My firm looks at hundreds of new product ideas, concepts and inventions every year. Many have great potential. When reviewing these opportunities the creator inevitably asks some form of the following: “Before spending any money, how can I get a feel for the potential success of my new idea?"
Consumer research, focus groups and test marketing are commonly utilized by established companies to gauge the market reception and viability of new product offerings. Even limited, controlled programs such as these are beyond the reach of most entrepreneurs. There are, however, other options that can yield a strong indication of potential success, or failure.
Review with Friends, Family, Co-Workers
The inventor needs to be very protective of their proprietary idea. Never discuss the product or idea with any stranger or business without obtaining a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement. This protects both you the inventor, and the reviewer. My firm will not accept any idea submission without first completing a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Nevertheless, family and trusted friends often provide an excellent sounding board. Ask questions of them. Would you buy if the product were available? What price would you pay? What price would be too high? What don’t you like about the idea? Do you see any flaws in my thinking? Have you ever seen such an item? If the answers are consistently positive then you have conducted a self-administered mini-focus group.
Check out the Competition
Visit every store, review catalogs, web-sites or businesses that sell any product that competes in the space you are targeting for your invention or new product. For instance, if you have an idea for a new kitchen widget, go to stores like Williams Sonoma, Bed Bath and Beyond, WalMart, etc. Check eBay and web-sites devoted to kitchen accessories. Seek out the endless number of specialty catalogs offering cooking and kitchen specialty products. If, after a comprehensive market search, there is no product that duplicates the benefits and features of your invention on store shelves, you will have further positive indication of potential success.
Use the Inter-Net, It’s Free
Patents, copyrights and trademarks are best handled by legal practitioners that are expert in this highly specific area of law. However, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto. gov ) web-site is free and available for anyone to utilize. Use this web-site to search for products or trademarks in the space you are considering for your opportunity. A cursory search will add to your comfort level that you have discovered an uncovered item niche, or confirm that there is another prior claim to your invention.
What’s Next for my Idea
Assuming you have received a positive response from trusted family and friends, seen nothing like the idea in your market research and the USPTO search is promising, you are ready to commercialize your concept. Consultants, patent attorney’s, prototype engineers and professional service providers are readily available. Depending on your business background, energy and diligence you may be able to self-market the product and avoid paying some fees and development costs.
Ask yourself this: If your tooth hurts, whom do you visit? Uncle Ernie, or the dentist! When the transmission on your car dies, do you set an appointment with a plumber? Properly vetted professionals should save you time, money and mistakes. The marketplace is closed to offerings that take shortcuts. It is a competitive world and you, and your new idea, only have one opportunity to make a great first impression. Make that impression the best one possible for the sake of ultimate success.
Geoff Ficke is President of Duquesa Marketing, Inc. An international consulting firm with over 35 years experience in creating customized strategies and business plans, product development and funding opportunities for entrepreneurs, inventors and small business expansion. Mr. Ficke is also a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Study at the Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. He can be reached at 859-442-5834 or through the company website http://www.duquesamarketing.com