Perhaps one day you find yourself working away in a coffee shop when it hits you like a speeding double-decker bus. It could be a great idea that addresses a hole in the market or a unique product that has the potential to enhance consumers’ lives in some way. This is a great start to any invention, but unfortunately, one great idea isn’t enough.
To be a practical inventor, you will have to ask yourself many difficult questions to turn an idea into something worthy of making serious waves in a competitive market.
It’s easy to have a great idea. We’ve all had them. Although you may need some invention design help.
But what separates an innovative inventor from the rest of us is that they have put in the time and labor necessary to really produce something the people want. And this starts with asking the right questions.
So, before you quit your day job and set up a workspace in the attic, read on and answer the six questions you have to ask yourself about your big idea.
1. Do I Have Access to the Necessary Technology?
The imagination can dream up some pretty incredible things. Just open up any science fiction novel. Unfortunately, reality imposes on us some barriers that our minds do not. Considering technological feasibility is one of the first steps you should take, because if the technology to support your idea isn’t available – or just incredibly expensive – some serious reconsideration will have to take place.
Conduct prototyping and proof-of-concept modeling to determine whether your invention will fulfill its functions. As impressive as an earth-to-moon elevator would be, it would be no match for the many things that stand in between the idea of it and the completion of it.
And sure, the technology may exist, but at what cost? Manufacturing and sourcing quotes will be required in order to determine whether you will a) make a profit after mass production and b) deliver an affordable final product.
Not only will exploring these factors benefit you and your product, but it will also make for better pitches to, and partnerships with, potential licensors, business partners, and investors. Technological feasibility is one of the first things these people will ask about, so be prepared with thorough research.
2. How Can I Manage Costs?
There are going to be a lot of different price tags to consider when you start making your idea a reality. Inventors should have a realistic start-up budget that encompasses the first two to three years. It should include costs like legal fees, prototype design services, and engineering, as well as expected revenue.
Take the time to create a budget that is organized so it can be presented to investors and partners in a way they can easily understand. Most importantly, make it as accurate as you possibly can, because a poorly calculated budget can lead to some serious consequences in the future.
The cleanest and most appealing looking budget in the world is useless if it doesn’t reflect reality, even if you use a sparkly pen.
To make money, you might have to get creative with assets. Talk with your bank to figure out a plan and seek out manufacturers who are flexible with when they receive payment. Kickstarter and GoFundMe are popular crowdfunding websites that have made businesses serious cash. Just make sure you can market your idea effectively.
3. Am I Familiar with My Competitors?
So, you have this idea and you’re ready to really do something with it. But you have to ask yourself – who else has had it? Chances are you will encounter competitors. It’s absolutely vital to get to know these guys, to understand them like you understand a dear friend. Researching will not only give you insight on where your idea fits into the market, but it will also help you refine and evolve your idea based on similar products’ strengths and weaknesses.
The great thing about this step? It doesn’t require the spending of any money, yet the benefits it will ultimately have on your product are priceless. For market validation, hop on a search engine and seek out products that fulfill the same functions as yours. Consider how consumers seem to be reacting to your competitors and how competitors differ from each other in terms of technology, innovation, and success. Consider the size of the market and how quickly it seems to be growing. This information will give a whole lot of insight into whether it is commercially viable.
Keep in mind that you’re not just looking for a device that is the same as your own – you’re looking for products that satisfy the same needs as your own, whether it comes in the form of an app, a tool, or an electronic device. In your searches, use a variety of words and phrases to broaden your findings.
Afterward, do a patent search to get a sense of whether your idea is patentable and to further your insights on what already exists in the market you’re attempting to enter. Googling Patents, a search engine that lists all patents and patent indexes in the United States Patent and Trademark Office is a good start.
4. Am I Familiar with My Customers?
So, if the goal is creating something consumers are going to actually want, you’re going to want to get to know your potential customers pretty well. Start to paint a portrait of one average customer. An easy way to start could be figuring out who your competitors’ consumers are.
From there, ask yourself: What is their age and gender? Where do they live and what is their income? What are their biggest problems? You can even guess what they do for fun on Saturday evenings or what they watch on television. You can get a lot of information about a person just from researching the place they live in, or the characteristics of people born in their generation, so really utilize this information.
For instance, if your target audience is millennials, Facebook could be a good marketing tool. If you are looking to appeal to Gen Z, Instagram or Twitter would be a more effective marketing option.
5. Am I Willing to Share My Idea?
It is not unusual for inventors to feel secretive about their ideas – but it takes a village to raise a child, and the same can be said about a successful invention. Talking to trusted friends and family about your product can be positively productive. But keep in mind that inventors too often rely on those they are close to, who may be much more affirmative than a stranger. So, seek out potential customers you are not so close to for less edited opinions.
And don’t forget to seek out different perspectives. You can find incredibly valuable nuggets of wisdom in the most unexpected of places. Talk to members of different generations, backgrounds, and skill sets. Heck, talk to your ten-year-old niece about it. You might be surprised with who can bring what to the table.
Getting a wide range of viewpoints will decrease the chances of you overlooking a seriously important aspect of your product – whether it is a fatal flaw or an adjustment that could substantially increase your success. From scientists and philosophers to social media junkies, you’re bound to have conversations with people who will help take your idea to new levels.
In these conversations, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions to really go in depth. Take notes or record the conversation (with permission) so you can recall these conversations with clarity. Ask questions that you might be afraid to ask: would you purchase this over another similar product? Ask a question even if you think you have the answer, because your answer can always be improved.
6. Am I Allowing for a Flexible Outcome?
You’ve established a strong sense of your market, your competitors, and your consumers. You have shared your idea with others who have ideally provided new insights, made suggestions, and pointed out flaws. You’ve researched technological feasibility and production costs.
If you are thinking critically, this research and these conversations will lead you to discover more and more problems with your product, many of which will have to be addressed if developing something successful is the goal. This can be quite frustrating but dealing with such issues is both essential and unavoidable.
You may have to make some pretty drastic changes to your initial idea in order to create something that is competitive, and you might find it difficult to part with some aspects of your initial idea, but change will occur all throughout the process of inventing. Embrace this! In all honesty, if you’re serious about your invention, you have no choice but to embrace it. As technology and other innovations occur at a speed that can make the head spin, inventors have to keep up – and that means stagnant ideas are a big no-no.
Cad Crowd Offers Help to Inventors
At Cad Crowd, we have a network of pre-vetted product designers who can help with each step of the invention process. Whether you’re looking for help creating a CAD design, a prototype, or getting a patent, we have the talent necessary. If you’re interested in getting your project up and running, contact us for a free quote.