Criteria for determining whether your product will be easy for an inventor to introduce
BY DON DEBELAK
Here are 10 points I use for an early invention evaluation—i.e., whether an idea is worth pursuing.
Note that this is not a determination of whether you have a great invention. Instead, it focuses on whether you have a product that will be easy for an underfinanced inventor to introduce.
In all instances, the product should:
Have the “wow” factor. When you first thought of the idea, did your eyes open wide and did you say, “Yes, this is it, I’ve got a great idea”?
Have a premise on which people agree. Your premise is why you think people will want your product. For example, the premise behind a wrist step counter is that people want to know how many steps a day they take.
Offer a total solution. Cutting the number of products required for an activity from three to two isn’t all that impressive in the market, but you hit paydirt when you cut the products needed to just one.
Target people with passion. When people care about a product category they evaluate it closely, read trade magazines, go to trade shows, visit websites and talk to like-minded enthusiasts. All that interest makes it easier for inventors to inexpensively reach their prospects.
Relate to an emerging market. When the scrapbook industry started, inventors and new product entrepreneurs were able to introduce their product because there was a shortage of products to buy. That is not the case anymore, with many established companies and a tough market. Inventors have a great chance when a market emerges.
Target new trends in an existing market. This is similar to the last item but in an established product. When golfers switched from pull carts to push carts, there were many opportunities for inventors—both for the carts themselves and for accessories such as cup holders, umbrella holders and baskets to hold supplies.
I highly recommend that inventors choose one or two areas where they have a high degree of interest, then track emerging product categories and new trends.
Offer few technical challenges. Inventors can and do introduce technically difficult products, but this type of invention requires more money, more time and more expertise than most inventors have. Simpler products, such as Rollerblades, are far easier to introduce for the average inventor.
Be easily found by targeted customers. Products are easy to find when prospects can find them at specialty stores and catalogs.
This is why inventors do well with kitchen products. There are many small stores that are relatively easy to sell to and stores that prospective customers probably visit every three months or so.
Convey its major benefits quickly. People should be able to understand your product immediately, within two seconds and without any explanation from you if you are going to succeed. Consumers, retail stores and distributors are turned off by a product they don’t understand.
Avoid competitors with category-dominating companies. You don’t want to try to compete with Rubbermaid, which dominates the market. These companies have broad product lines and get premium shelf space—and they are not above complaining about any space given to a pipsqueak inventor trying to get started.
If the dominating company likes your idea, it will try to figure out a way to get around your patents and will have lots of resources to come after you.
These 10 criteria help you decide whether your product is worth developing further. In turn, this helps you decide whether you should invest in a patent and prototype and spend 3-12 months developing your idea. At that point, you can evaluate your idea after it is developed so you can determine whether to proceed with a market introduction.