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It’s taken weeks, months, maybe even years to conceptualize and perfect your extraordinary invention. You know it’s a game-changer. Your creation is ready for the world, and you can’t wait to unleash it. So, now what? The creative process is one thing; the business side is an entirely different animal.
Don’t worry. As an entrepreneur, it’s typical to excel at the idea stage only to hit roadblocks when it comes to the everyday nuts and bolts of your business. Here are your next steps.
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Apply for a patent
As soon as you emerge from your inventors shed, begin the patent process. A patent is a vital step to ensure no one steals your idea before it gets off the ground.
Emma Cohen, CEO of Final Straw, says copies of her company’s invention for a reusable, foldable straw were leaked online while the product was still in its crowdfunding stages. Cohen warns that copycat manufacturers often peruse crowdfunding sites and search for successful campaigns. They then copy the idea before the original creators can launch their invention.
To avoid this scenario
- Begin with a patent search to ensure no one’s beat you to the punch
- Apply for your patent. You’ll need to fill out forms (lots and lots of them)
- Determine which type of patent you need
There are three types of patents to consider
- Utility: A utility patent applies to any new or useful process, and it protects the use or workings of an invention. For example, if your device is a machine, you would apply for a utility patent.
- Design: A design patent protects the design of an invention and the unique visual qualities of your creation. In other words, if you invented a wholly new and original configuration for the coffee cup, you would apply for a design patent.
- Plant: A plant patent covers a newly invented strain of a plant. The plant must be asexually reproducible and be genetically identical to the original.
The patent process can be complicated and time-consuming, and can feel overwhelming if you go it alone. You may want to involve a skilled intellectual property professional and leave the process in his or her capable hands.
After you document your invention and begin the patent process, it’s time to take your invention to market, which is where the real work begins. You’ll want to remove your “inventor” hat and don your “entrepreneur” hat at this time, because now you’re starting a business.
But before you launch, it’s vital to test market your invention.
Test market an ugly prototype
An ugly prototype is a simple, imperfect version of your ultimate product, which you can use to test market your invention. The beauty of an ugly prototype is that it’s cheaper and faster to produce. It also allows you the ability to initiate conversations with potential customers and receive immediate feedback.
Take your rudimentary prototype to local events in your area, or somewhere you have access to individuals who represent your target customers. Show them your invention, and ask for their authentic feedback.
The sooner you create social media accounts for your invention, the better. If your budget allows, hire a professional social media manager, as you’ll find that social media management can quickly become a full-time job. If you do an exceptional job at social media marketing, you’ll organically grow a customer base over time.
Post pictures of the progression of your prototypes and videos of your interaction with potential customers. Keep it professional and brand-specific. And remember to always interact with those individuals who engage with your posts.
Create a press release
An engaging, well-timed press release or feature article that highlights your invention can help boost your marketing efforts. An article in just one publication can quickly lead to interest from others. And once your product becomes more well-known, you can send additional press releases to more publications and generate interest on a grander scale.
Just like everything else in entrepreneurship, writing an exceptional press release takes work. If your budget allows, work with a PR agency to execute this flawlessly.
There’s no doubt that you’ve put a tremendous amount of time, effort and money into creating your product. Keep in mind that organizations like the United Inventors Association exist to educate and assist busy inventors like you. Every entrepreneur, no matter how experienced, needs advice, and SCORE is a non-profit organization that offers free mentorship.
Once you’ve begun the patent process, start test marketing your invention and tweak your product based on customer feedback. This will allow you to develop a track record, proving there’s a demand for your product.