Guide to Get Your Invention into the Market
Congratulations on your new product idea. You probably have imagined your invention as a product in the market
In Retail stores
Online in Webstores
On TV Home Shopping
NOTE: For this guide, I'm assuming that your product is in development and you desire to manufacture and market yourself.
If you're actually thinking in terms of "licensing" or "selling your invention" to a company, then please see Tips to Sell Your Ideas to Manufacturers or License for Royalties.
Note: The Inventor's notebook is no longer a method to protect your ideas.
Two Big Problems
The two biggest problems you'll encounter are that your development is heading down the wrong path, and the other is your finished product is not selling.
One of the causes of failure is to completely develop a product and then later try to figure out the marketing strategies and tactics. If this is you, don't worry, this can be turned around.
Another mistake is taking the attitude that we'll just get it out there and see what happens. You might be able to convince a retailer or sales rep to carry your product. But, if the product is not selling or there are many returns or complaints, the product will be pulled and you just lost your opportunity.
Develop With a Solid Foundation
There are several kinds of marketing. I specialize in product marketing with over 24 years of developing and marketing products as an Engineer, Product Manager, Consultant, and Entrepreneur.
To have a successful product you have to first understand your customer's problems, needs, and wants, and understand the critical success factors of your market. Then match the customer and market with your solution (the product) in terms of benefits, functions, features, appealing innovation, positioning, pricing, and promotion.
of product marketing in terms of constructing a house. A strong foundation is
the most important building block.
House of Marketing - The key elements to plan, develop, and launch a successful product.
The foundation of product marketing is understanding the needs, wants, desires, and motivations of your customer. What benefits do they strive for? What information are they looking for? Why can't they solve their problems with what's currently available in the market? What keeps them up at night?
The next step is to uncover the Market Environment including competition, market trends, market size, opportunities, threats, and success factors. Once you have the market data, then conceive the Strategies. And with a strong foundation, the tactical Marketing Communications are developed to generate leads, interest, and conversions.
NOTE: If you jump from product development right into making ads, brochures and an e-commerce website, stop now before you waste your money. You skipped the foundation and key aspects of product marketing.
What If You Have a Product in the Market that's Not Selling?
Here's an example of how good product marketing principals can turn weak sales into great sales.
Ruben, a 38 year old business owner, had a new product in the market that wasn't selling well.
First he tried direct mail, then web marketing, then trade shows, and small ads. Some customers would buy, but overall he was wasting more and more money. He knew he was doing something wrong, but not sure where to start.
His new photography product was great. Taking quality pictures of a product is important, especially when selling over the web. Instead of using a camera flash, Ruben's photo lighting system creates an even amount of lighting that eliminates shadows and hot spots. This is especially important when shooting jewelry with its mirror-like reflective surfaces.
Uncovering the problems: Looking at the product brochure, direct mail, trade show materials, and website, the problems I saw became obvious.
First, there was no trigger to customers' needs and hot buttons. Second, there was no consistency from brochure to website to advertising and other materials. Third, there were no competitive advantages highlighted. Fourth, direct mail wasn't using a two-step process, and was without a compelling offer. Fifth, the website had confusing content and poor navigation. Sixth, well you get the picture.
Once the problems were uncovered, and was educated on the customer and dynamics or the market (House of Marketing #1 and #2), I created a customized Marketing Roadmap. This was a prioritized list of actions to reformulate #3 Strategies and #4 Communications. After two months, things noticeably turned around. And instead of making numerous cold calls, prospects were calling in to place orders, as well as a steady increase in online sales. A year later sales revenue was up 45% over the previous year.
Fortunately things turned around. It wasn't his fault that his product wasn't selling when first launched. He was an inventor, not a marketer. Ruben needed a practical step-by-step process and help from and experienced product marketer.
What if You're Just Starting With a New Idea?
Let's suppose you were to take a trip driving
across the country. And assume you didn't have a roadmap. You would likely take
wrong turns, backtrack, and zigzag your way across the country, assuming you even
That's the same with inventing. Without a roadmap, you'll likely waste time and money.
The 3 P's Of Inventing (the wrong way)
Many times inventors come to me any say, "I have an idea that I'm working on that I think is patentable." I say great. But what you want is an invention that is marketable. One that will serve the needs of people and generate a profit for yourself.
There are many examples of inventions with patents that never make it to the market, or fail in the market.
If you're following the old method of what I call the 3P's - Prototype, Patent, and Production - stop now!
The Invention Process Roadmap
Suppose you took a trip driving across the country. You anticipate beautiful scenery, historical sites, and wide open landscapes.
Assume you didn't have a roadmap. You would likely take wrong turns, backtrack, and zigzag your way across the country, assuming you even make it. The same is true with inventing. Without a roadmap, you'll likely waste plenty of time and money. Having a clear roadmap helps you navigate and capitalize on the many opportunities that lie ahead.
I've created the "Market-Step" process to take you step-by-step from idea to market.
The diagram below outlines the main steps to move from idea to market success. Use this roadmap as a navigational tool to guide and monitor your progress.
*** Download the Invention Roadmap Adobe PDF file.
The 7 Steps to Get Your Product to Market
There are 7 steps to take whether you want to self-manuafacture and market or to sell or license your invention.
Protect Your Idea
When you have an idea, you need to protect it. But don't file a patent or provisional patent application until you evaluate your idea for marketability.
One tool to protect your idea is a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) when discussing your idea with others. A non-disclosure agreement is a simple document to keep others from disclosing your idea. When you discuss your idea with others, have them first sign an NDA.
• STEP 1: Market Evaluation
Start the Market-Step process by evaluating the marketability of your invention. With a quick evaluation of the market, you screen out bad ideas before wasting time and money.
Your invention is marketable when it solves a problem, meets a need or want, overcomes competition (products and patents), and generates a profit.
Sometimes a quick Google search will help you. I've had ideas in which a Google search revealed several similar products already in the market. So, I moved on to other ideas.
• STEP 2: Concept Evaluation
The second step of the Market-Step process is to determine if people like your invention concept. A simple Concept Evaluation is an easy-to-use survey method you can create yourself.
The results provide you with valuable feedback so you have a better feel whether to proceed with your invention. In addition, a concept evaluation allows people an opportunity to provide helpful suggestions and advice.
• STEP 3: Prototype Evaluation
The third step is to create a prototype and have an evaluation. A prototype can be a physical model, detailed drawing, or animation. With a prototype, you obtain opinions to make sure you're on the right track.
In addition, a prototype evaluation helps you uncover any necessary feature changes before moving onto the next stage.
Marketable? After each of the first three steps, you need to review the evaluation results to determine if your invention is marketable.
If results are encouraging, advance to the next step. If results are mixed, you might need to go back and revise your idea and re-test. If results are discouraging, revise the invention or cancel the project entirely to save yourself time and money and move on to your next idea.
• STEP 4: Patent Review
If you intend to sell or license your invention to a company, you need to review existing patents. If your invention is patentable, then file for a patent. Start with a Provisional Patent Application (PPA) for a year of protection while you test the market.
To self-market, a patent is not required. However, a patent can serve as a competitive advantage and valuable business asset. You need to review existing patents to make sure your product does not cause an infringement.
If you were granted a Utility Patent, make sure you pay the maintenance fees to keep the patent enforced. There are three sets of maintenance fees. The first is due at three years and six months from the grant date, then at seven years and six months, and finally at eleven years and six months.
Failure to pay any maintenance fee will result in your patent being abandoned (you lose all patent rights).
Decision to Self-Market or Sell / License
Do you prefer to sell or license your invention to a company? Otherwise, do you prefer to market yourself? In the Invention Kit Decision chapter, there are exercises and examples help you make a good decision.
SELL / LICENSE Path
If you decide to sell or license to a company for royalties, your path is the following:
• STEP 5: Product Proposal
Companies need to understand your invention from a business perspective. If you leave it up to the company to figure out your invention, you're much more likely to be rejected.
Before approaching a company, write a summary of your invention's market need, benefits, competitive advantages, and profit potential into a Product Proposal document. See the Invention Success Kit for all the details.
• STEP 6: Company Search and Contact
Search for companies who make, market, and sell products that are comparable with your invention. Then find a prime contact in the marketing department to pitch your invention.
If there's a fit, email or mail a cover letter and Product Proposal to your contact for consideration. By not performing a proper search strategy, you waste time and money, and increase the chance of rejection. See the Invention Success Kit for all the details.
• STEP 7: Negotiate Deal
If the company likes your invention, they will ask you what you want. You need to discuss and agree on the many terms and legal clauses. You or the company will create a licensing agreement for royalties or assignment agreement for a lump sum payout. See the Invention Success Kit for all the details.
If you decide to bring your invention to the market, your path is the following:
• STEP 5: Product and Market Plan
Once it's determined your invention is marketable, the next step is to create a simple plan. You need to plan your product's design and marketing before starting development.
Having a thought-out plan increases the chance of a successful product.
To self-market, you need money for research, development, marketing, and startup expenses. To entice investors, write a business plan to tell investors the opportunity your invention presents. See the Invention Marketing Kit for all the details.
• STEP 6: Product and Market Development
By developing a product with the needs of the customer in mind, you can't go wrong. The first step to develop your invention is to hire an engineer or designer.
At the same time, your marketing plans begin to take shape, and manufacturing can be outsourced or you can set up your own production process. See the Invention Marketing Kit for all the details.
• STEP 7: Product Launch, Market and Sell
The launch phase is the most exciting part of your journey. You are finalizing the product, packaging, marketing, and distribution.
On the day of the launch you announce product availability. Thereafter, your focus is primarily on marketing, sales, and customer support. See the Invention Marketing Kit for all the details.
Like a recipe or formula, following a proven process will help you achieve your goals quicker and easier. I've launched several products that have generated millions of dollars. The Market-Step process is refined and tailored to the new inventor, entrepreneur, or idea person.
Your Next Steps
- Sell or License — Do you want to license or sell your invention to manufacturers?
Get the complete step-by-step process with the "Invention Success Kit".
- Self Market, Startup, or Venturing — Do you want to bring your invention to market yourself?
Get the complete step-by-step process with the "Invention Marketing Kit".
About the Author
Matt Yubas is a Certified Professional Marketing Consultant for the Small Business Development and International Trade Center.
He has developed and marketed products for 24 years as an Engineer, Product Manager, and Consultant for startups, small business, and Fortune 500 companies. He has helped launch several new products such as software applications, wireless devices, photography equipment, auto accessories, soy candles, children's clothing, sporting goods, digital art, and home decor.
Mr. Yubas is the author of the book "Product Idea to Product Success: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Making Money from Your Idea" as well as several articles, eBooks, Kits, audio programs, and DVD.
He has been featured on television, radio, and in syndicated publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Inventors Digest.
He has earned a B.S. in Engineering from Pennsylvania Spring Garden College in Philadelphia, and an M.B.A. in Management from San Diego State University.
Mr. Yubas is a professional member of Inventors Forum, Licensing Executives Society, and Product Development & Management Association.
See also: Coaching