This is a guest post by Natalie Peters, a Marketing Manager at Sourcify.
You’re stuck in 5:00 traffic and an idea hits you. You freeze and the car behind you jolts you back into reality with a deafening honk.
A few days go by and it’s all you can think about.
You believe your idea is revolutionary and you want to show it to the world.
So, where do you start?
In this article, I’ll take you through the process of bringing a product to life.
I’ll start by walking you through the steps to complete prior to filing for a patent or trademark and then discuss how to go about creating your first working prototype. Finally, I’ll show you how to mass produce your invention.
Step 1: Educate Yourself about Inventing and Business
A great idea is only worth the paper it’s printed on.
What differentiates a great idea from a great product is implementation. Everybody can have an idea, but not everybody can turn that idea into a business.
The idea is a small component of the overall process.
Educating yourself about how to earn a profit from your idea is crucial. Even more so, how to turn your idea into an actual business.
Without understanding how to transform your invention into a business, you can’t be successful.
A few great ways to educate yourself are to read books and listen to podcasts.
Great books to help you get started include:
Profiting from Intellectual Capital: Extracting Value from Innovation, Michael Sullivan
- Learn how to profit from your invention from leading intellectual capital innovators
- The Lean Startup, Eric Ries
- Discover a new approach to entrepreneurship that utilizes validated learning and rapid experimentation to continuously test your vision and adjust according to the customers’ needs.
- Zero to One, Peter Thiel
- Dive deep into how to turn your invention into a business that can change the world for the better.
- Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss
- A actionable guide to starting a side hustle through automation and optimization.
Great podcasts to help you get started include:
- Entrepreneurs On Fire, John Lee Dumas
- Listen to wildly successful entrepreneurs as they share actionable tips on how to grow your business.
- Smart Passive Income, Pat Flynn
- Optimize your time and earn more money by following Pat Flynn’s detailed advice on how to become more profitable by doing less.
- The Inventors Launchpad Network
- Follow the inventor’s road to success, the quickest and most cost effective pathway to product viability. Educating yourself about business will change the way you approach bringing your invention to life.
- Entrepreneurs On Fire, John Lee Dumas
These tools will set you apart from 99% of people who have an idea and make you part of the 1% that brings ideas to life.
Step 2: Stay Organized
As you start moving forward with your idea, it will become difficult to keep track of all your progress.
Tamara Monosof, an experienced inventor, recommends keeping an inventor’s notebook.
If you decide to patent your idea, by recording all thoughts, ideas, and conversations about your invention in a chronological order, you are building a defense against any future patent infringements.
Your dated notebook will act as a record to validate your progress if someone tries to steal your idea in the future.
An inventor’s notebook is a great tool to keep you on track and moving towards your goal.
You should create weekly goals and set milestones you want to reach for your business.
John Lee Dumas has a great resource, The Freedom Journal, which guides you to your goal in just 100 days.
It’s easy to get distracted from your original purpose and a tool like this will remind you of your goal everyday.
Step 3: Conduct Market Research
Before you jump into production, a crucial, and often skipped step is researching your market.
Often times your market may not originally be what you thought.
Mark Zuckerberg thought Facebook would just be for college students. Look at the audience it caters to today.
Look for additional markets your product may fit in.
Don’t just do this research online.
Conduct surveys or informal focus groups to gather as much information as possible.
The Lean Startup dives deep into the importance of gathering customer feedback. More importantly, the importance of being receptive to their feedback.
Your invention should have one vision that never changes, but overtime your strategy will change and in turn, so will your product.
Send surveys to as many people as possible to get an encompassing overview of your market.
Once you’ve zoned in on your market, become an expert in your niche.
Research similar products and perform a competitor analysis.
What do people like or dislike about similar products? How can you use that information to improve your product?
What problem is your invention solving? What are consumers currently using to solve that problem?
Understanding “who,” “why,” and “what” will direct you on a more focused path.
It may take time, but in the long run it’s worth it.
Step 4: Conduct Patent Research
Most people think that getting a patent should be their very first step.
I’ve saved it for step 4, because inventors often spend most of their time and capital on patent applications that end up going nowhere.
Most products are not patentable and there isn’t a department that enforces patents. A government department that actively searches for patent infringements, like how the IRS actively searches for tax violations, doesn’t exist.
If someone copies your idea, it’s up to you to engage in and pay for the legal battle.
Visit www.uspto.gov (United States Patent and Trademark Office) to identify any patents similar to your concept.
It’s important to ensure your idea isn’t infringing on someone else’s patent.
Spending time and money to jump through the hoops to acquire a patent is often unnecessary.
A Provisional Patent Application (PPA) is a great alternative.
A PPA is a placeholder that establishes a filing date for an invention but will not result in a patent on its own.
The filing date is essential in the patent application process because it establishes a starting point for the protection that is being sought for an invention.
A PPA also allows the applicant to use the term “patent-pending” in conjunction with the invention.
It will essentially buy you 12 months before you officially have to file a utility patent.
Another viable alternative is a trademark.
While patents prevent others from making an invention, trademarks protect the words, phrases, and logos used to identify the source of goods by other competitors (smallbusieness.findlaw.com).
Filing for a trademark is significantly cheaper than a patent.
The goal is for your customer to think of your company when they think of the product.
For example, “Mac®” or “Dell®” rather than a laptop.
Step 5: Develop a Prototype of your Invention
Now for the most exciting step, developing a prototype!
If your product can be easily prototyped at home, go for it! If not, it’s time to find a factory who can help produce your prototype and who you can go through production with.
Creating a prototype at home will help you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for when approaching a manufacturer.
You also want to conduct research to discover new technologies that may improve your invention. Look for new materials that may improve product cost and functionality.
When you’ve narrowed down the features of your invention, it’s time to approach a manufacturer.
This is an extremely difficult step for most because there are countless options to choose from.
Sourcify is a great platform you can utilize to connect with you with a pre-vetted manufacturer at an affordable price.
They’ve already made the connections and relationships with factories overseas and can connect you with the best manufacturer for your specific invention.
By developing your pre-production prototype, you can test the functionality of your idea.
It will also help you clearly describe the purpose of your invention, which is necessary for your next step.
Step 6: Create a Business Plan
While you’re waiting to receive your prototype, begin drafting a business plan.
Remember, the idea is only a small part of bringing your product to life.
The business aspect is crucial if you want to make a profit.
A business plan is essentially a written description of the future of your business.
In your business plan, you want to include the following:
- A) Basic concept
- B) Strategy for implementation
- C) Market analysis
- D) Competitor analysis
- E) Credibility of you and your team
- F) Financial Plan
Even if you aren’t looking for investors, creating a business plan will allow you to organize your thoughts and plan next steps.
It’s important to think about what you want in the future because that directly determines what you should be doing now.
Everything you do for your business should be aimed at achieving your one goal.
Creating a business plan will help you figure out what your one goal is and what you need to do to achieve that.
In conjunction with your business plan, you want to work on an elevator pitch.
Being able to concisely define the goals of your company is important when networking and explaining your idea to others.
Step 7: Connect with other Entrepreneurs and Inventors
There is a popular quote by Robert Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad Poor Dad), “If you want to go somewhere, it is best to find someone who has already been there.”
Receiving feedback from experienced entrepreneurs will help refine and improve your idea.
Don’t be afraid to share your idea.
As I keep reiterating, the idea is only a small component. It takes a special type of person to implement an idea and turn it into a business.
Your passion for your invention is what differentiates you and is what will make you successful.
Meetup.com is a great way to find local entrepreneurship events and network with like-minded people.
Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle and you should embrace it!
Conversing with other innovators may inspire new ideas. You’ll receive actionable advice absent from most articles and books.
Step 8: Conduct Market Testing and Adjust Accordingly
Once you receive your pre-production prototype, get it into as many hands as possible.
Conduct focus groups and get input on a variety of factors including the following:
- A) Price
- B) Packaging
- C) Originality
- D) Product functionality
- E) Clarity of intended purpose
By testing your invention with real customers, you’ll be able to tweak and hone your product.
What may seem obvious to you, may be confusing to a customer.
You may think that your price fits the current market, but later discover that customers are actually willing to pay a lot more for the convenience you’re offering them.
When you launch your product, it doesn’t need to be perfect.
However, you want to do your due diligence to ensure you’re hitting the mark on key components of your product.
Take all feedback and adjust accordingly.
You may need to create a new and improved pre-production prototype.
Once you’re confident that you have created a solid product that caters to your target market, it’s time for production.
Step 9: Manufacture your Invention
Now that you’ve gone through all the steps to turn your idea into a business, you can start manufacturing your invention.
You can utilize Sourcify to turn your prototype into a product that you’ll bring to market.
Sourcify will connect you with a manufacturer that has experience creating products similar to yours.
When sourcing products overseas, language barriers and time differences can make the process slow and frustrating.
By allowing a company like Sourcify to handle the manufacturing, you can focus on building your business and your brand.
Wrapping it all up:
There are numerous steps when it comes to bringing your invention to life.
Coming up with an idea is only a small part of a much larger picture.
Think about your invention as more than just a product. Think of your invention as a business.
Taking on this perspective allows you to think critically and longer term.
By following these steps, your idea may become everything you’ve imagined and more.