A ROADMAP FOR INVENTORS
A ROADMAP FOR INVENTORS
Do you have a Big Idea you’d like to take to market but feel uncertain about how to do this? Perhaps you even have a fleshed-out design but don’t have the experience to take your next steps? This is an extremely common conundrum for many inventors. After all, more often than not the very knowledge specialization or industry expertise that makes a person such a powerful inventor also means they lack the broader knowledge of how to navigate the road and take the long journey from commercially-viable design to consumer product.
With that in mind, this article will provide a rough roadmap of the considerations you’ll need to take into account and the various stages your idea or design will need to navigate en route to becoming a fully-fledged product ready for distribution.
Prior to investing significant time and money into creating a product, you’ll need to determine if there’s an actual demand for it. This is where market research comes in. As should be obvious, you can’t very well take your idea or even a completed product to market if there isn’t a market for it. Inventing a product requires a lot of initial investigation as well as cognitive and emotional stamina to conduct due diligence. This is doubly true when you’re looking at patent protection for your idea.
You can start your market research by asking some simple questions to assess the competition: Are there similar products on the market? If so, would my design infringe on someone else’s copyright or intellectual property? Where is the demand for this kind of product the highest? Who is distributing or selling products of this variety? What demographics exhibit the highest demand for this kind of product?
Ask yourself why somebody would choose your product over a similar product? What differentiates it? Is your product novel enough or game-changing enough, so ahead of the curve that demand will need to be created for it? If so, how will this demand be generated?
Develop a Prototype
Once you’ve developed a good feel for your market and made sure your legal path is free from obstructions, the next step is to move beyond the ideation and even design phase and produce your first prototype. We say “first prototype” because there will almost certainly (and ideally) be multiple prototypes since prototyping is a highly iterative process.
Your prototype can start out very simply. It may not even occupy actual space (it may be digital, or virtual). Many people opt to start the prototyping process using software especially designed for this purpose, only later moving on to an actual 3-D object. The whole point of prototyping is to test your design and subject it to multiple rounds of improvement-informing feedback from actual users.
Prototyping is an absolute must. Even the most epically inventive and innovative companies with billion-dollar budgets and state-of-the-art engineering departments (think, Apple) would never dream of attempting to bring a product to market without testing multiple prototypes. If it’s good enough for the technical savants at Apple, it’s good enough for you, and the name of the game at this point is to test, retest, test again, and then test some more.
Channels of Distribution
At some point, you’ll need to decide if it’s in your best interest to have your product manufactured or licensed. If you go the manufacturing route, this doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be making your product yourself (since the chances of you having the resources to do this are slim), it just means that you’ll be in charge of creating and selling your product while most likely paying a third party to manufacture it. If you go the licensing route, you’ll sell another company the rights to make, use and sell your products, conferring that right in exchange for a license fee and royalty payments. There are pros and cons to either approach so this is yet another area in which to conduct due-diligence.
A significant challenge for inventors is figuring out how to make the public aware of their product. It doesn’t matter how great your idea is, how compelling your design, how solid your business plan, and how stellar your market-ready product may be if nobody knows it exists. Inventors can often make the mistake of being too focused on their product, mistakenly thinking that it will sell itself.
Many inventors who are just starting up lack a large advertising budget to promote their finished product, but this doesn’t need to stand in the way of sparking prospective customer’s interest and whetting their appetites. Marketing is absolutely essential, and with the ascendency of social media as the advertising arena par excellence, there’s no reason you can’t avail yourself of a low-barrier-to-entry, cost-effective, wide-reaching, successful social media marketing plan.
Don’t Go it Alone
Going from ideation to prototyping to manufacturing to advertising to the actual market is a rewarding but challenging journey. If you can partner with someone who has successfully taken this journey themselves you’ll be that much better for wear. At Pivot, we’ve successfully taken this journey over the last forty-plus years with hundreds of inventors just like yourself. Give us a call today. We’re good company for the road ahead.