Read these 21 Developing New Products Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Invention tips and hundreds of other topics.
If you've developed a new invention and need help to launch it, you're probably worried about how to find the right people. After all, if you want to create an inventive environment that might lead to more new products, you have to find passionate people who have the right experience. You might be impressed with someone's executive experience with a big company but typically these candidates are used to doing what they are told. They may not have experience being creative and thinking about possibilities that aren't clearly in front of them. However, a big executive who is tired of that work environment might be a good candidate for a management role. Since the criteria for hiring employees has not typically included creativity and passion, it may be difficult to pinpoint.
When you interview for a job, pay attention to nonverbal signs. Does someone's eyes light up when they hear about your new invention? Do they ask you questions about it? As an inventor of new product ideas, you also need people who are willing to take risks. Ask for candidates to give you specific scenarios in which they have taken risks. But make sure those risks were appropriate for the given situation at the time. Is it the kind of behavior you want in your new work environment? Additionally, creative people don't always have the knack for deadlines so you also want to test for this in your interview process. Don't get lured into someone who is just a fast-talker. Ask for examples that can be proven. Here are some other criteria you should consider when creating a work environment that fosters new product ideas:
*Does the candidate seem highly competitive or more excited about working with interdisciplinary colleagues?
*Does he or she know how to handle grey areas? Ask for examples of how they've done so in the past.
*Are they mentally agile and do they seem to have lots of energy?
*Do they learn out of sheer passion for knowing more or only when told to?
No one wants to see a new invention go sour when it hits the commercial market. But, it does happen. People don't like the size or shape. They hate the color. The price is too high. Commercial success happens long before a product is completely finished or designed. As an inventor of new products, you should always develop ideas with future commercialization in mind. That way, you can avoid costly errors. For example, if you have an interesting shape you can add to your invention, it will be more marketable. You can file for what is called a design patent to protect that aspect of your product. File this as soon as you come up with your new design. Also, will an attractive logo help to sell the product?
We all know the power of a good logo--consider the nike swoosh. People walking through stores are literally bombarded with information and products. How can you make yours stand out? And how do you need to adjust its design to best do that? What about a trademark? This is like a brand name. If you come up with a good one, it can be protected in a similar way as obtaining a patent for a product. What about color? Just because you can get a ton of product made cheaply in a certain color doesn't mean you should. Color choice is critical in the developing of new products. Do your research in this area.
Remember, last year's colors don't sell. You can get a lot of information about color by observing catalogues and store fronts. It's there that you'll see all the hot, new colors for consumers. Last and maybe most important is pricing. You need to know how much people will pay for your invention before you perfect it. That way, you'll make design choices that are in line with predicted mass production costs.
New products inventions such as the cordless jump rope (US Patent # 7037243) or the hand shaped sun visor (US Patent # D499858) may seem patently absurd to us, yet these seemingly silly inventions were granted patents. That's because they fulfilled the three requirements necessary to qualify for a patent: They are novel, non-obvious and useful.
These three requirements though, have no impact on whether or not new products inventions will catch on in the marketplace. Not all new products inventions lead to fame and fortune. As a matter of fact, they sometimes take quite some time to catch on, if ever.
A professional product development evaluation is an effective way to establish the viability of your product idea. During an evaluation, technical experts and researchers test
- technical feasibility
- existing patents
- market size
- the competition
- market demands
- distribution potential and more.
A product development evaluation could mean the difference between prosperity and obscurity. The last place you want your invention to show up is on one of the wacky inventions web sites.
Sometimes new inventions seem so straightforward and simple that you would hardly believe them to be worthwhile. But often the simplest solution to a problem is the one that has the broadest appeal. Don't overlook your new inventions just because they are simple. Where would we be without Q-Tips, Ziploc bags, or drinking straws?
When you're in the middle of developing a new product, it's easy to get caught in tunnel vision. You believe in the merits and features of your new product and so do your friends, family and neighbors. But, selling to this small group won't even get you into a profit zone, and some of them may be hiding concerns they have from you. Until you get impartial feedback about your new product technology and its appearance you truly don't how the public will respond to it. One way to get this advice is by conducting a focus group.
This type of market research gives people a chance to comment on your product in an environment that is designed for open, honest feedback. The moderator of such a group is key. That person has to avoid reacting positively or negatively to anything he or she hears. That means that you, the inventor may not be the best moderator. If a focus group participant says, "I hate this product!" the moderator has to say, with a straight face, "OK, who else has a similar opinion?" and, "Why do you hate it?" Those who observe the group in progress can take notes and pay attention to nonverbal signs. Are participants bored or excited about the product? You should run several sets of focus groups before you decide you have enough feedback. You should always fill your groups with people likely to use the product. For example, if you have an invention for a gadget to help someone who is elderly, visit senior centers and ask if people would want to participate in the groups. Offering incentives like a meal or cash helps.
You can also hire a marketing company that specializes in focus groups to handle everything from the participants to the moderator to the location for you. Call local marketing companies to find such a firm. If they don't do it, ask for a referral.
There's nothing like that light bulb moment when you know you have stumbled on a new invention. There is so much to do it's hard to figure out where to start: get a patent, consider a licensee, launch the product and start over with a new invention. But, while the initial moment of discovering a new product fades fast, that product's potential can fade quickly as well due to unexpected delays. Some experts believe one of the greatest risks to a new product is delay. Many new ideas carry a short window of opportunity; once that's gone so are the potential earnings.
How can you avoid this type of risk? By focusing on the factors that often impede progress during the process of developing a new product. One of the most common such factors is not having enough help. You may not want to hire anyone to help launch your new invention, but trying to do it all yourself is one way to miss the all-too-critical window of opportunity. Another risk factor that causes delay is not having a clear vision of deliverables. There are many ways you can create a plan for action but you should have one that details a time table for tasks that must be done, when they should be done, and who will do them. If you hire personnel to launch a new product, you must make sure that communication is clear between everyone involved.
Also, concentrate on avoiding 'bottlenecks,' that is places in the flow of production where one area holds up the tasks of the next. In today's quickly changing world of commerce, you can't afford to miss the window for selling your invention because of these and other risk factors that could have been avoided.
Often, one of the biggest obstacles inventors face in trying to bring their invention to new product introduction is funding. From patent and attorney fees to developing prototypes and marketing, it takes a considerable budget to bring an invention to fruition.
Community of Science (COS) has grants programs for research and development as does the Defense Department's SBIR and STTR programs, the Department of Energy (DOE) grants, the National Institute of Health grants, and SBA procurements and grants hot list.
Research any and all funding sources very carefully for both their legitimacy and to ensure you meet their guidelines.
If you wish to go the entrepreneurial route with your invention, funding for business start-ups include venture capitalists and the SBA.
New product development is a constant process. In every corporation, university and personal workshop around the world, people endeavor to make the world a better place by developing everything from new medications and toys to software and foods. With all this invention going on its only logical that before you invest a lot of time, energy and financial resources to develop a new product, you first establish that it really is new.
If you've got an idea you'd like to develop into a new product, a practical first step before conducting a formal patent search is to do a market search to make sure your idea isn't already out there.
Let's say your product idea is for a new garden tool. Go to garden supply stores, check online outlets, and search catalogs to see if something similar is already offered for sale. If you've scoured the products within your product category and find you still are on to something, then its time to move ahead with a formal patent search.
Ever see new products on store shelves and say to yourself, ‘Hey, I thought of that!' Well the next new product you see in stores could be yours. But not if you don't follow through with your new product idea.
Many people have really good ideas for great new products, but most of them never do anything about it. Inspiration can hit at any time. It takes a special effort to be open to it. Once you've made the decision to go with your inspiration, the follow-through is a step-by-step process that starts with a market search and takes patience and fortitude.
New products, inventions and business methods are not the only kinds of materials that a company needs to protect. Marketing plans, customer lists, and pricing procedures are types of information that, while not patented, can be considered trade secrets.
The best way to protect trade secrets is through your human resources department. If you have valuable information to protect, non-disclosure and non-competition agreements should be made a condition of employment. Only when you disclose what you consider confidential information to your employees can you expect non-disclosure in return.
Customer involvement in the product development process is not always solicited, but is always a success factor to launch new product ideas. Michael Shoppel and Philip Davis of Betasphere, a beta testing company, advise that active collaboration with target product users during the product development process is the number one factor leading to successful product introductions.
Early access programs, alpha and beta testing, pilot programs and field trials are examples of programs that elicit customer feedback. Obtaining feedback can help you find and fix technical product problems, as well as help you evaluate user satisfaction.
So, if you want to be prepared to meet customer expectations when launching your new product, remember that the customer can be a vital member of your product development team.
In the beginning stages of evaluating a new product idea, it can be difficult to figure out how much it will cost to manufacture your new product. At some point, you will need to develop new product manufacturing estimates with a professional manufacturer. But for evaluating the viability of your new product idea, here's a way to get a sense of what you may be getting into.
According to asktheinventors.com, most products need to retail at four to five times the cost of producing them. So, if you can find a similar item (physically speaking) and divide its retail cost by four or five, you can get a very rough idea of your manufacturing costs. For this rough estimate, you will be looking for a product that uses roughly the same materials in a similar quantity.
Most free market theory says that a competitive environment is good for business and--in most cases--that's probably true. But, if you create a company whose future depends on developing new invention ideas, internal competition may actually thwart the creative process and impede the company's potential success. In many science-based companies, individual's have the right to obtain invention patents for their own discoveries. Or, groups of inventors can obtain a patent together. But, one drawback of this workplace environment as it relates to developing a steady stream of new products is that these employees may end up competing with each other for the patents. It's human nature to compete but internal competition will stop team work in its tracks and new ideas along with it.
Some newer companies, especially scientific and high-tech ones, have instituted new rules whereby the company receives the patent. In this case, a true sense of inventiveness and team work can flourish. And, employees in this type of company can still get lots of recognition for their ingenuity. They can attend professional conferences and present their ideas, and be published in trade journals. Whatever type of environment you create for new product development, make sure employees are held to strict confidentiality agreements in case they leave the company.
InventHelp Tip: Many invention services companies say they will help evaluate your new product ideas as their first step in determining if your product is patentable. In most cases, only a qualified patent attorney or patent agent will be able to make that assessment.
The latest ‘big thing' in new product technology is actually a very small thing – nanotechnology. And, it is opening up a floodgate of opportunities in the invention and innovation of new products and processes. As the global economy's fastest growing information sector, nanotechnology offers applications for nearly every conceivable industry.
What is nanotechnology? Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. And it provides the means to develop systems and materials to be built with exacting specifications at the molecular level.
Every inventor and innovator should follow the development of nanotechnology because it represents the state-of-the art of what technology can accomplish. Still in its infancy, nanotechnology is bringing about rapid advancements in biology, chemistry, engineering, computer science and physics.
When developing new product ideas, a significant test of whether the idea might lead to financial gain is to think about that product's potential audience. Thomas Edison, one of histories most renowned inventors once wrote, “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others.”
Here are a few questions to ask:
- Is this product useful?
- To whom is it useful?
- Is this audience large enough to profit from?
- Can it be produced at a reasonable market price?
In industry terms, this process is called a market analysis, and it is the first step in determining if there is a need or audience for your idea. Too often, businesses and people spend thousands of dollars and too much time launching a product that has limited market value.
The software industry is split between two factions these days – those who believe in patenting their work and those who believe innovation is better served through open source.
An open source program is one that has its source code available for others to see, use and modify as they see fit. Open source programs are usually free, with developers selling other services such as customer support. In some cases, companies develop and sell proprietary products based on open source ones.
Proponents of open source say that innovation moves farther and faster when code is open to any developer with an innovative mind.
Don't think of your invention in terms of big or small, important or frivolous. Think of your audience. New inventions can become big if they hit it big on the market. When an invention is useful in terms of the convenience or ease it provides people or businesses, you have made an important contribution.
Believe it or not--even considering the Internet as a powerful, new marketing tool--old-fashioned word of mouth advertising still works and works well. No matter how good your newly developed product is, you're only as good as your networks according to many marketing experts. So, you should start building them as soon as possible--even before your product is ready to launch. Unless you plan to limit your sales to only a local market, you should build networks nationally and even internationally as well. This will mean going to meetings and making monetary commitments. But you shouldn't consider this type of marketing a boomerang approach. It may not lead to immediate sales. But, over time, this type of invention marketing may turn out to be one of the best ways to launch your newly developed product. Here are some ideas to get your started:
*Investigate your local Small Business Development Center. This organization can help you with all aspects of developing and selling new product ideas. They may also provide you with networking ideas.
*Join a local chamber. Here you will meet others like yourself--people pursuing business ideas. Take some time to get to know others before being in a 'selling mode.' Relationships developed at these types of organizations pay off over time. Sometimes chambers have time set aside that members can describe their new products to the group so always take advantage of those times even if your product is not fully created yet. You can still offer some details about it as long as you don't impede your ability to file for a patent by doing so.
*Join trade associations. These organizations focus on key areas of business. It's a good idea to read their magazines and--by joining such an organization--you will be able to communicate with others around the country or world.
*Attend trade shows. Some shows might focus on a particular industry, while others are designed to put inventors in touch with companies who want to sell their products. You can find out about a unique trade show, sponsored by InventHelp.com, on its website. There you'll find other ideas about how you can submit your invention to companies.
Being able to manage the product development, legal, marketing, and business aspects of launching new products inventions is tough. Many of these tasks must be undertaken simultaneously. Knowing what not to do is almost as important as knowing what to do. Carefully enlisting the expertise you need is a good business decision, especially for first time inventors.
When people consider how to launch a new product, it's likely they think of the internet first. We hear all around us about the power of online marketing. It's been proven that consumers are buying more online than ever. And so, a website highlighting your newly developed product isn't a bad idea. But there are some other ways you should consider that focus on how to get your new product idea into someone's hands faster. For example, have you considered handing out samples or coupons for discounts? Make sure you fully investigate where you can and cannot do this in accordance with local laws. Once you find a good spot, you might even consider hiring a nice-looking man or women, or someone wearing a costume to garner more attention.
Another way to launch a new product is to set up a table at a festival or other local event. You may have to pay a fee for the table but--even if you don't have many sales that day--you have successfully marketed your product. At the festival, hand out literature about your new product and a list of places it can be purchased. If you can't afford your own table, consider asking someone if you can pay a fee to them to cover a part of their table set-up. The important thing is that you get a chance to talk to people about the product's benefits and give them something to walk away with so they can make a future purchase.
Finally, you can consider placing your product on consignment in a store that sells to the type of consumer you want to reach. Again, you might have to give up some of your profits but that might be temporary--as long as it takes to build a following. If you decide to place your new product idea in a store, always have the consignment terms in writing.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|