How To Transform Your Invention Into A Marketable Product

A Quick Look At New Product Development

Guest post by Kayleigh Alexandra

After weeks, months, even years of turning a problem over in your head, your cognitive iteration has produced a viable solution. Or perhaps you’ve just woken up one morning to find a pearl of an idea resting unexpectedly in your mind (the creative process doesn’t always conform to formula). Regardless of the preamble, you’ve invented something — something good.

Just to confirm, you let it sit for a while, then revisit it with a clear perspective. It still works. You’re suitably convinced that you’re not delusionally backing a crackpot idea, and it’s time to put your money and your mouth where your mind is. But there’s a gulf between your concept and something tangible that you can actually sell to people, and you need to bridge that gap.

So how do you do it? How do you take your notion and flesh it out until it’s ready for the full power of primetime promotion (or at least punchy enough to stand a chance at nailing a Brutally Honest Review)? Here are some tips to help you get it done:

Review comparable products on the market

Unless you’re extraordinarily fortunate (and a pioneering genius), there are going to be plenty of products on the market that are essentially comparable to your invention, and they’ll give you a lot of insight into how you can succeed. How are they marketed? How were they launched? With some basic research, you should be able to uncover how their companies came about.

Were they propped up by investors who specialize in certain industries? If so, you might be able to get some interest from the same investors. The simple process of identifying mistakes to avoid and victories to replicate can save you huge amounts of time, money, and effort as you make your way along the slow path to mainstream success.

Start developing a prototype

However compelling your invention might be, people — whether prospective investors or prospective customers — won’t be impressed by the idea. Good ideas in themselves aren’t necessarily valuable because many exist that can’t be practically realized. If you’re going to gain some ground, you need to show that your idea is workable, which demands a prototype.

Thankfully, prototyping has become much easier following the rise of 3D printing. You don’t even need to buy a printer: just find the nearest 3D printing service, and start working on the designs in whichever CAD program you’re comfortable using (All3DP has a solid list of free tools that are suitable for beginners). Remember that your prototype doesn’t need to be polished, but it does need to be as functional as you can realistically make it at this stage.

And if you already have a prototype, then work on the presentation, because that matters more than you’d like it to. No one can reasonably expect it to be representative of the final product, but the more polished you can make it now, the better it will serve your purposes.

Assess the fulfillment possibilities

When your product is ultimately ready, what will you want to do with it? This may seem tangential at this point, but it actually isn’t, because it will affect everything from the production process you use to the marketing methods you need (and, in turn, these things will affect how your potential you’re considered to show as a business head).

To give you some ideas, here are just some ways you could proceed:

  • Partner with an existing brand. Looking past any potential competitors, there will likely be companies offering products alongside which your invention could plausibly (and conveniently) be sold. For instance, if you invented a new type of rucksack, you could reach out to rugged clothing retailers and pursue an agreement to sell your product through their store.
  • Use a third-party marketplace. Huge retail marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy and eBay make it possible to sell products online without needing any infrastructure of your own. This is a great way to get nationwide exposure for a new product, though it is somewhat creatively and financially limiting.
  • Start an ecommerce operation. If you want to take full control over your product, you can start your own online retail operation. With production figured out (you can find suitable production facilities throughout the world) and a scalable retail CMS as your foundation, you can get up and running surprisingly rapidly — even within days once you commit.
  • Sell the licensing rights. Maybe you want your idea to be made a reality and sold to the public, but you don’t want to be the one making and selling it. If so, you could simply offload that responsibility to someone else through licensing your invention. It’ll limit what you can earn, but it won’t require you to do much else for your money.

If you’re going to present your product as marketable, you need to have an actual plan for how it’s going to be sold — so have some kind of end goal in mind, even if you know it might change at some point. This will also help to flag up any potential issues with matter such as physical distribution or material sourcing.

Cover the naming and branding

Figuring out the name of your product is important for two reasons: firstly, it makes it sound more compelling as a prospect (iPhone sounds much more impactful than Apple Touchscreen Smartphone), and secondly, it’s important for legal purposes (patents, trademarks, and everything else you can think of). You need to ensure that you have the details ready (and checked against what’s already out there), or else you’ll look amateurish.

Do you need to line up a whole host of slogans, tag lines, and brand colors? No, certainly not at this point — but if you can manage a logo, that will definitely help. The more work you can do now, the closer to completion your product will seem, and the more easily you’ll be able to attract attention from investors looking for expedient turnarounds.

To recap, here’s what I suggest you do with your invention to turn it into a product that’s ready to be marketed: use comparable products on the market as examples, work on creating (or refining) a demonstration prototype, come up with a plan for how it’s ultimately going to be sold, and nail the essential naming and branding to make it a more complete package for investors. It’s inevitably a slow process, but these steps should help you move solidly in the right direction.

Kayleigh Alexandra writes for MicroStartups, a business community that celebrates inspiring startups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs. Follow on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

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