Every day thousands of inventors have that ‘aha' moment when they wake up, take a shower, or are driving to work: that next great invention – the world awaits!

Your inspired idea might truly have the makings of a great invention:

  • Offers a new, innovative solution to an annoying problem
  • Could be packaged and sold to consumers everywhere

Unfortunately, many great inventions are not great products. Inventors may spend years developing a truly elegant invention only to find they cannot sell it: because it doesn't meet the requirements of a great product!

What Makes a ‘Perfect' Consumer Product?

The perfect consumer product is somewhat akin to a unicorn – a mythical, magical fantasy beast that doesn't exist in real life. But it is possible to list the key factors of a perfect consumer product – a sort of scorecard – then to compare your invention to see how well it stacks up (or doesn't).

In no particular order, here are key elements for the perfect consumer product:

  1. Sells to almost all  males/boys
  2. Sells to almost all females/girls
  3. Sells for $19.95 or less at retail stores
  4. Takes up minimal shelf space – lots can fit on a small shelf
  5. Benefits are immediately obvious – little or no explanation required
  6. Solves an annoying problem in a simple, elegant way
  7. Is not seasonal – sells year round
  8. High consumption factor – consumers use and buy again frequently

As mentioned, no single product checks all of the above boxes, but strong consumer products match up to many of the above.

To illustrate, let's consider two different products and see how they score on the 8 parameters above:

  • A ‘sippy' cup that allows toddlers to drink with no risk of spilling the contents
  • A floating beverage holder for a swimming pool or other water event for adults

Regarding the sippy cup, it could easily sell to parents of male or female children, could easily sell for less than $19,95, doesn't take up much shelf space, the benefits are obvious, does solve an annoying problem, is not seasonal, but might not be ‘consumed' multiple times per year. Therefore, the net score is 7 out of 8 points possible – very good! The sippy cup would appear to be a great invention and a great consumer product.

Even though the beverage holder is similar in many respects to the sippy cups, it doesn't score very well as a perfect consumer product:

It doesn't sell to all or most males and females (only those who own swimming pools or are very aquatically active. Zero points so far. It could sell for less than $19.95, take up little shelf space, the benefits would be obvious, and would solve an annoying problem. Score is now 4 points. Unfortunately, it is definitely seasonal (summertime mostly) and it wouldn't be consumed and reused frequently. Final score is 4 points. The floating beverage holder could be a great invention, but not likely a great consumer product.

Know Your Niches

You may ask, “don't niche items often sell very well?” Does a consumer product really have to sell to nearly everyone to achieve success? Niche items sometimes sell very well, but you must know your niches – it is always more challenging to sell to a niche. Some niches are great, others are not so great.

For example, tennis is a popular recreational sport for many people – about 18 million play tennis each year and spend about $487 million for equipment. Approximately 29 million play golf each year with the average golfer having an average household income of $95,000. Given that statistic, if your niche product sells to golfers, you likely have a much stronger market than if it sells to tennis players.

Make sure your great invention can also be a great product!

Stay tuned.