“Becoming an entrepreneur seems to be a growing trend. It’s exciting to think about all the innovative, creative ideas currently percolating that will one day explode onto the market and maybe change the way we all live. People come up to me and tell me how times have been tough, that job security doesn’t exist, but that entrepreneurship has given them the power to take control of their lives and destiny.” – Lori Greiner
A primer on entrepreneurship in the era of home shopping networks, Greiner’s Invent It, Sell It, Bank It! appeals to diverse readership groups: fans of her television show, people who have seen her on home shopping networks selling thousand of items in minutes, inventors who want to create their product, and business professionals who wonder what all the hype is about. These many types of consumers of Greiner’s latest literary product have little in common, but they are brought together to satisfy the same curiosity of “How do they do that?” Greiner’s book is a very simplistic outline of many topics in fewer than 250 pages of content.
Invention as a process, and pertaining to a budding entrepreneur with a product idea, is a hefty topic. Greiner tackles it as straightforwardly and simply as possible. Because her book is made for such a broad readership, it becomes what is often called an “easy read.” By making the book appeal to a broader readership, it makes it more difficult for Greiner to make a deep impact. Invent It, Sell It, Bank It! is, by size, marketing and design a broad stroke across the topic. The author does provide some value for the reader, however. She provides simple checklists on a variety of topics after each chapter, such as the “Hero or Zero Checklist” for predicting product success or failure prediction. (36)
Much of the marketing and appeal for the sale of this book revolves around her personal success. She populates the book heavily with examples from her own experience. The most common stories come from her own first invention, an earring display holder, which she sold by the thousands on television, despite no background in doing so. It is a story of hands on hard work, good timing, long hours, salesmanship, and confidence. The successes and failures of that intense experience, from a startup company to selling thousands of units on television in minutes, all done in under a year, make up her recipe for success for those who follow. Greiner is an expert in her field, and shows that her process in measurable and duplicable. There are common elements in any review of the process of invention, and Greiner does include many of them.
Greiner’s six steps and introspections on inventing include:
- Is the prospective entrepreneur ready personally, emotionally, and financially?
- Is their idea worthwhile? A “Hero or Zero”?
- Next steps: bootstrapping, finding opportunities and ideas, and product creation.
- Market research for beginners, from social media to street corner surveys
- Funding an idea or product, from crowdfunding tests to venture capitalists.
- Patenting a new product, how and why it is important, as well as trademarking.
She shows these elements in the same product development model as her own: durable goods for mass markets to be sold via television. While there are many other goods and services, and many other marketing channels, this is the one that made her a success, made her an expert in the field, and is probably the reason most people read Invent It, Sell It, Bank It!
In the second half of her book, Greiner focuses on the marketing of new products and ideas for new products. She relies on her background and focuses the reader on how to prepare for major television campaigns, home shopping channel appearances, and infomercials as the preferred methods of generating sales.
While this might seem like a limited method of product marketing and perhaps too large in scope for a beginning inventor, Greiner offers some valid reasons for her choice. And, despite the rise of e-commerce, “…in my opinion there is simply no better selling medium for a new inventor than a shopping channel like QVC. There’s nowhere else I know of where you can sell thousands of units within minutes.” (196-197)
“The pitch” as the focal point of the ABC television series The Shark Tank, of which Greiner is a star, is also a focal point of the book. Under the heading of marketing, product pitching is covered in great detail. The core element of her logic is this: if a product is good enough to be pitched successfully, it is usually innately a good product, and it will often go on to sell itself very successfully in the marketplace.
Here are the other elements of Sell It! that Greiner reviews in brief:
- Pitch perfect. The savvy inventor must be an excellent salesperson as well.
- Manufacturing and packaging are marketing; sexy products and packages sell.
- Drive the business through a strong hands-on architecture in the company.
- Television offers the best advantages as the sales venue for inventors.
- Market off the air to drive on air traffic using social media cross promotions.
- Reinvesting in the product and company. Broaden and deepen product lines.
Greiner speaks about “Banking” it in an entirely different context than one might assume. “Bank It!” is an extension of the “Sell It!” directive. “For most inventors, however, the satisfying taste of success will only whet the appetite (as well as that of your buyers) for more.” (243)
Also, to Greiner, the true entrepreneur inventor does not take the money and run. They use their success to contribute more to the world. They “bank” their success by reinvesting in their company.
She suggests three ways to safely and easily expand upon a current invention or operation. First, use the current product as an inspiration for another. In her case, she took her earring organizer and expanded it to a full jewelry organizer. Second, extend the current product. Something as simple as adding different colors can be successful. Greiner added colors to an old line of kitchenware that had run its course, and had greater success with it on QVC than the original utensil set. Third, “do what you know.” (246) As much an instruction as a caution, the author reminds inventors to stick to that they know best, and not to overextend themselves to other areas of non-expertise. This was a common theme she mentioned among some of her former competitors, whom she has outlasted by following her own rule.
Greiner covers a lot of ground quickly. Her ending “notes” is a welcome ready reference of further information. Invent It, Sell It, Bank It! gives simple, yet solid advice and checklists to follow, primarily for the very important introductory phases. The emphasis of Greiner is that hard work, constant attention to detail, and market viability of the product can result in great success.