By Amy Opheim,
now President of C3 Marketing
formerly Director of Marketing, Educational Insights
Educational Insights loves inventors! We love hearing your ideas, seeing your hand-crafted prototypes, working with you to finesse your play patterns, and proudly highlighting you in our catalogs and on our packaging and websites.
We especially love it when you're well prepared for a pitch.
Some of the tips below are common-sense reminders. Some are specific requests from our team. All of them will go a long way in maximizing the pitch meeting you worked so hard to get.
Before the meeting...
1. Do your homework! Educational Insights, for example, is deeply rooted in classroom products and our toy and games lines must have an educational bent. A quick visit to our website or Facebook page would tell you what we're all about. Spending a little time researching the company you're pitching goes a long way in proving that you really believe WE are the best home for your product and that it will sell to OUR current consumer base.
2. Go shopping! Be prepared to provide some insight into the category of the product you are pitching. If you are pitching a new card game, do a quick Google search and hit your local Toys R Us to be sure that your concept is truly unique. If there are similar products, be prepared to tell us why yours is different and unique.
3. On that note, never use a product that is currently on the market as a comparison. Hearing "It plays just like Monopoly®, but..." or "It's kind of like Boggle, only..." is the kiss of death. Manufacturers are looking for truly unique concepts.
4. Get some consumer perspective. Testing your idea with kids in the product's age range will give you great, actionable feedback. You may learn that your concept is a smash hit or testing may highlight issues with your concept, play pattern, target age range, etc. that need to be White Paper 2012 addressed. Ideally, play testing will give you some great anecdotal information to share in your pitch meetings - "Kids especially love the part where..." or "You should have seen them fighting for a turn with the..."
5. Don't break the bank on your prototype. It should be usable enough to demonstrate the idea, but there's no need to spend a fortune creating a "final" product - that's our job. In fact, one of the things we love most is putting our unique "take" on your idea - the design, coloration, etc.
Maximizing the magic moment...
-- Prepare your product before your meeting begins. Fumbling through a bag for parts and pieces or digging through a folder for rules is not the best way to instill confidence in a future partner (or the best use of their time!).
-- Be prepared to play your game or demo all of your toy's features during the pitch. Showing is always better than telling, but you've got to know your stuff. Know how to activate your features. Know the rules, don't reference a document. Speaking of rules, stick to the main set! There may be alternate ways to play, but you can save those details for later. Stick to the simplest, clearest, most memorable way to play.
-- If you're presenting a game, stack the deck to demonstrate the game's features up front. Don't make us sit through minutes of "We're almost there... the action card is coming soon..." or "If we had gotten the Queen card then..."
-- Keep your presentation short and to the point. You want to be memorable, so don't overload us with information! Give us the simplest, most-memorable, one-line ("This is a strategic game for kids ages 6-8 that incorporates dolphins and bluebirds.") pitch for your product and then show us what it is. And please save the adorable/touching/inspirational backstory for another time - we do care, just not yet.
-- Pay attention to body language and other cues. If we seem uninterested or confused, the concept is probably not for us - move on to your next idea! - if we're asking lots of questions, carry on.
-- Take notes about our reaction, even noting comments we make verbatim. That way, when you follow up with us a week or so later (via email, PLEASE) with your simple, concise, one-line product description and a photo of what you showed us, you can also remind us specifically what we liked about your idea. We see lots of inventions and sometimes can't recall specifics about each. Your notes about our reaction will help bring it back.
Whether the pitch is perfect or not, remember, you're looking for a partnership - ideally a long term relationship - and it's got to be a perfect fit on both sides! If one manufacturer isn't the right place for your product, don't give up! There may be another out there who's just right for you.