IMNO - International Mentoring Network Organization - Interviews CEO Zach Kaplan

Patrick of IMNO interviews (me) Zach Kaplan about getting started as an entrepreneur in school and how Inventables went from an idea to where it is today, a web site where vendors of materials can create free online profiles for their products in order to generate sales leads.

The interview covers getting started, reaching out to people, and how the web is making things transparent and easily accessible.

Towards the end the interview the conversation turns to how the approach for starting Inventables was analogous to a software development process called "Agile" as opposed to the more traditional approach called "Waterfall".


Heat/Friction Disappearing Ink

You have probably used an erasable pen before and experienced problems with the ink smudging or not erasing completely. The writing above was produced with what looks like an ordinary ballpoint pen, but unlike ordinary ink it’s completely erasable with a standard eraser — and, unlike other erasable inks, this product does not smudge or smear.

The pen looks and writes like an ordinary ballpoint pen, but it is filled with ink that changes color according to temperature and performs its magic disappearing act. The friction generated in rubbing the eraser over the paper produces heat, which causes the ink to become transparent and essentially invisible; instead of removing the ink, you change its color. You could also make such writing disappear on a larger scale using the heat from a hairdryer, and the ink can be reformulated to change colors at different temperatures.

Planning for Industrial Marketing 2010

As marketing plans for 2010 begin to take shape it will be more important in this new market reality to show measurable return on investment than ever before. The economic environment could be better. Evaluating and implementing industrial marketing programs specifically aimed at generating qualified sales leads that turn into business is crucial.

2010 marks 17 years since commercial providers were allowed to sell internet connections to individuals. Since that day in 1993, we all know that internet use has grown exponentially. We are now starting to see that online marketing programs can be as, or more effective, than traditional marketing at trade shows or in industry publications. There are several reasons for this change in the industrial sector which include search engines make it possible to find what you need immediately rather than waiting for a show and the costs associated with exhibiting and going to a show are very high.

Today a significant amount of sourcing is done online. Getting your marketing "online" isn't a strategy by itself. There are quite a few different options when it comes to online and the best way to figure out what works best for your business is trial and error. The exciting part about the internet is it is very easy to measure your effectiveness and you can run smaller experiments to later stop the ones that don't work and increase spending on the ones that work well.

The function of a marketer in an industrial company is typically to generate sales leads so they sales team can have the opportunity to close deals. In this situation being able to quantify your sales pipeline and demonstrate the effectiveness of each marketing effort is critical to be able to allocate funds effectively and demonstrate to yourself and senior management the best way to grow the business. By emphasizing measurement and return on investment (ROI) you put yourself in a position of control. To break this down into simple terms you might think about this as a funnel or waterfall.

For example a typical trade show marketing investment might look like this:

1. Initial investment in booth real estate, physical display, travel, meals, hotel, marketing materials - $50,000

2. At the show you might generate 250 leads over a 3 day period - $200 per lead

3. You'll follow up with all 250 and find out that 25 of them are interested in your services and worth sending out a salesperson which costs another $1000 per trip $25,000

4. After the sales meetings you will be able to determine the conversion rate for this approach.

Demonstrating this kind of command over the numbers will help you evaluate which is the best approach for your company.

The popularity of the internet should cause you to consider investing in an online campaign. Earlier this year comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), released a study showing that more than 113 billion searches were conducted globally in July 2009. This represented a 41-percent increase versus year ago. Google Sites attracted significantly more searches than any other engine with 76.7 billion.

If you choose advertise with a search engine you will be paying per click. The search engines offer you software tools that help you analyze and tune your campaign. For example:

1. Consider the same $50,000 you could set a daily budget of ~$150 for your ads.

2. If you run them for 2 weeks you will have spent $2100.

3. At the end of those two weeks you need to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 leads.

4. After your sales people follow up with these 20 individuals you will get a sense of the conversion for the search engine channel.

If advertising in a search engine is as effective from a conversion perspective as going to a trade show you could have a conversation with senior leaders about investing additional funds into this approach until your conversion changes. Your measurements will give you a higher level of confidence that investing marketing dollars in this channel will grow your business.

Industrial marketers that are not interested in making as large an upfront investment in advertising or trade shows should consider creating a free product profile on www.inventables.com.

The free profile will introduce your product to technical buyers, engineers, and sourcing professionals that visit Inventables at no financial cost to you. If the prospective customer is interested they complete the short form on the right side of the page. There message plus some qualifications including their company name, size, and the stage of their project will be sent to you. At that time you will be able to evaluate if this sales lead is worth your time and purchase or pass. If you purchase the lead you will be immediately given the customers contact information. If you pass Inventables website learns that you didn't like that lead and will adjust your profile in the hopes of presenting your product to potential customers that would be worth your time to speak with.

With this final approach the measurement is even simpler.

1. Upfront costs $0

2. Cost per lead - each one is different based on it's qualifications and the day's market rates. Currently leads are selling in the range of $1-$200 however it fluctuates every day due to supply and demand.

3. After your sales people follow up with 20 leads you will be able to determine the conversion on leads from Inventables.

With all this useful data in hand you will be able to compare the conversion rates for each approach with your management team and determine the most effective way to allocate your budget to best grow your business.

Free leads vs. Leads for Sale

There are two kinds of leads that come into a vendors product profile, free leads and leads for sale.

Free Leads

These come from Inventables premium users that subscribe to the site and use the sourcing tools regularly. These subscribers pay a monthly fee and therefore their inquiries are at no cost the vendor the inquiry was sent to.

Leads for Sale

These are leads that come from free basic user accounts or non-registered users. Most of these users come across the product profile pages through search engines. Inventables proprietary system calculates the market rate for the lead at the time it was submitted. The market rate is the price you will pay for the pre-qualified lead.

Buyer Story - Chocolate that sparkles!

Cinnamon Honey, Raspberry Puree, Banana Rum, Pistachio, Coffee Sour Cherry are a few of the amazing chocolate flavors that you can experience from Antoine Amrani Chocolates. These Chocolates give an eye-catching, distinctly shimmering visual appeal. Famous Chocolatier, Antoine Amrani, has caused people to crave his luxurious chocolates. The chocolate comes from France and the ingredients are natural. Every piece is created by hand and the flavors masterminded by Antoine himself. Created in a luxury chocolate factory in East Norton, Philadelphia, these chocolates are one of a kind.
Photo by: Ruggieri Photography|iggyshoots.com

Antoine is passionate about what he does and hopes these “chocolates will be enjoyed in the tradition of family, friendship, and the celebration of food,” as he did in his family. It is evident that Antoine truly enjoys creating such exciting flavors and textures, like Cinnamon Honey, pictured above middle. All of these amazing chocolate combinations made by hand! Even the chocoholics taste buds cannot get enough of Antoine Amrani Chocolates. It has been quoted by local Chicago Founder-Chef, Jean Banchet, of restaurant La Francais that “Antoine Amrani has created the finest chocolates in the United States.” To earn this level of respect the Antoine Amrani Chocolates is constantly innovating. Recently the company found new ways to enhance the decoration of their chocolates at Inventables.com that help Antoine Amrani create an eye-catching, dazzling display. For the Holidays, give the chocolate lover in your life a little taste of heaven. The luxurious Antione Amrani Chocolates can be purchased at Antoineamrani.com.

Inventables Most Popular Material 2009: Temperature-Sensitive Glass

Award winner to be showcased at Museum of Science and Industry

This year designers and engineers looked at the product pages on Inventables.com nearly one million times in the hopes of finding the right ones for their projects. We are proud to announce with over 167,000 pageviews the most popular material for 2009 was temperature-sensitive glass from Moving Color. These textured glass tiles alter in color with changes in temperature. They are currently offered in a range of colors and sensitivities, the tiles change color based on ambient temperature, body temperature or water temperature – whatever they’re touching. The glass is available in a variety of temperature ranges, allowing customization to specific applications. The maximum temperature range for their “Liquid” line is -30°C (-22°F) to 120°C (248°F). Color change will begin at selected activation temperature, and continue through three phases within a 6-10° rise in temperature. Once past the peak in temperature, the base color will then return and remain unvarying until the temperature drops.

To date the glass has been used in a few showers. s_redondo_4One installed in the Mickey Mouse Penthouse at the Disneyland Hotel. When Disney’s guests take a shower, the warm water hits the glass, causing the tiles to bloom into color. As the glass tiles change color, silhouettes of Mickey Mouse appear around the perimeter of the shower. A second was installed in the house the Buffalo Bills cornerback Terrance McGee's new home.

"Moving Color is the innovator of energy efficient, temperature sensitive, color changing materials with over 10 years of research and development. Our glass is the perfect marriage between Art, Science, Technology and Design. We are very excited about the popularity of our material amongst the Inventables community", said Ben Bellmer founder Moving Color.

The applications for this material go well beyond decorative showers. Global architectural firm, HOK, is working on a roof tile concept with Moving Color to use the temperature sensitive glass tiles on a roof. The concept is explored here in their study into skyscraper design.

The video illustrates how thermochromatic tiles change color with the ambient temperature. In cold weather the building tiles turns black and absorb heat. In hot weather the building tiles turn white reflecting heat and thereby cooling the building.

Congratulations to Moving Color for winning the Inventables Most Popular Material of the Year.

Inventables Most Popular Material 2009 runners up:

Sound Dampening Paint: https://www.inventables.com/technologies/sound-dampening-paint
Colorful Metal Mesh: https://www.inventables.com/technologies/colorful-metal-mesh
Impact Hardening Fluid: https://www.inventables.com/technologies/impact-hardening-fluid

What is Inventables?
Inventables is a website where vendors of materials can create free online profiles for their products in order to generate sales leads. Potential customers looking to source new materials and technologies browse through these profiles everyday and submit inquiries about products they are interested in. Vendors are notified by email each time their Inventables profile receives a new inquiry and given an opportunity to purchase the corresponding sales lead.

Materials Guru - Chris Lefteri

Chris Lefteri has always been an inspiration to us here at Inventables. His book Plastics inspired the design of the original Inventables webpages and DesignGuide.

Chris is an accomplished designer and an internationally recognized authority on materials and their application in design. His achievements in this area have created a bridge between manufacturers and the chemical and design industries.

Chris hosts some fantastic strategy workshops and exhibitions like the 100% materials show in London. This work has introduced material suppliers to new design industry customers and encouraged designers to involve new materials in their creativity.

When you think of Material books Chris Lefteri is one of the greats. He's written six books on design and material innovation can be found in most design studios around the world. If you've been in design for awhile you've probably already read them, but if you are just getting started here's something to add to your holiday gift list.

Calling all Industrial Marketers and Salespeople - STOP COLD CALLING

Nobody likes cold calling. Cold calls are uncomfortable for the sales people making them and they are uncomfortable for the prospective customers that receive them. If this is true why do some sales and marketing professionals do it?

Here at Inventables we consider cold calls to be a form of what Seth Godin might refer to as interruption marketing. Seth actually wrote a book on Permission Marketing during his days at Yahoo! At Inventables we think about this choice from the prospective of people who use our site everyday to find new materials for their projects - product developers.

Product developers have a love hate relationship with interruption marketing. They love learning about new possibilities. Learning about new materials and technologies is essential for everyone working on new product development. When they learn about a new material like synthetic paper it expands their understanding of what's possible. With this new understanding, they can create an innovation or product feature that is new to their customers like a waterproof book. These same people can't get any work done during the day because they are constantly being interrupted by phone calls and meetings. Corporations are concerned too, Microsoft commissioned a study to determine how long it takes their employees to get back to the task they were working on after they were interrupted. They found it takes their workers on average 15 minutes to get back into the task after they were interrupted.

We hope the new Inventables Marketplace will put an end to cold calls product developers receive. If industrial marketers use our site to clearly describe their products then they will get inbound sales leads worth their time and spend their days going deeper with each potential customer rather than spending time on the phone making random introductions.

Skin Safe Conductive Ink

Skin safe conductive ink from Bare Conductive makes YOU the electronic device. The way it works is a conductive ink is applied directly onto the skin allowing your skin to become electronic circuitry. When the ink is on your skin it you to interact with electronics through gesture, movement, and touch. The ink is applied with a brush, stamp or spray and is non-toxic and temporary. This is a boundary challenging material. At Inventables we've seen conductive ink before for paper but skin safe is a new arena. Check out this video to get the idea.