So, you have invented something but are not sure how best to bring it to market? Or perhaps you already know that your idea is good and want to find ways of getting it out there in the world?
In this article, we will look at some of the things that can be done to promote an invention or patent.
Start with why
The best place to start is by crafting a mission statement outlining why your invention is important. This can focus on the issue/s that it solves. It should also explain what the benefits are for users. If your invention helps people live longer, then it needs to show how it does so. If it makes life easier, then it must demonstrate how. And if it improves the quality of life, then it has to tell us about that too.
Once you’ve got this written down, we can move on to testing the waters.
Find your tribe
There are very few companies that have managed to do this as well as Apple does. Your tribe are people who would benefit the most from your invention. The internet makes it easier for us to connect with people across the world. Leverage this to your advantage. Start on Google and find forums and chatrooms where they frequent.
Head over to Reddit.com and search for subreddits dedicated to your topic. These are groups of like-minded people who share interests or have the same issue that your product solves. You may find other inventors here. They might even help you get started.
Look for Twitter Channels
Twitter is another great way to reach out to potential customers. Find channels that cover similar topics. For example, I found one called healthtech that was full of health tech startups. If that is your space, you have found your people.
Find Facebook Groups
Facebook groups are a great way to meet new people. Look for groups related to your invention. There are many such groups on Facebook.
Writing your business plan
This may not seem necessary if you are not looking to raise funds, but it will help you (the business owner) think through all aspects of your invention. You will need to consider:
1) Who your target audience is.
2) What problems your solution solves.
3) How much money do you need to make to pay yourself (and any employees).
Gather Feedback Before Prototyping
Developing a working prototype can be costly. Before you go ahead, gather feedback from others. Ask friends, family and colleagues to test your idea. Make sure that their opinions align with yours. Also, make sure that they understand what your invention does and how it works.
Talk to your target market. This is a great way to find out about additional features that you may want to add to the prototype. You may also find that there are unnecessary things you may have included that are of little to no benefit to the user.
Protecting your IP
This starts as you are mingling and sharing your idea. One way to do it is by not revealing too much to people, especially other inventors. Once you have tested the idea and are certain of its value and viability on the market, you may start filing legal documents to protect your intellectual property (IP).
Finding a manufacturer
Prototyping can usually be done by tradesmen and manufacturers locally. This can be costly because of the back and forth associated with getting a product right. Ask questions throughout. This is a great time to learn how you can reduce production costs in the future. Consider if your product can be mass-produced using moulding technology or 3D printing.
Get some reorders – CrowdFund
Once you have a product sample or prototype, you can do the rounds in your group to get some preorders in. One of the easiest ways to do this in recent years has been through CrowdFunding platforms. You can run ads to your listing on the platforms to get financial backing from users before you move to mass production. This gives you much-needed working capital.
Taking it to the masses – Marketing Efforts
Even some of the best inventions can struggle to get to the masses. It can come down to costs. The inventor may not have the necessary fund to push production costs down and make the product more affordable.
Trade shows are one of the best ways to connect with product buyers and potentially strike a lucrative distribution deal. They come to these places to find good inventions and products to stock. Talk to them, and get their feedback. That may be just as valuable as striking a deal. Don’t be afraid to make suggested tweaks to your product.
There are many websites where you can list your invention for sale. Some even offer free listings. These sites include eBay, Amazon, Etsy and Alibaba.
Doing a press run
Visibility is one of the best ways to find the right partners. Businesses have come on programs such as Shark Tank in the US or Dragon’s Den in the UK for this purpose. Even the ones that do not strike a deal on the shows may do well due to the publicity that their product has garnered. Reach out to relevant podcasts, radio stations, papers and anyone with an audience that includes your target market.
Running paid ads
Paid advertising can work wonders when targeting the right audience. There are many different types of advertisements available including banner ads, display ads, video ads, etc. Each type will have specific benefits depending on what you are trying to achieve. For example, a banner ad would be ideal for reaching a wide audience quickly while a video ad may be better suited to reach a niche audience over a longer period of time.
Search engines are a great source of organic traffic. If you have a website, you should always optimize it for search engines. This means ensuring that all pages are properly structured so they appear high up in search results. Ensure that you use keywords in page titles and meta descriptions.
Social media marketing is another way to gain visibility. Use social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Make sure you post regularly and engage with followers.
Product licensing is one of the most effective ways to get paid for your IP without having to foot the production costs and day to day logistics. There are several companies that will help you with this process.
You may need to register your patent first. This is something that needs to be done early on so that you don’t lose any rights to your invention. Patent protection gives you exclusive use of the invention for a period of time.
If you want to keep things simple, look into selling your product under a brand name. This allows you to retain ownership but still benefit from the branding power of the company behind the brand.
The larger the market potential your product has the easier it is to license it.
If you are looking to license your invention, here are some resources:
Licensed products earn a royalty for the sales. A license agreement allows others to bring your product to market. This can be for a fixed period or for the lifetime of the product. You would need some shrewd negotiation techniques to ensure that you get the best deal possible. You can also shop the invention around several distributors to get the best possible deal. Royalty payment ranges from between 0.5% – 10% on average. This will depend on the volume of sales, price of the product and the costs associated with manufacturing it.