November 7, 2009

Is QVC right for your company?

Tim Forrest: Growth for your Enterprise!

Thinking of QVC for your product?
I would like to share my insider ‘sellout’ view of success at the TV shopping giant and what its like to get your product in front of millions.

Over the past decade, TV shopping networks have exploded onto the retail scene, offering viewers an interactive shopping experience without ever having to leave their living rooms. It’s proven to be an extremely successful formula, creating loyal, consistent customers (who are primarily female) who relish the products and the experience. In fact, QVC is considered by some measures to be the second-largest TV network in the country, with millions of daily viewers tuning in and making purchases. QVC has also been a great boon to entrepreneurs, who can achieve extremely high exposure in a short period of time--even for new products.

So what is it like to get your product onto the promised land of QVC? And what are the pros and cons? I have sold 100’s of millions of dollars in merchandise and more than 10 items on QVC. I’d like to share my insight to help entrepreneurs who might be interested in pursuing a similar path. 

QVC is always on the lookout for new, innovative products. And the company is supportive of entrepreneurs--especially small and start-up ones. In fact, just recently, QVC offered a program tailored specifically to small entrepreneurs at an event in the Mall of America!

So how big is QVC really? They have shipped more than a billion packages to customers, they present around 1,150 products each and every week and the important part for your company is they are looking for a significant amount of new items to present. (more than 20% of on-air time), and net sales exceed $7 Billion per year.

Of course, not every product suits the network’s format or marketplace, so here are some questions to ask yourself to help determine if your product is the right fit: 
• Does it demonstrate well? 
• Does it solve a problem or make life easier? 
• Does it have unique features and benefits? 
• Does it appeal to a mass audience (as opposed to a niche)? 
• Is it topical or timely? 
• Can you ship it via UPS?
If you think you’ve got a fit, it’s definitely worth a try--especially because QVC’s base target sales rate is in the range of $6,000 per minute, well worth the effort if your product is chosen. 

My experience with QVC began more than 5 years ago when I submitted my first product for their review and begun my journey into working with QVC. At first, my offering was refused due to a long list of reasons and with learning and refinement to programs I was able to get my first product on the air. We sold out in a matter of 40 seconds all the inventory they had ordered! 

Other products, I have presented have made it and some do not. I presented one product and they liked the product, but it didn’t meet their criteria for price (the preferred minimum unit price for QVC is in the $15 range and the retail price for my presented product was just $5.99). Although I did not get a chance with that item, I learned and persisted and have since had multiple items on QVC and achieving multiple sell-outs. Just this past week, my clients had two appearances on the same day.

Seller Beware
Of course, with anything that promises great rewards, there’s usually risk. QVC is no exception. While the network offers an incredible opportunity to new entrepreneurs, potential participants should also understand that they’ll assume some risk should their product be chosen. 

Because QVC is so customer-oriented, the company must have enough inventory in stock to satisfy a very large number of potential buyers. That means you must manufacture and ship enough inventory to QVC to meet a very substantial market demand--prior to your appearance on the show. You’re then paid only if or when QVC sells your product. So if you present your product on the show and consumers aren’t interested, you’ll end up sitting on a mountain of inventory. This is important to understand going in, because it can take a large amount of capital to prepare and deliver enough inventory to meet QVC’s potential distribution needs. 

The Chosen
If your product gets chosen, you’ll face the ultimate challenge--being prepared and ready to convince millions of people across the country to purchase your product on the air. (And you thought convincing QVC to accept your item was nerve wracking!) The following are some tips to help you make the most of your QVC experience:
• Remember that the host is on your side. The days leading up to my first product appearance on QVC, I was nervous in anticipation. It helped to remember that the host would be there to help us and we wouldn’t be put on the spot as possible during news interviews. In this situation, everyone is invested in the same outcome – selling lots of product. That said, it’s critically important to allow the host to do his or her job. Think of it as a dance--the host is leading and you are following. 

• Learn to manage your airtime. A QVC guest is given approximately six to seven minutes of airtime. That means you need to be able to describe your product in short, succinct points. It’s absolutely essential to practice beforehand--out loud--so your answers become automatic. You may think you know your product inside and out, but when the camera lights are on and millions of people are watching, your body often doesn’t cooperate with your brain, and a physiological reaction sets in, causing your body to sweat and your mind to go blank. I cannot overemphasize the need to practice, practice, practice. When you get nervous, you ramble; when you ramble, you waste time--and on QVC, time is money. Seconds matter and will impact your sales rate. 

• Don’t forget to have fun, be passionate and enjoy the QVC experience. Those feelings will come across to the consumers watching you. If you look like a deer in the headlights, you won’t convey a positive, successful impression. Remember, the consumers are buying into you and your product. Presenting yourself well is part of the sell.

QVC and other shopping networks offer a truly awesome way to promote and distribute your product. And even if your product doesn’t sell at quite the level you hoped, you’ve promoted your product to millions of people--advertising you couldn’t afford any other way--who may just buy it next time they come across your product. 

Send me a note if you have any questions on the process at QVC -

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