For many inventors and start-ups, success or failure all hinge on proper initial research. This can be one of the hardest things for enthusiastic entrepreneurs to focus on. It is easy to get so excited and emotionally invested in your idea that you do not take the proper time to research your idea for viability and design goals. Failing to properly research your idea can lead to a less-than-stellar product or worse, a non-viable product that may be too difficult or too expensive to make and sell. We’ve broken down the main steps for the research process below. Follow these steps to give you a solid start on your research!
STEP 1: Feedback is King
Your idea may be the greatest thing since sliced bread. You may be the next great innovator of your time, but finding someone to help make your idea come to life is imperative. So how to you get this great idea out of your head and make it a reality? First, identify someone you trust who has a business mindset and experience in product design.
Once you have taken this first leap, it’s now time to protect yourself and all parties involved by signing an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). The NDA is an essential part of the development process, and you should have one in place for anyone you to discuss detailed/technical information about your invention with.
Your qualified design team should be ready to test your product’s stability with a battery of questions including the ones below.
How does your product/idea solve a current problem?
You should be able to explain what solution your idea brings to the table. Some of the things to keep in mind should be why this idea came into your life in the first place. Is this something you need to help solve a problem in your daily career? Is this a new technology that you see as a useful application in either your professional or your personal life? What are the key features of this idea? Will this idea have value to others in a helpful manner? Are there already similar products on the market?
Be aware that if your idea is not a problem-solving idea, you will need to market to the end user with different strategies. If your idea falls into a category such as luxury items, toys, novelty gifts, etc, then be sure you are ready to address your target market appropriately. Your idea is no less important, it just will require different ways in which to get it out into the public eye.
Let’s talk Competition
Who has it already? Is there a similar product out there; if so how are they different? Is this a newer, more innovative item? What is its worth on the market? How is your idea a better solution than what is currently available? While your idea may be different, it may not be new or the only product available. Make sure that you are searching for similar items by searching multiple criteria.
Are you Special?
So your idea is different than the others, how so? What makes you stand out from the rest? What are the reasons someone should choose your product over the next? Do you have more options, a higher quality product, a lower price? Are you a completely new technology or something totally different?
If at this point you are confidently answering your questions and believe you have something great to stand behind then let’s keep moving forward!
STEP 2: GOALS! What are your goals for this item?
If you found an amazing idea to solve a problem that plagues so many and you’ve adjusted your idea based on research and feedback, you have now made it past the point many before you have failed.
During step 1 you thought about and realized where your concept came from. You know you are going to help many people with your solution. You know that people are waiting to buy your item, or you know that there are people looking to purchase your new want item, i.e. luxury item or toy.
What’s next to think about is the effort you must take to move on to the next phase. It’s time to ask yourself honestly: What’s your personal goal for this project? Where do you want to see your idea end up, what’s your vison? Are you looking to form a personal business around it? Are you looking to be the center of its development, or have someone else run it? Do you have someone in mind for this job? Is this project something to help you transition from your current employment position, and in what timeframe are you looking for? How much time are you willing to commit to the project? Do you have others willing to help develop it? Are you willing to share licensing with others?
Answering these questions openly and honestly to yourself helps to develop your business model. This is especially important if you are determined to lead this business. You need to have clear goals and values outlined from the beginning.
STEP 3: What can you afford?
Let’s be honest here, we all want to make money from our ideas and products. But the adage is true, it takes money to make money, and being honest with how much money you are capable of spending to launch your product from the beginning is key. The effort is essential to getting the project done. The effort is a combination of time, money, and skills.
Let’s look at the things you need to have to get your project going:
What skills are you contributing, and what skills do you need from others on your team? Are you able to do your own design work? Do you have a background in marketing? What do you know about intellectual property? Do you need designers with mechanical, electrical, software, and technical backgrounds? What are the limits of your capability?
Is time on your side? You need to look at all your professional and personal commitments to see how much time you have to be involved in your project. If you are going to manage it, how much time will you be hands-on with it vs delegating? Do you need to hire someone to ensure the success of you and your project?
You need to be clear about the people and the skills of those people on the team you need to complete your project.
Money can be a stumbling block for many great ideas. Unfortunately, research and development can be expensive. Starting from the ground floor and running with your idea to maturity to marketing and full production will take time and money. You need to know your limits when entertaining the idea of development. Developing things on your own may sound much more financially feasible, but the money you may save could cost you time and your idea may soon become someone else’s. Another pitfall many fall in is taking time and money to develop an idea/product as cheaply as possible, then realizing much must be re-done to truly manufacture the product to get to market. There are many sources of funding you should look into during this phase, including; grants, partnerships, awards, crowdfunding, venture capitalists, angel investors, loans, and more.
Remember… Often, time is money.
So there you have it, start with these steps and work hard, and you will be well on your way to success! We would be happy to discuss any ideas or questions you may come across during your research. Until then, good luck!