The Inventor’s Field of Dreams
Remember Field of Dreams? Kevin Costner, in a corn field? “If you build it…”? As inventors, we also have visions of fans flocking to see our creations. We focus on bringing our ideas to life, trusting that if we have a good idea, a market will magically appear in the corn field for us too. But having a great idea, or even having fans who love that idea, isn’t always enough to create a new market. We’ve written before about how inventors are now tasked with doing more work to build a business plan for their product in order to attract partners or licensees. Understanding the challenges you might face in creating a new market or breaking into an existing market is an important step in developing your product plan.
Does your product break new ground? If it is a brand-new technology, or a product that has never existed before, you may be in a position to define a new product category. Owning a category means that your competition is limited, at least for now. You can focus on defining the problem your product solves and identifying the consumers who need it. It is always a good idea to think about related products or ways competitors might try to break into your market. In some ways, your task is easier than if you have to position your product against established players. For example, if you came up with the idea for a gas-powered automobile when everyone was still using a horse and buggy, you would have created a new category that changed the way millions of people get from point A to point B. If you came up with the idea for anti-lock brakes, you still would have a ground-breaking product, but your challenge would have been to carve out a niche in an already established market, complete with competitors, supply chains, and existing partner networks. Just because your idea is new, doesn’t mean you are creating a new market.
When thinking about how to present your product to a potential partner, do your homework on the dynamics of the market you are about to enter. Conduct a competitive analysis. What products are similar? What products achieve the same result with a different solution? Who are the lead players in your category? Do a SWOT analysis. What are your idea’s strengths compared to other products? What are the weaknesses? What are the opportunities and what are the threats? Research how new products are brought to market and what their average lifecycle is. We had an idea we thought had a lot of potential, until our research uncovered that the market was dominated by a few very large players and the average product lifespan was so short we’d never be able to make the product viable. It is better to figure that out while you are still in early stages of planning.
Great inventors aren’t always great marketers, that’s probably obvious, but by recognizing the basics about how your idea fits into a competitive landscape and coming up with an action plan for marketing your idea, you’ll have a better chance of hitting it out of the park. If you have a new idea and aren’t sure how to go from inspiration to patent to product, we can help. Contact Kemaal Esmail at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.