Business Planning, Marketing, And Selling Inventions
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail
Step 3: The Business & Marketing Plan
Once you've developed your invention idea and filed your patent application, it's time to shift your mindset toward the success of your commercial product. Here's how to create your business plan for marketing and sales.
*Note: If you missed the first two parts of this post, you can find them here:
Part 1: The Invention Idea
Part 2: The Patent
Creating A Solid Business Plan To Market And Sell Your Invention Gets You One Step Closer To Financial Success
Ideating an invention or product is great...but it's just an idea for something.
Ultimately selling that invention for a profit is much more meaningful.
If you've created something that's unique and useful, you may think the path to success will be readily cleared and the clamor for your product will be virtually automatic.
It's a myth. I'm sorry to tear through your fantasy.
Here's the thing: To get your idea completely baked, built out, researched and well-defined takes a significant amount of work and investment.
To commence through the patent application process takes grit, patience, and the ability to overcome frustration.
Like the first two major steps in your invention process (building the idea/prototype, and being granted the patent), creating a business and marketing plan that will drive your invention's success isn't going to be completely turnkey.
The hard truth is that the world may not even notice your product until you make them notice it; make them realize they need it.
Here's another hard truth that all successful inventors have to face at one time or another: The odds of a new invention succeeding are low.
Gaining an intimate knowledge of the economic, political and marketing factors affecting your invention's category could mean the difference between success and failure.
A lot of your success will depend on the actions you take to duly develop and promote your invention.
So while a good invention idea is important, often times an average invention idea will trump the great idea when it is complemented by a well-targeted business and marketing plan.
Creating The Right Marketing Plan For Your Invention
Hopefully we're at an understanding that once your invention has been established (provisional patent, patent, or pending patent), it's imperative to adequately promote it.
If selling the invention is your ultimate goal, this step is a key maneuver around the opposition's defense.
Creating your business plan is truly about becoming the ringleader of details; the curator of all loose ends and the focuser of all disparate pieces on one ultimate goal: Cash.
Here are the steps you should undergo in the creation of your marketing and sales plan. Make sure to read through each one for tips and ideas; browsing just the section headings may be too generic for what you actually need.
It's important to note that this article is somewhat of an executive summary for inventors geared toward an overall marketing strategy.
The true tactical execution of your sales and marketing plans will unravel based on what your product is. Following your read here, we can alsohelp you with creating the perfect business plan for your specific invention.
Develop Your Product's "Value Proposition"
Value propositions describe both the functional and the emotional benefits your new customers will experience from your product.
The functional benefits associated with your value are linked to specific features of your product.
The emotional benefits are going to be how you elicit positive feelings that your customers experience when they use your invention.
For example, let's say you developed a new computer monitor that is 3D. The functional benefit could be a high-gloss, high-luminance screen that improves pixelation issues (this made it unique from previous monitors, hence patentable). The emotional benefit could be the joy gamers experience with this new level of gaming action.
There was a hi-tech company who played on value proposition in the early 2000's and it was a big win.
They created an HD computer monitor and instead of talking about its specs on their commercial (specs which would be trumped by the next big thing), they created an emotional connection by showing families around the monitor enjoying family photos (and giving those staged laughs and smiles...but I digress).
That emotional connection is what made the non-geeky, non-techy people want to buy!
You'll want to start your value proposition by writing out a clear, concise description of what your product is and does.
Maybe you've done this before, but this one is going to vary slightly.
Make it an incredibly focused description that clearly depicts your invention in a very succinct way.
You'll want to avoid two things in composing your value proposition, and this is what makes it challenging:
Your invention was ideated and created to solve a problem.
Your value proposition should passionately reflect your mission and definitively portray you as the sole expert in efficiently and effectively solving that problem.
For a basic value proposition statement (note, this is not all my original thinking here - this is tried and true), you can try a format that includes some or all of what is below:
Hopefully this gets you headed in the right direction!
There is a ton more research available on creating value propositions but I'm going to move on and leave you one tip on value proposition:
Your value proposition should give your target market reason to continue to learn more about your product and eventually convert to a paying customer who values your product because you've solved a problem and set yourself apart in doing so.
A positioning statement is an expression of how your invention fills a particular gap or solves a particular challenge in a way that your competitors don't.
A good positioning statement will serve as a beacon for all of your marketing efforts, helping tether them to a central set of ideas; this creates consistency and helps customers and potential customers realize, understand, and feel your brand or product or invention.
Positioning statements keep you focused.
Your positioning statement will almost reveal itself directly from your value proposition.
Positioning statements should describe why customers should use your product over another.
For example, say you invented a new (unique) battery. Your positioning statement will construe to customers why they should buy your brand over Energizer or Duracell or any others. Your positioning statement could be about how its longer-lasting and uses green technologies.
You should be always prepared to modify or change your positioning statement to respond to climate changes in the market - it will constantly evolve.
To come up with a positioning statement you'll want to brainstorm and write down your differentiators and your benefits.
Try to deep dive and really think about who your end-user or target audience is and how they will benefit from your invention in a way they are not benefitting from a current product.
If you were a customer, why would you choose you? (And in doing so, try to do the same for your competitor - take an unbiased view to this exercise)
Your value proposition and positioning statement, together, will be a foundation for your marketing strategy; they are a pivotal and integral piece of your overall business plan; we recommend not taking this lightly.
You've gone this far - you need to continue to invest the time if you want to be successful.
Conducting Market Research: Identifying and understanding your target audience
Peter Drucker once said, "The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product sells itself."
This may sound basic, this may sound generic, and this may sound redundant since you've already assessed the potential commercial value of your idea and, in doing so, you've identified an audience, market and niche.
But this step is imperative and your research and effort here is truly indicative to the success your initial marketing ploy sees.
Think about it: A lot has probably changed since you took that first step in evaluating who would use your invention.
You've thought, you've researched, you've prototyped, you've developed your idea further, you've Q&A'd... so much has happened since your initial idea and it's time to re-assess and re-evaluate.
Create and describe the demographic/psychographic profile(s) of your market; your assessment should include gender breakdown, geographics, lifestyles, occupation, purchasing characteristics, income, age, education and anything else you can think of.
There are places to procure some of this demographic information for free such as the Small Business Association or Geometrx.
Identifying your various target markets will enable you to adequately push your product to the right people.
Simply put, no one will purchase a product that is not specific to them, no matter how well it is being promoted.
Keep in mind that your invention has more than one target audience.
Your primary target audience is the group of people your product will most serve.
But you have secondary target audiences as well - the people that influence your primary target as well as people or entities that can leverage your product in other ways.
It's a good practice to evaluate the potential value of that second tier to determine if campaigning them is a worthwhile marketing expenditure.
Identifying the specific market for you product enables you to create customized marketing strategies and invariably helps you achieve a personalized promotion of your product to the target market.
In essence, the definition of your target will help you hone in on the tactical side of your marketing plan and help you answer questions such as:
Identify And Evaluate Your Competitive Landscape
When you first conduct a patent search to ensure your idea is indeed unique, it's easy to see that, although your approach may be different, there are other ways to skin a cat... these other said cat-skinners are your competitors.
More often than not there are going to be numerous products in market that are similar to yours and vie for the same audience.
Performing an in-depth competitive analysis is going to heavily inform many of your decisions both on the advertising/promotion/communications side, as well as in-market.
What do I mean by in-market?
For instance, finding out a competitor's distribution strategy could help inform your retail channel approach.
Based on the product you invented, you'll have to decide if you go into the same retailers as your competitor, or devise a separate plan of attack based on theirs.
Also, when you step into market you will need to think about how your competitors might react - will they slash prices? Do heavy couponing? Could two or more of them join forces against you?
The competitive analysis you perform helps you anticipate and keep ahead of your competition, allowing your product the best chance of success in market.
Part of your competitive analysis should include a list of what your customers would consider alternatives to your invention.
You'll want to stay at the macro level in doing this or you will overwork yourself - don't attempt to define every single functionality; the goal is to be able to articulate the true differentiators of your product offering from others in the space.
Summary: A Business Plan For Your New Invention
Creating a business plan for your new invention or product is absolutely instrumental in your success.
You need an action plan for marketing and selling your invention.
Regardless of what you've created, if the right people don't know it exists, it's just a tree falling in the forest. So here's what you'll need to do to get started:
If you're unsure of how to create your business, sales or marketing plan, let us help. Expert services, amazing results, pure confidentiality.
This article is Part 3 of a 3-part series geared to help inventors take their ideas from initiation to commercialization. Here are the other articles:
Part 1: The Invention Idea
Part 2: The Patent
For further information on the marketing and business side of your invention, these articles provide a lot of tips and ideas that you can action immediately:
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