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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Getting Your Invention on the Market
You’ve brainstormed for uncountable hours. You’ve killed a dozen trees working through designs and specs. And you’re in the process of registering patent. Now you need to sell this new invention of yours, but how?
First of all, don’t go for a full-fledged patent of your invention just yet, because, though you think it’s the greatest invention known to this generation, there may not be a market for it. Have you ever watched ABC’s American Inventor? Did you notice how many people thought the world of their inventions and spent gobs of money “perfecting” them, but were completely wrong about the consumer’s actual need for that product.
Instead of getting a patent right off, and spending quite a bit of money to do it, take the safe route and get a provisional application patent (which is approximately $100). This protects your invention from being swiped by someone else with a “patent pending” status (ever heard that phrase on a commercial?) for a period of one year. Before that 12 month period is expended, however, you must file for a full patent of your product.
Know Your Market
Before ever taking your idea to a business for possible purchase and distribution, you need to be fully aware of the target market for your product. Who would be interested in using your product and why? Would they be interested enough to buy your product, and, if so, how much would they be willing to pay?
An effective way to find this out is to produce a survey, whether it be simply asking those passing on the street if they would like a product like yours on the market, or producing a survey on a website. Though it’s easy to ask friends and family members, it’s better to get the opinion of strangers. Potential investors won’t trust those close to you as well as they would trust someone you don’t know to provide an honest opinion of your idea.
Pitching Your Idea
Once you know the target market and have data for your product, prepare a one-page sales sheet of your product, complete with pictures or sketches, to provide to potential investing companies. Do this leg work yourself, if possible. Beware of companies that promise to sell your idea to firms for a fee provided by you are often pulling a scam and just in it for your money, and you come out broke with no sales leads in the end.
It is best to target companies that are in the mid-sized range and experiencing some growth. Big corporations, unless actually in the business of purchasing new inventions, typically are not interested in such investments. And small startup companies typically don’t have the funds to purchase your idea.
Additionally, don’t go straight to the CEO of the company. Executives at the top don’t have time to spend on looking into the potential of the product your offer. Your letter or sale sheet will probably end up straight in the trash. Instead, reach out to the company’s marketing or sales team. They’re the ones who are actually on the look out for new products. And, be aware that some companies actually hire firms to look for products that fit the company’s needs, so pitching your idea to these firms is also a good course of action.
Once you’ve sent out your sales-sheets, wait a couple of weeks and, if you haven’t heard anything, call the companies you sent them to and ask for a meeting with a product manager to pitch your invention in person. Bring any and all specs, drawing and write ups you have for the idea. Be organized for your meeting and have a sales pitch somewhat prepared. Be ready for any and all questions about your product, including the hard and negatively geared ones. The more prepared you are, the better chance you have.
What to Expect
Actually, the more accurate phrase would be “what not to expect.” Don’t expect to get big bucks right from the start. The company that has agreed to manufacture you invention is taking a risk, and requiring them to pay you large licensing fees or a big chunk of the royalties just isn’t logical. That company is willing to help you develop your invention into a full scale product and to go from a provisional patent to a full registered patent in your name. Be appreciative of that fact and know that, if your product is the epiphany you believe it to be, the dough will roll in eventually.
As I’ve said before, everything worth while takes time to achieve success.
- BusinessWeek.com: How to Sell Your Invention
Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Should You File a Patent on that Great Idea?
Revisions to the U.S. Patent Law Under Consideration
Expanding Your Business Overseas: Protecting Your Product
Getting Your Product to the National Market
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