Business

Promoter Forbes Riley knows how to pitch a product

Forbes Riley will be the keynote speaker at the Central Kentucky Inventors Council's Inventors Conference 2011: Innovation Rising on Oct. 4.

Photo courtesy Forbes Riley
Forbes Riley will be the keynote speaker at the Central Kentucky Inventors Council's Inventors Conference 2011: Innovation Rising on Oct. 4. Photo courtesy Forbes Riley Photo courtesy Forbes Riley

Now in its seventh year, Lexington's annual inventors conference has grown to become one of the largest such events in the Midwest, organizers say.

This year's event, on Oct. 4, continues to offer free exhibit space for burgeoning inventors and is also free to the public.

The keynote speaker is product spokeswoman Forbes Riley, who is known for promoting the Jack LaLanne Juicer, Spin Gym and countless other items.

Riley, who says she's done 111 infomercials and sold more than $2 billion of products on television, spoke last week to the Herald-Leader about her appearance. Here are highlights:

On her involvement with inventors: I'm the daughter of an inventor whose products never got out into the world. ... It became apparent the last couple of years that I'm very, very good at coaching people who have a dream so they can get it out to the world.

On what she's learned from pitching products: What's interesting is that in the 111 infomercials I've done, more than half of them have not worked. That gives me a very interesting insight. I've learned it doesn't work when you put two products in a half-hour or if your product name doesn't explain what it does.

On what she's asked most often by inventors: They'll come with this and that, and they don't know where to start. They'll say, 'I have this amazing product, and it does this and this.'

But they don't ask the right question. I do. I'll come to them and say, 'Have you tested this?' They'll say, 'My mother loves it.' Or they'll say, 'I don't have money for a focus group.'

I say take it to a mall every weekend and ask 100 people what they think, ... you'll find out everything you need to know for free if you ask. And you can't tell people they're wrong. That's their opinion.

On the value of promotion: If you don't package it right with the right messaging, the right people aren't going to hear it. ... Resources are available, and you've got to find them. You'll spend $50,000 to $100,000. ... My dad had a garage full of products that never got marketed. If you really have a dream, you've got to figure out how to get it out there.

On the first step for inventors to take: Do exactly what they're doing, and that's joining an inventors group. There's tons of information right there.

These inventor groups are phenomenal. Seek out who is the highest person in your field and talk to them. Get out of your comfort zone, and don't be so afraid that someone is going to steal your idea, because they will. The universe gives the same idea to more than just you. Jacuzzi is the one who got his name on the hot tub because he had an action plan.

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