Moneyball Product Design = Moms
Instead of striking out with manufacturers, could the product designer of a safer baseball bat have hit a home run if he aimed for Little League moms instead?
Having a safer, better product design is rarely enough to convince crowd-funders, manufacturers, retailers, or other serious players that your product has a market. Just ask Grady Phelan, product designer and inventor of the patented ProXR, an ergonomic baseball bat design that could save the MLB millions of dollars by preventing common hamate injuries. Phelan spent 10 years and $125,000 in savings trying to remove all the rejection barriers thrown at him by the industry bat manufacturers. It took a lucky break with an inquiry and article from a reporter for Co.Design to score a hit with a manufacturer. Could Phelan have attacked this with some Moneyball Product Design tactics and hit a home run without all that time and expense?
- “You’ll never get the MLB to approve that”
- “Nobody is ever going to use it”
- “You’ll never get that in a game”
- “You’ll never get a player to play it”
- “You can’t ever manufacture that”
Phelan’s rejection list above is typical. As product designers and creators of over 30 patented inventions, we have heard these same rejections time and again. Sometimes they are given as an intentional walk to get you off their plate, especially from those suffering not-invented-here syndrome. Some are completely valid criticisms that need to be addressed before you step up to the plate again. In the case of the ProXR, getting the MLB to approve it was critical to prove that the product met the industry safety test standards.
Phelan took the rejections as a “to-do list” before pitching again. We prefer the Moneyball Product Design approach to obtain the quickest results with the least cash investment. Test-marketing a product and proving there is a demand on a budget with players that can slug it out everyday.
Retail Moneyball Product Design Stats = Women
To cultivate field advantage with Moneyball Product Design, we always look to women first. Women control 85% of all consumer purchases. If they buy it, you have a hit. In Phelan’s case, we would have recommended targeting Little League Moms (and Aunts and Nanas, too) instead of MLB players.
My 13-year old nephew, Ryan was given a $200 bat as a gift from his grandparents this past season just to improve his swing. If his Nana had encountered a bat that was marketed as safer and visually looked safer, she would have picked that bat without question. After all, who doesn’t want their kids safe from injury while playing sports?
Little League Moms network and recommend. Team Moms pressure Coaches. Coaches tell the local Little League division. Little Leaguers eventually become Minor and Major Leaguers. Once these young players begin to get comfortable with the new bat design, no other bat will feel the same. As they grow through the ranks, the bat comes with them. In the 10 years it took Phelan to get to a potential deal, a Little League player, like my nephew, could have made to the MLB.
By aiming for the largest most accessible influential buying demographic, you don’t need to rely on an MLB player to endorse you. The time, energy and money it takes to get one player’s endorsement could have been spent getting teams of under-valued Moms instead. An MLB player might influence some of his fans to buy the bat, but those young fans still have to get Mom to agree to buy it. Focusing on the end-game through Money Product Design leads to a market win – it doesn’t matter if it is a walk or a hit that brings in the run.
“There was but one question he left unasked, and it vibrated between his lines: if gross miscalculations of a person’s value could occur on a baseball field, before a live audience of thirty thousand, and a television audience of millions more, what did that say about the measurement of performance in other lines of work? If professional baseball players could be over- or under valued, who couldn’t?” ― Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
NOTE from Tracy – 4/18/2018: The Inventor, Grady Phelan reached out to me recently with the following comment. I will try to do a follow-up and explore these challenges as they are very common for many inventors.
“I’m sorry to say I missed your post about the ProXR bat and our market targeting decision process for launching ProXR. Very interesting point of view and without the benefit of knowing some of the operational issues and funding restraints I faced I would tend to agree with your assessment. The deciding factor for not pursuing youth baseball was financial. The cost to develop, manufacture and ship metal bats from China and have them certified with USA and USSSA baseball is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Quite simply, we opted to find our success in MLB, then work back to the youth markets. Additionally, I saw a trend coming on in the youth bat market – there are more and more wood bat tournaments happening every year and I can tell you we will be attending many of them. Even though I’m two years late in finding this, thanks for your blog.”
Quick update on a Red Sox Player with ProXR: