We asked Carl, our terrific guest blogger from Inventive Rants to address the issue of marketing once you have a patented invention as a special posting for American Inventor Spot readers.
Here it is:
An invention can come to you in minutes, yet it has no value until someone decides to part with their hard earned money to buy it. Marketing is 99% of invention success. Patent in hand, you need to go out into the world and find a marketing solution that fits your invention. This is a multi step process. You are selling a number of things to an investor, a sales person, a distributor, and a consumer. Let's take it a step at a time.
1) You. You may be selling the greatest invention of all time, but if people aren't sold on you, then you will never survive. People make judgements about you in the first 10 seconds, so make sure that you present yourself professionally. Above all, know your product and your market. Don't pull numbers out of the air claiming that millions will buy your product just because it is new. Every-time you get an opportunity to sell your invention, you are also showing people who you are. No one wants to invest in a loose cannon.
2) The Product. There is something called an elevator pitch. If you were on an elevator with an investor or a distributor, could you effectively pitch your whole idea and tell them how they will profit in the time it takes to go six floors? Can you shock someone with a fact about your industry and then offer a solution in 15 seconds? Here's an example (the numbers are totally fabricated). Over 1 million injuries in the construction industry occur because of slips and falls, costing insurers almost 2 billion a year for medical treatment. The "Lockstepper Boot" tread increases traction by 70 percent and can save the industry over 1 billion dollars a year.
3) Your Plan. A business plan not only helps you obtain financing for a product, it actually helps you sell to a distributor or marketer. Every one wants to know the cost of raw materials, the cost of manufacture, packaging, shipping, etc. What are the profit margins? If I sell your product, how much do I get? You are going to be asked the tough questions by every single person you contact about the invention, so if you know it beforehand, it only makes you look better.
This leads back to point 1. People make decisions about a product based on the person making the pitch. Know your product cold. If you have these three basic steps covered, then you are good shape to begin your marketing effort.
The entire process fills a book, so I will try to hit the high points. You have two choices, when it comes to making money from an invention. Make it yourself, or get someone else to do it and pay you a royalty. If you just want someone else to do it, you will fall into what I call the "Inventor Trap". This is where you take your concept to someone and they say they are interested, but want to see it work first before they commit. When you finally figure out a way to get one built, they insist on testing it for awhile. The test may go well, but for dozens of other reasons, you fail to get the sale.
This process can repeat itself several times before you actually succeed. In the mean time, you have a product, test results, and a reasonable idea of how to get it manufactured. Why give it up in return for a small royalty? Someone has to build the first one, test it, and get a distributor to commit, it might as well be you.
The problem is, that most inventors have no idea how to do any of this. If I had to start again, I would put all of my energy into assembling a trio as quickly as possible. The inventor, the manufacturer and the marketer. After completing steps 1 to 3, you have everything that you need to find suitable alliances. If you know absolutely nothing about how to get a widget made in China for thirty cents, or how to drop ship orders to a distribution company, then you need partners.
After inventing something and protecting it, it really isn't about finding a book on marketing and following the steps. Marketing your invention successfully means finding people passionate enough about the product, that they are willing to sell it for you. Pitch it properly, and you will find these people.
Everyone knows someone who knows someone, and that's the first step of the marketing process. One of the 100 or so steps required to survive the entire invention process. I guess you could always go for those, "Send us your idea and we will develop it for you, send you royalties without you ever having to do any work at all", ads. That sounds pretty good. ;-)
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You can check out his other great articles at Inventive Rants.