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The realities of invention marketing

Market position is your best friend

Market position is a term used to define a products position in the market. For example, a cordless toaster priced at £50.00. Just as long as the toaster is selling well, is making money, its return rate is low and the relationship is trouble free, it is very unlikely a retailer etc will stock a similar product that will disrupt this. Why should they. They will only consider a similar product, same functions, quality, design etc if it delivers something more e.g. a better margin etc. If you deliver the perfect solution you will secure a robust market position.

The right impression

In today’s world, the key to getting results is to deliver a message that meets the expectations of the audience. i.e. if you are trying to get your product in front of a buyer or investor, you must meet the standard set by those who they are already doing business with them. The message you communicate is incredibly important. The identity you communicate defines who you are and the culture, values and behaviour you uphold – it helps the audience to engage with the philosophy of the business – which is crucial for business development and growth. If you communicate a poor message or one that suggests you are working from a garage from home, expect to get a poor result. Perception is everything. Buyers and investors need to feel confident you are worth investing their time on.

The importance of standing out

There are circa 20,000 product designers in the UK and a similar number of active inventors. And whilst most product designers work for their clients and most inventors don’t progress beyond discovery, every year countless numbers of new product ideas are created by inspired minds. As a result, there isn’t a day that goes by when a manufacturer and brand leader doesn’t receive idea invention and product submissions. So how do you stand out ?

Understanding the recipient

Put yourself in their shoes. Do you think you will have the time to read every unsolicited letter or email send by an inventor. When every minute of the day, your inbox pings informing you have received mail - from not only outside sources e.g. suppliers but also internal sources, e.g. your colleagues, the management, warehouse staff. There’s a way to reach out and be heard. You have to make an impact for the recipient to justify allocating the necessary time to consider what you have to say.

You have to consider it a competition

Whatever your product idea invention is, it is unlikely to be unique in product category. Therefore if you have invented, e.g. a new DIY tool and you plan to license or sell it to e.g. Draper or Stanley Tools, you will not be the only one pitching your idea. So what will make Draper or Stanley consider your tool over the others ? You must surpass the standard set by the competition. Answer this question. If you were a buyer at Draper or Stanley with limited time on your hands and two ideas landed on your desk. A letter from Dave, a plumber informing you he’s got an amazing new invention or a brochure from David, providing a link to a professionally designed and branded website showing videos of the product in action. Which one would you take seriously.

Who you are competing against

The reason why we take our cars to a garage or call a plumber to repair the boiler – is because they are experts in their line of work. Expertise that has taken years and years to master. We are therefore always perplexed, when an inventor with no commercial development, engineering or production design experience, disregards the need for expertise and decides to develop the product themselves. Whilst we acknowledge the right to pursue an idea in a way of your choosing. Its commercial madness to presume you can compete with the best in the business without the necessary expertise.

Market-ready samples

Market-ready samples are pre-production units (prototypes) that are indistinguishable from the product you would see on the shelves. Including brand packaging, internal packaging, instruction leaflet etc.

Why you need them

It goes without saying… if you want someone to take an interest in your product, put it in front of them. For only when they see it, feel it and play with it, will they connect with it. Not only do market-ready samples provide something physical to assess fit-for-purpose, they open up all the marketing options by communicating a very powerful message. Without market-ready samples, any premarketing campaign aimed at generating evidence of commercial demand will not be successful. And without market-ready samples, the product growth and brand potential will not be clear to see.

The importance of a website

As we live in the digital world, a website is now one of the most important marketing tools you need. Not only does a good website help give the right impression, it can accomplish many different marketing strategies to help grow your business. A proper website not only increases brand recognition and helps to generate interest, it importantly provides a convenient platform to market your product directly to buyers, companies and investors.

The modern day buyer, executive and investor now work purely through their laptops, computers and smart phones. They don't have time to read countless pages of paraphernalia, they want something that gets to the point quick. Informing them who you are and what you have to offer.

"No new product should be marketed and promoted without a website supporting it."

The importance of premarketing

Premarketing is the process of promoting a product (not in production) to the target market for the purposes of generating evidence... e.g. the validity and commercial need for the product, financial projections, demands and requirements etc. In order to quantify your license / sales value and the financial potential of the product - should you wish to raise investment. Without evidence of commercial demand and the figures to back it up, your argument for support cannot be quantified.

Answers to every question

If you’ve watched Dragons Den, you will have noticed the pitch is in two parts - the presentation itself followed by questions and answers. Although Dragons Den is highly edited, it does highlight the importance of knowing every aspect of your project. Leaving stones unturned communicates a very negative message and as seen in Dragons Den seriously questions the validity of the project and your ability to pull it off. You must have an answer to every question and back it up with evidence, show the entire picture and leave nothing to interpretation.

Scoping and fishing

A common approach some manufacturers take is to scope and fish – the process of expressing interest in a project to merely assess its potential threat. The investment requirement to tool up, apply and implement sales and marketing, production and supply is significant. As a result, some manufacturers are will only take on a new product if they believe it could be a potential threat to their existing operation. By expressing interest in a project and asking the right questions, a determination of this threat can be made. For example, if they believe you are not in a position to financially pursue your project, don’t have a marketing strategy or route to market, it could easily be determined you pose no threat whatsoever. And if you pose no threat, the status quo can remain.

The default position is to pay you nothing

The truth is most licensees don’t really want to pay you a penny for your project and will explore all the avenues to find a way to do so. That includes trying to find a way to copy your idea without infringing your legal rights. You will only achieve the deal you want by being the best and most commercial option on the table.

Visuals will not get you anywhere

If you were in the market for a new car, would you pay 0000’s simply for a picture. No ! you would want to see it, sit in it and drive it to access it right for you. So why do so many inventors think potential licensees or buyers are any different. They are not. Marketing a new product based on uncommercial visuals or story boards will not deliver a result. You need a physical product based on a commercial specification.

I just want to license my patent

If we had a pound for every time we heard this statement, this page, website etc would not exist. This is reason why the % of invention successes is so low – because the majority of inventors have this mindset. If anyone tells you, you can sell or license your idea, they are lying to you. Manufacturers etc don’t buy or license ideas, they buy and licence commercial products. If a manufacturer etc has to develop your idea, then whose product is it once it’s been developed. Also, most manufacturers (on a weekly basis) receive countless proposals from design studios looking to sell or license their products. There is no reason to look at ideas when there is no shortage of commercial products to consider.

Your patent will not be enough

If you were in the market for a new car, would you pay 0000’s simply for a loose description how to build it and once built, the exclusive right to drive it. No ! you would want to see it, sit in it and drive it to access its right for you. So why do so many inventors think potential licensees and buyers are any different. They are not. Marketing a new product based on patent alone will not deliver a result. You need a physical product based on a commercial specification.

Overvaluing the importance of your idea

Don’t think your idea is worth more than it is. The only reason why you should consider it to have value, is to provide the motivation to drive it forward. Likewise, don’t over think its importance or presume retailers and manufacturers will be missing out if they don’t embrace it. You have to prove value and importance through product development, marketing and commercialisation. If the idea remains just that, and is not developed out, it has no value or importance and will never be missed. Life will simply go on without it.

Invention marketing companies

You cannot buy marketing expertise for £2000.00. Unfortunately, there are a small number of ‘invention companies’ whose sole purpose is to defraud you of your hard-earned money. In return for a few thousand pounds, they’ll make all sorts of promises, including having access to manufacturers and buyers etc. However all they will do is write a bit of blurb and email it to a random list of companies. And that’s it. If any recipient of the email expresses interest, which 999/1000 they will not, they will process it further - but this will also lead to nothing. There is nothing these companies do, you cannot do yourself.

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