Ten Points in this Preliminary Invention Evaluation
Here are 10 points I use for an invention evaluation whether or not an idea is worth pursuing. Note that this is not a criteria if you have a great invention or not. Instead it focuses on whether or not you have a product that will be easy for an underfinanced inventor to introduce.
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- The product has the “wow” factor. When you have a product that does great things or meets important needs it will resonate with people. 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.”
- People agree with your premise. Brad Young, the inventor of BandZ, an ear muff with built in headphones had the premise that people find it annoying to have to deal with both a hat and headphones in the fall. Do people agree with you premise? You need to ask at least 10 people and have five agree to believe you have a great idea.
- The product offers 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 pay dirt when you cut the products needed to just one.
- The product targets people with passion. Everyone is passionate about something and you want people you are targeting to be passionate about your type of product. When people care about a product category, they evaluate it closely, read trade magazines, go to trade shows, visit web sites and talk to like-minded enthusiasts. All that interest makes it easier for inventors to inexpensively reach their prospects.
- The product relates to an emerging market. When the scrapbook industry started, dozens of 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, there are many established companies and the market is tough for a new inventor. Inventors have a great chance any time a market is emerging.
- The product targets new trends in an existing market. This is similar to number 5, but it is 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 and the track emerging product categories and new trends. By tracking their passion, inventors will often find a winning product.
- The product offers 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, like Rollerblades, are far easier to introduce for the average inventor.
- Targeted customers can easily find the products. 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. Eventually most inventors want to be in mass merchants, but typically they don’t have the money or product success to land in a mass merchant right away. So the key is to have a specialty chain of stores, or some popular web sites or catalogs to sell an unproven product.
- The product conveys its major benefits quickly. Complex packaging, promotion and advertising are all expensive. But they are required when a product is difficult to understand. People should be able to understand your product immediately, within two seconds and without any explanation from you if you are going to succeed. Besides consumers, both retail stores and distributors are turned off by a product they just don’t understand.
- The product avoids competitors with category dominating companies. You don’t want to try and compete with Rubbermaid, they dominate 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, they will try to figure out a way to get around your patents, and they will have lots of resources to come after with you.
This evaluation helps you decide if your product is worth developing further. This helps you decide if you should invest in a patent and prototype and spend three to twelve months developing your idea. Our next column in two weeks will take about evaluating your idea after it is developed so you can determine if you proceed with a market introductio