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Inventors often come with an idea and pursue it. Often, they run into fierce resistance simply because they have chosen a tough invention area. I’ve found that inventors can often do far better if they target their creative talents to inventions areas to a target customer group that they can become a part of.
A Passionate Target Customer
All people have certain passions. But you want to find a group that is passionate about one activity. People that want to grow organic vegetables in their garden would be one group. Or women who want to make cute dresses for their grandchildren is another. Golfers are group that is passionate about their sport. Hunters and fisherman are also passionate. Typically though, the larger the group the higher the level of new product activity there is. For example, there are dozens of new golf products every year. Finding a passionate group with a smaller number of people often offers inventors a better chance of introducing a new product because there is less competition.
Start by looking at your own activities to see if you are already a smaller passionate group. If not, you can often find a smaller customer group , start telling people you come in contact with that you are looking for an new area of interest and that you wondered if they have any hobbies or outside interest that they really enjoy. I do this with people I play golf with, or meet at Church during events, or that I meet through my wife’s contacts. You’ll find people love to talk about their favorite activities and you should be able to find one that will interest you.
Become Part of the Customer Group
Become immersed in the customer group, the activities that the group likes to pursue, and start to understand problems the group has, and what their needs are. Just listening to people may be enough, but often your understanding is much higher if you become a part of the group. Your new insight into activities the target group enjoys, may lead you to discover things they do that don’t make sense, or need improvement. You may also notice that certain tactics used to perform tasks are inefficient. These are the areas which could be ripe for an invention.
Another benefit of being part of the customer group is that you will learn how people currently solve their issues or problems, and what competitive products are used to solve the problems. That understanding will help you develop a better product, especially when you learn why the customer group believes those other products aren’t right for them.
An Important to Solve Problem
Your target customer group must consider the problem you are solving is important. They may be well aware of a problem that causes issues, or they might immediately grasp that your idea is helpful when you show it to them or discuss it with them. This is a key point. Products that don’t solve important problems, or don’t provide a lot of appeal to customers are very hard to sell. You need to break through the standard practices of a customer group and you can’t do that without a major incentive, which is solving a major problem, or producing significant benefit.
Provide Visual Aids when Discussing an Idea
Inventors have been thinking of their idea, often for months and can easily visualize the idea in their mind. People inventors talk to when the inventors are ready to disclose their idea cannot visualize the idea in the same way. Make you a visual aid ready when you seek feedback. A prototype or 3D model is the best option, but if that is too expensive, make up visual renderings to show people.
Make Contacts in the Customer Group
Once you get involved in an activity which has a passionate customer group, try to meet as many people as you can involved in the activity. You need potential users to review your idea and give you feedback that your idea is OK as currently designed, or that some design changes might make the product even better.
Your Resources are Adequate
As you go through any invention process, always being asking yourself if your resources are adequate to get the product off the ground. Financial resources are one consideration, but so is engineering help, prototype production help and design help. Hiring outside experts is expensive so the more help you can gather the further you can stretch your resources. Next month’s column will deal with how to stretch your resources by attracting potential expert help.