch on here. There’s plenty of amazing free resources online to help you out in this domain.
You’re done! As you can see to import a product in a sustainable manner requires some groundwork. This method and approach certainly has a few more steps than what others promote but we can attest that it produces results that are direct for long-term victories. There’s no such thing as an overnight success.
Good luck with your product journey!
Are you looking for a comprehensive system, guide, project manager and more to help you with all the process of ideating, sourcing and ordering your product? Check out Product HQ. We look forward to seeing you there!
— Hugh + Harry (founders of Product HQ)