Great Product Idea? What to do Next.

Did you just come up with a great idea? What do you do next?

Myra Per-Lee developed, manufactured, and marketed about a dozen products in a ten year period, most on her own with very little start-up capital. The most successful of her inventions, massage tools for adults, animals and infants, known as Nukkles®, Nuzzles®, and Snukkles®, is still going strong after eight years on the market. Myra lets us in on the secret of what to do after you've come up with the next best idea.

Here's her article:

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When you get a brilliant idea for a new product, don't you wish you could just write it down and drop it into Wal-Mart's suggestion box and, then in a week, receive a big fat check? Boy, I do!

I have a colleague, though, who is fond of reminding me that "ideas are cheap." This comment is always meant to burst my bubble when I've come up with something simply smashing. But, bottom line, he's right; very few companies pay for ideas. Most of them just pay for your proven, marketable, hot product! So, let's get going....

You're excited about an idea, but you don't know if it's a good one, and you don't have a clue what to do with it if it is a good one!

Let's explore. For today, we'll cover three steps in the exploratory process that you should conduct, even if you have the opportunity to sell just your idea. (Oh, how I envy you!)

1. Draw Your Product.

Diagram and describe your product, keeping all your creativity channels open. Draw your vision of the idea before you conduct a product search, so that you don't limit your originality. Graph paper can help the dimensionally-impaired draw their products in relative perspective.

Make drawings from all angles with as many details as you can. I recommend you keep all diagrams, descriptions, and research in one notebook and date each entry, because you will be expanding your product vision as you get more information. And, if your idea is ever challenged (for example, someone accuses you of stealing his or her idea), the notebook can serve as chronology of your creative process.

2. Describe Your Product.

Write a description of your product as an entry in your notebook. What does your product do? What problem(s) does it solve? How does it function, and how does the design contribute to its function? What materials are used to make it? How are they manufactured?

Answer as many of the questions as you can. Don't worry if you don't know all the answers; if you decide to pursue your idea further, you will find people who know the answers. I don't know how to magnetize my walls. I don't even know if that's such a good idea; I mean, imagine the possible results! But if I really wanted to pursue that idea, I would find the experts in that field and work out some sort of agreement with them. (By the way, this idea is a give-away, if anyone is interested in pursuing it. Hint: magnetic spray for tiled and cement walls.)

Have you seen anything like your product on the market? Something designed differently, but used for the same function? How and why does your idea work better? Does it do more things? Realistically, even if you have not yet conducted an active product search, you may already be familiar with products that are functionally or visually similar to yours.

For example, when I got the idea for a new backscratcher, I already knew about one, the little "hand on a stick." In comparing my idea to the hand on a stick, I recorded that my backscratcher would feel like real fingernails, scratch in all directions, and have an ergonomically designed handle to enable more pressure to the middle of one's back. My drawing also showed these features.

Once you have diagramed and described your idea, it's perfectly all right to go look for it. So... let's go shopping!

Nov 28, 2006
by Angela (not verified)

Need help please

Hello, I have 2 ideas I think are great and will help. Im a CNA at a nursing home and I have came up with a couple ideas that could make my residents feel better and make our job alittle easier at the same time. I have asked a few people about my idea and the residents so far all of them think its a wonderful idea. The probeblem is thats all I got is the idea. Now what do I do I did read your article but should I get a patient and how do I make a proto type and who do I show or tell this to im totaly lost.Please help if you can.

Nov 28, 2006
by Myra Per-Lee

Need Help Please

Hi Angela... I am writing a series on the invention process. Read: Need Help? Try Inventors Anonymous and Be Like Sherlock In Your Patent Search.

I would not build a prototype until you have conducted your market search (to make sure your invention is not already in use somewhere else) and patent search (to make sure your invention or something very similar has not already been patented).

There's a lot to do before trying to obtain a patent. I'm familiar with the excitement you're feeling right now, but relax a bit and take one step at a time. And keep reading my series, I'll have the next column up any day now under my name.


Myra Per-LeeFeatured

Aug 17, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

great idea but patented

My wife came up w/  a great idea for a certain market.  The problem is that this idea has been patented but in a different market.   The concept and design are the same though.  We researched the specific stores that would apply to this new product and this product is not being carried.  Can I still be able to profit from something that is already patented that is used generally but not targeted to a specific group?

Aug 24, 2007
by Myra Per-Lee

Re: Great Idea But Patented

If the patent covers all of your features, I would contact the patent holder and see if I could license the patent to market it to your specific target group. Maybe you could get an exclusive licence for your market if you have all your ducks lined up, like manufacturer, distributor, etc. Your experience in your market counts for a lot when negotiating an exclusive license.

If you have new elements (substantial as opposed to market) to add to the patent that are not obvious from the original patent, you might be able to patent those elements.

Best of luck to you.

Myra Per-Lee
Featured Blogger

Aug 30, 2008
by Anonymous

how to do a search

I have an idea that could save lives but I dont know how to start a search to see if it is already out there and has a patten? any suggestions.???