"I have an idea but I am confused as to how to get it to market"
Almost daily, someone asks me how to get their invention to market. The inventions are as varied as the creative people who developed them. They have ranged from child feeding devices to software programs to frozen foods to electronic gardening tools to cell phone accessories.
Let me start by saying that if this is a question you've been asking, you are exactly where you should be. If you truly have an invention--something that has not been created before--there is no set way to get it to market and there is no right way. Finding out how to get your product to market is often more relevant to your success than the features and benefits of your invention. In fact, real money-spending consumers don't buy inventions; they buy products. So, shift your approach away from the typical inventing lexicon to how to sell a new product.
The first step should be to research how others have gotten their products to market, understand the tools available including sell sheets, intellectual property such as trademarks, copyrights and various patents, and the potential market for your product. There are several good books, courses, columns and online communities available for aide in your research, but as the inventor, you are the best person to decide which market is best for your product.
If you are not willing to invest energy and time into gaining information, studying your opportunity and even drafting a basic business plan, even if you have plenty of money to invest in the project, it may not be something you really want to pursue.
The second most frequent question I'm asked is, "How do I get a patent?" I often find that inventors assume that their first step in the process is filing for a patent. I cannot emphasize this enough: A patent is not an invention and getting a patent does not mean your product will get to market. If you find this hard to believe, ask any serious patent attorney how many of his small inventor clients have made more money than the cost of their patent.
Six steps to take your product to market:
- Buy one or two well-regarded books on inventing. Look for those that focus on making money, not just patents and read them. I frequently hear from people who say, "I bought your book but I am still confused." In answer to a couple questions I find they have not actually read the book. After this step you may adapt the next five steps to incorporate what you have learned in your research.
- Conduct market research. Identify products on the market, both online and in stores that are similar to your product idea, and note which companies make them and where they are sold.
- Spend time on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website to identify and read any patents similar to your concept www.uspto.gov.
- Develop as good a prototype as possible with your available resources. This can be as basic as a drawing or as evolved as a professionally made product.
- Connect with other entrepreneurs in your local area or online to share information, resources & offer support.
- Draft a simple business plan; starting with the fundamentals.
Avoid the temptation to take too good to be true sounding shortcuts. Be highly skeptical of those who claim to have unique access and ability to take your product to market for you starting with a basic feasibility study. You are the best person to take your product to market so get started!