As the story goes, in response to his championing for investment in radio in the 1920s, David Sarnoff’s associates were of the opinion that, “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” The reason for his associates’ response was, most likely was that he didn’t have a marketing plan. As an inventor, if you plan to license or sell your patent, then you’ll need to prepare a marketing plan. The purpose of your marketing plan is to define the market for your patented (or patent pending) idea and define where it fits in the marketplace. You’ll need to identify who the potential customers will be and why they would want to buy your new product. You’ll also need to know who are your most likely competitors and to present an outline of your strategy for attracting potential investors and/or companies that would be interested in either buying outright your patented idea or licensing it from you.
Topics that you should address in your patent marketing plan include the following:
A description of your invention and its patent status. What is the target market sector and where does your idea fit? Who are the business entities (such as investors, licensing candidates and manufacturing companies) that might have an interest in your new product idea and how do you plan to approach them? These will need to be included in your planned timetable of activities and events.
In this regard, a suggested outline is as follows:
Describe what your invention is—what does it do, what problem(s) does it solve and what basic functions does it perform. If you have developed a prototype, then show any pictures, diagrams and/or schematics to “validate” your idea. Remember it has been said by experts in the field that a “picture may be worth a thousand words, but a prototype is worth a thousand pictures”.
Describe its patent status. If it is patented, then is it a utility patent or a design patent and when was the patent granted? If you have filed for a patent and it hasn’t been granted yet,then describe where it is in the application cycle. If you have only filed a Provisional Patent Application (PPA), then what is the filing date and what activities have you undertaken to prepare for the PPA next steps. If you have not yet received a patent and are going through the patent examination process relative to prior art, then provide the results of any patent searches that have been conducted to give investors what the likelihood of patentability may be. You can expect that investors will be cautious if there are questions and/ or issues relative to the patentability of your idea. Interested parties may choose to wait to see if the patent issues, which could delay getting your product idea into the marketplace.
Describe where your invention idea will fit in the marketplace based on your market research results. Describe the detailed “niche” that you are entering with your invention idea in the sense of how big is the market and what is an estimate of annual sales. Is it a growing market or a declining market? Who are the companies competing in this market area and what products do they have that might be similar or at least potentially competing with your idea? What do their products sell for and, if possible, present sales statistics for these competing products and what the available data indicates the demand for products similar to your new product idea is. Include pricing information for similar or potentially competing products. If you have done any studies or analyses regarding what you believe you can sell your new product for, then present these results here for comparison with the potential competition. This is an important section of your marketing plan as it helps you “build the case” to present to investors and potential licensing candidates and manufacturing companies to convince them that there really is a market for your idea. You need to emphasize any special features and unique aspects that you feel could be its selling points. Here is where you tell the “why your product is viable” story. If you don’t have a strong story here, than you can’t expect too many nibbles when you cast your lure into the water.
Present here your list of investor, licensing candidates and manufacturing companies that might have an interest in your invention. You would start by selecting companies with experience in the market sector and product category your invention targets. They will already have established distribution and marketing channels in place and, as a result, should be more receptive to your idea. When approaching these companies, be prepared to tell them how your product idea will fit in with their business. Potential “selling points” would include the following: their customer set is the same as or similar to that expected for your new product idea; your new product idea is complementary to products they already sell and would allow them to expand their presence in the marketplace; if your invention idea is an improvement to one of their products and then point out how this could “enhance” their product line. Keep in mind that backing up your invention with research relative to these types of selling points will greatly increase the chances of selling your new product idea to an organization.
Create and present a timetable for implementation of your marketing plan to include not only your planned schedule of presentations to companies but also other activities such as going to relevant product trade shows, conventions, expos and technology forums to identify companies that might have an interest in your new product idea. Also give consideration to getting involved in various types of “fast pitch” contests and going to venture capital and “angel investor” events.
In addition, as you are implementing your marketing plan, you should continue to track market trends and periodically review your data, looking for shifts in the market. If changes are occurring, you should modify your marketing plan to coincide with these changes.
Remember, having a patent does not guarantee that you will make money. You can’t sit back and wait for the doorbell or phone to ring. To successfully commercialize your invention, you have to convince others of its value and viability. You’ve got to be aggressive and put together a marketing plan. Use your plan as your vehicle to enable you to tell your new product idea story.