Inventors and entrepreneurs are—always have been—drivers of the American economy. Because this isn’t going to change any time soon, we’re all for encouraging innovators to take risks when doing so has real potential for success. Still, it’s crucial to do everything you can to boost the likelihood that you’ll succeed. How? By gleaning the information you need to make sure you’re on the right track from day one.
Accurate Knowledge = Success
When you have an innovative idea, it can be next-to-impossible to slow down long enough to make sure you (and your friends, family and other loved ones) aren’t jumping to conclusions about its potential, market size, and competitiveness. You’re all pumped, ready to embrace fair Fortune and sashay her around the hall. Your giddiness is completely understandable. But hold on. Channel your logical inner Mr. Spock. Look before you leap. If Spock agrees—after you negotiate the list below—you may well be ready to go. But don’t go any farther until you’ve read these hard-won words to the wise first.
Successful Inventors Disavow Mistaken Notions
- Your product is not your “baby”. When I invented and launched my first product ten years ago, I thought of it as “my baby”. Without hesitation, I decided its future—and my fate. Here’s what I learned the hard way: your invention doesn’t care about you. Unlike a child, your unmitigated love for your creation will never be returned. An invention is a business opportunity. Period. Look at it that way. If it can prove its viability to you, it may warrant investing enormous time and money. If it can’t, move on.
- Your product is NOT a patent. Patents are useful tools— at times—but they’re costly and time-consuming to get. And being granted a patent offers zero indication that sufficient people will want your product to make it worth your while to manufacture it. Although understanding existing products and patent filings will be an important part of your research, filing a patent should never come before a complete product evaluation and market analysis.
- Don’t over-estimate the market for your product. Inventors routinely presume the realistic market for their products to be exponentially larger than it actually is. Not everyone who sees value in your product and has use for it will buy it. (Do you buy every new product you like that hits the shelves?) Get as much data as you can on the true market for your product.
- Get critical consumer feedback BEFORE you manufacture your product. Make no mistake: friends, family, and pretty much everyone else loves an invention—right up until you ask for their credit card so they can own it. Faster than a speeding bullet, their affection for you and your product will shift (especially in the present economy) to careful consideration of their actual “need” for it. This is the hurdle your new invention faces.
- Understand (in advance) your product’s design requirements. Carefully consider and research the number of component parts, safety and regulatory requirements, and product liability insurance requirements your product will require. Each of these carries cost and regulatory implications. New rules and regulations regularly emerge to impact product design and testing requirements, and they can spell the difference between a “go” and “no go” decision.
- Make sure your product is financially viable BEFORE you develop it.
Not even a great invention should be produced unless a considerable profit will accrue to you. Figure out if the difference between the retail price consumers will pay and the per-unit costs of producing your product will be robust enough to produce a product that is financially viable before you invest in developing it. These days more than ever, iPhone-packing, social media-connected consumers are smart, informed, and have a cornucopia of choices. They’re price-sensitive, too, refusing to pay more than they feel something is worth. As a passionate inventor, ask yourself: Are you over-inflating the value of your product? If you are, consumers will consume elsewhere.
OUR TIME-TESTED RECOMMENDATIONS
- Take enough time—even weeks—to understand each of the critical areas of the product evaluation process
- Be methodical: document your findings and remain open-minded as the facts roll in
- Share and discuss your findings with mentors and advisors
- Be willing to forge ahead, change course, or let go as indicated by what you discover
- If, after careful evaluation, you decide not to pursue a product, celebrate it as a valuable decision and quickly move on to your next opportunity
Inventors and entrepreneurs are creative by nature. Innovation floats your boat. But by regarding your invention as a potential business opportunity—thereby making each new product idea prove itself worthy of your time and attention—you take charge and choose the opportunities with the best chances of succeeding profitably.
As hard as it is to do when you’re fired up and ready to go, by pausing briefly to evaluate and analyze your invention and its viability as a consumer product, you’ll gain confidence and clarity about the most appropriate actions to take. Then, if all signals indicate “Engage!” you’ll be able to enjoy every confidence that you’ve given your invention the best possible chance to succeed.
Dr. Tamara Monosoff is an Inventor, CEO of MomInvented® & TamaraMonosoff.com & author of five books on entrepreneurship. Her book “Your Million Dollar Dream: Regain Control & Be Your Own Boss” has been #1 on Amazon in Marketing, Entrepreneurship & Home-Based Businesses. Tamara and her products have been featured in nearly every major media outlet including; the front page of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New Yorker, TIME, OPRAH and Fortune Small Business Magazines. She has also appeared on ABC’s The View, NBC’s Today Show, NBC’s Nightly News, ABC’s Good Morning America Weekend and The Bloomberg Report among others.
How Hot is Your Product? Find Out if Your Product Idea Will Make or Cost You Money, a 10-Step Product-Evaluation System for Inventors.