You've Got a Great Invention Idea, Now What?
We know the feeling. You've been hit with an invention idea. It's for a product that is so perfect...you can hardly sleep at night.
If you are like most inventors, you now have a ton of work in order to protect, manufacture and sell your invention. Actually, let's take a step back, it isn't "most" inventors, it is "all" inventors. And, because every invention is unique, there is no single sure-fire path to success. Every invention is uncharted territory.
There are Five Steps that every successful inventor must go through. World Patent Marketing is here to offer invention help to get you started on the right path. These steps are not easy, but they are essential to success.
The Five Steps
- Preliminary Research
- Provisional Patent Filing
- Manufacturing and Cost Analysis
- Killer Marketing and Distribution
We'll cover each of these in more detail below. Every successful inventor goes through these steps in roughly this order. Many inventors put the cart before the horse, seeking out manufacturers or filing for patents before they have created a plan to get that product on the shelves in front of the buyers.
A head's up for all of you inventors. It is easy to assume that all you need is a great product and the sales will just happen. After all, we are told the key to business success is simply to "build a better mouse trap."
That advice might have cut it in 1930. But it isn't going to work these days. Now, you need a strategic plan to get your invention noticed by the right people and prove to them that it is going to fly off the shelves at a profit. Don't count on luck, count on strategic research and hard work.
On with the Five Steps.
This is a terrifically exciting moment. You're invention idea is still fresh in your mind, dreams of success are pumping adrenaline like mad. It's also a dangerous time. Preliminary Research is critical and needs to be assessed with a cold calculating business mindset.
Sure, you need to be positive and optimistic. But, inventors tend to discount competition and costs. Don't do that. Be tough on yourself. It is always better to pass on a bad idea, in order to save your resources for a really good invention.
Get out into the stores, trade shows, and online to thoroughly research the competition. Check prices, volume, how much product is sold at a discount, what the typical terms and conditions are. Figure out what regions your product would do best in. Estimate out how much you can sell your product for. Keep in mind that seasonal items must be discounted, so the initial price point has to have an even larger cushion. Shipping costs are critical for online products. Big box stores typically demand huge volume up front and won't pay a dime for 90 days. Grocery stores usually insist that your product be offered through a major distributor, they don't have time for one-offs.
This is a somewhat random lists of important factors when it comes to selling your product. There are many more that will be industry and product specific. To get your idea from the drawing board and into customers' hands at a profit, you are going to need to know the answer to every one of them.
Another part of preliminary research is customer intelligence. Who is likely to buy your product?
The answer is never "everyone." It is always a particular person with a particular need. How many people are truly in this category? How old are they? Where do they live? Town or country? Upscale or affordable? What is their average income? What are they likely and able to pay for your product?
Industry and trade associations can be a great source of preliminary information. Almost every industry has a trade group, if not several. For instance if you have an invention for cooking pizza, you will indeed find a pizza trade group that compiles all kinds of industry specific stats about the pizza industry, including its vendors, customer demographics, and trends. The same is true for almost every industry, from oil drilling to dog grooming.
Before you move forward you must know;
- Are there other products that are alike or similar to your invention on the market?
- If not, why not? (Hint, perhaps they didn't sell.)
- Where are you most likely to sell it?
- Who is likely to buy it?
Sit with this information for a bit. It's time for a brutal assessment. Picture yourself as the consumer of this product. Faced with all of the multitude of products competing for your dollars and time, shelves filled with other items, would you fork over your hard-earned money for your invention?
If yes, move onto the next step.
Once you think your invention idea is worthy of a shot, you can file a provisional patent. A provisional patent protects your idea for one year.
A provisional patent application can be filed for less than $300. On the other hand, a patent application will typically cost $10,000 or more. In addition, patents take much longer to be granted approval than provisional patents. And because the patent application is much more difficult to write, the USPTO strongly suggests that inventors hire an attorney or a licensed patent agent. Applications from non-professionals have a very high rejection rate.
Here's the kicker; the provisional patent gives your invention the same basic protection as a patent. From the day of your filing for a provisional, your invention idea is protected for one year, giving you time to do research and further explore your idea. It's the down, dirty and quick way to get your invention protected immediately. Should you decide to move forward, you simply file for the patent at that time, nothing is lost except for the cost of the provisional patent.
$65 or $10,000 for the same protection, it's a pretty obvious choice.
Inventors should consider using a provisional patent for their early development. It is the least cost option and preserves capital for other more important steps in the invention process. There is no need to go through the time and expense of a patent filing until the idea has been fleshed out and tested.
This is one of the most exciting (and frustrating) parts of the invention process. When you reach the level where you have created a physical prototype of your invention...that is one exciting day. But there are a few steps along the way before you get to that point.
These days, because of computer assisted design, CAD, the initital prototypes are usually virtual 3D prototypes. A good 3D prototype lets you look at your invention from every angle, refine the design details, and shop it around to the engineers and designers who will create a physical prototype. You can also show your 3D prototype to manufacturers, investors and potential customers.
There are four types of physical invention prototypes;
- Presentation Prototype
- Proof-of-concept Prototype
- Functional Prototype
- Manufacturing Prototype
Not every invention requires all four of these, but most inventions require at least two.
The Presentation Prototype is designed to look like your product, but it may not actually work and it is understood that details can still be adjusted. As a matter of fact, one of the purposes of the Presentation Prototype is to get feedback from designers, distributors, investors, and customers, in order to make needed changes. It is called a Presentation Prototype because you can "present" it to others, for focus groups and investor meetings.
The Proof-of-concept Prototype is built to demonstrate that your idea actually works. It may not look anything like your finished product, since it is simply about proving the idea. The most common example is an electronic device, say a home appliance. The Proof-of-concept Prototype may lack a housing, and consist mostly of electrical wires clipped to circuit boards and perhaps a motor or heating coil. It doesn't look a thing like the finished coffee maker it is supposed to represent. The purpose of this crazy looking prototype is to show that the "guts" of the invention work. The Proof-of-concept prototype is sometimes required as part of the patent application process.
The Functional Prototype looks and works just like your finished product. This is where you get down to polishing and approving every last detail. The primary difference between the Functional Prototype and the Manufacturing Prototype is that the former is not built on the exact same assembly line as the latter. Many prototype facilities specialize in small runs and don't do large scale manufacturing.
Manufacturing Prototypes are made to test and approve the manufacturing process. They are made on the exact same machines and assembly line as your product will be. At this point, every detail must be correct.
Finding a good prototype development group can be challenging. As the design of your invention evolves and the details are worked out, your prototype developer becomes almost a partner. Seek out a company that specializes in invention prototypes and has a proven track record with products in your category.
Manufacturing and Cost Analysis
At this point, prototype in hand, you are ready to research manufacturing. Globalization provides inventors with a lot more low cost options, but it hasn't made it any easier to make that choice. The biggest challenge is coping with different legal systems. China is the go-to low cost manufacturer of the world at the moment. But many lone entrepreneurs find out too late that it can be almost impossible to enforce contracts, ensure quality, and control costs. The truth is, one little guy doesn't have much clout in a country the size of China.
To remedy this problem, many inventors turn to stateside manufacturers who have or work with facilities in China. This offers the inventor more confidence in the performance of the work, the assurance of access to the United States legal system, and a bit more control of the process.
U.S. invention companies that own their own Chinese facilities or regularly do business with the same manufacturers in China have established relationships that prevent mishaps and misrepresentation. In addition, they generally work with a number of facilities and they know which one would be right for specific products.
Unless you have the time to travel to China and visit the factories you are interested in with your own personal interpreter at your side, a U.S. company could be the best way to proceed. Working with a U.S. company that has relationships or its own facilities in China puts the inventor in a much stronger position and will greatly smooth the process.
Once you have settled on a facility and have a reasonably solid prediction of your manufacturing costs, delivery and duties, you should do profit analysis. This allows you to determine if your invention can be sold at a reasonable retail cost with a profit.
Obviously you need to calculate all of the expenses related to invention manufacturing and delivery. Retailers typically sell products with a 100% mark-up, this covers their overhead and expenses. The mark-up varies by industry and the type of product. When you are trying to arrive at the price that your product will sell for, you must take the standard industry mark-ups into account. Direct marketing media, like Direct Response TV, have even higher mark-ups, up to 500%, because television advertising is expensive, although it can be highly effective.
Now you need to come at your calculations from the other side. What is your best customer likely to pay for this product? How does it compare with other products in the same category? What are similar items priced at?
Don't use manufacturers suggested retail price, MSRP, as a guide to how much your product can be sold for. These are often artificially inflated to allow retailers to claim that they are giving outlandish discounts. Use the actual prices that the products sell for, the price that gets them moving off the shelves. Even the discounted price should still yield a profit for the retailer.
Be brutally honest. This is not the time to hopefully fudge the numbers. If you can't bring that product in at a price at which it is going to sell, it's better to know it before you have a garage full of inventory that will never make a profit.
The bottom line, your manufacturing and delivery costs must be low enough to allow your product to be sold at an attractive price.
Killer Marketing and Distribution
We put these categories together, because distribution affects the type of marketing campaign you need to create.
There are several types of marketing and advertising. Everyone is familiar with consumer advertising, it is on television, newspapers, radio and the internet. It motivates individuals to buy a product. This type of advertising focuses on product benefits, what it can do for the customer, how it makes them feel, how it solves their problem, why it is better and what a great value it is.
But, you don't need to worry much about consumer advertising until you figure out a way to get your product into a retail store. Or, if your product is primarily for a business or industrial purpose, you don't ever have to worry about mass market consumer advertising at all.
To get your product into Best Buy, WalMart, Home Depot, Bass Pro Shops, or any of the large retail chains, you need to create a strategic marketing campaign. The buyers for these huge stores are inundated all day long with great products from around the world. Simply getting the chance to present your product to them can be quite a challenge. This is the first marketing campaign you need to tackle.
Now is the tme to begin thinking about how to make that happen. There are two things you must convince them of, and you will have about ten minutes to do it at most. Number one, your product will make a profit for them. Number two, is it going to be delivered on-time, as promised.
Devote all of your marketing efforts to securing these meetings. You'll want some killler mailing pieces, a great website, and a professional presentation. You'll need to dig hard to get the names and contact information for the people you need to talk to. And you need to have solid provable numbers.
You might ask, how can I prove that the product will fly off the shelves if it hasn't even got into the store? Many inventors use fairs and trade shows to test market their product. A solid record of selling out at an appropriate retail trade show (keep good records) or professionally conducted focus groups and consumer research can help to persuade the big box buyers.
The same methodology applies to inventors looking for a licensing agreement or a distributor. For startup companies, pitching to the distributor is often the best way to break into the larger retailers, especially grocery stores. Because grocery stores carry so many products they don't want to deal with ordering and billing for one item. They tend to buy their small volume specialty products from a larger distributor who represents dozens or even several hundred private labels. Often, if you can convince the distributor to carry your product, he will take the next step of getting it onto the grocery store shelves.
In the above cases, the consumer advertising is less important initially than reaching the large company's buyers. But, you can't ignore it. You still need a basic marketing plan appropriate for your product. The large companies want to know that you are supporting and investing in the necessary advertising to get your product to move off the shelves. So plan it and include your consumer marketing plan in your presentation.
If your product is an industrial product, you should focus your advertising campaign on industry specific events, like trade shows, as well as publications and the use of sales representatives. You can narrow your scope down to target the best publications and events, and speak in the language of the people who are insiders in that industry. You will probably advertise exclusively in trade publications, both print and online, as well as create a targeted digital campaign. You might also do well to focus on finding highly successful industry reps, who will carry your product message direct to their list of contacts. Industry reps can be the key to opening the right doors.
Business to business products are sold more through relationships than through impersonal advertising. This doesn't mean that it isn't marketing. Getting to know the right people at the right time is as much of a marketing art form as is mass market media production. Each industry has its own standards and networks and it is your job to find the keys for your particular industry that will open the doors to invention success.
Few inventors have all of the skill sets required to do any of these marketing tasks. You can save yourself a great deal of time and trouble by enlisting the help of an organization that understands marketing and media. This allows you to focus on the message and industry specifics, while letting someone else handle the details.
Invention Help - The Key to Success
The most successful companies are not built upon the efforts of one man or woman. Sure, many companies are the result of one person's vision, but no one has all of the skill sets necessary for invention success.
The smartest entrepreneurs know they need help so make sure to check us out at Desa Industries Inc and World Patent Marketing.
They know what they know, and they know what they don't. When it comes to getting things done they stick to what they know and they farm out the rest to the best people they can get.
Every inventor is different, some might make their own prototypes because they are engineering designers by trade, others might file their own patent applications because have a law degree...but they all seek out invention help for some of the tasks.
The Five Steps are essential to creating a successful invention. Don't skip any of them. If you have gaps in your skill set or knowledge, get the help you need, so that you can give your great idea the chance that it deserves.Keyword: Invention Help Search:4.3k to 6.5k Opportunity: 94