Before you heavily invest in your brilliant idea there are some basic questions that you should answer. These are questions that must be answered, whether you plan to sell your product yourself or license your product to an existing company.
1: Is there really a market?
Are there people who will really buy my product? If you believe that “I have no competition!” there may be a good reason why other companies aren’t making a competing product. The only real test is a market test. Only live customers can tell you if you have a winner or not. (Your family and close friends do not count; often they don’t want to hurt your feelings and will tell you what you want to hear). After filing a Provisional Utility Patent application create a prototype, a model, a written description or picture, and test your new product in the marketplace. Offer it, sell it, or give it away to customers and see how they respond.
Get immediate feedback. Get responses from those you expect to buy your product just as soon as it is available. In most cases, your initial product or service idea is deficient in some way. But by changing it in response to customer comments or complaints, you can tweak your product to be a market leader. Record this marketing data if you plan to license your product.
During this process assume that a competitor is rushing to bring a similar product to the market. Develop the action habit. Avoid paralysis by analysis. Instill a sense of urgency at all times. Remember: “Only the paranoid survive!”
2: Is the market big enough to make this invention worthwhile pursuing?
Is the market large enough to justify all the time, trouble, effort, and expense necessary to develop your product and bring it to market? Can you sell enough of your product to make it economically worthwhile? There are many products for which there is a definite market, but the market is too small to make them worth pursuing. Market research in this area can be invaluable in helping you decide go/no-go.
3: Is the market for your product concentrated enough?
If your invention survived the first two questions, does the means of advertising and promoting the product exist that would enable you to sell to that market in a cost effective way? If your target customers are difficult to reach, identify or educate for any reason (geography, demographics, awareness, etc.) this could be a real show-stopper. While the Internet extends your reach to access unique customers your competitors have the same advantage as you.
4: Who is your competition?
Who are your main competitors in the market? There is always competition, even if the competition is your potential users choosing to live with their problem instead of buying your solution. Make a list of potential competitors. How long have they been in business? What are their products? What benefits do they highlight? What features do they have? What are their price points? Do they have a guarantee? What are their product extensions? What accessories do they have as companions to their products (the sale after the sale)? There is a graveyard of new products that died because there was no market, the market was not large enough, the market was not reachable, or the alternative to the new product was more compelling than the new product.
Finally, remember that luck and timing has a role in the success of a new product. Do your homework and if all the lights turn green, put it in high gear and make your own luck before the market window closes.
Ron Reardon, Patents & More, Inc.