Among the most commonly cited keys to invention success are: obtaining a strong patent, effectively marketing your product, etc. I thought it would be interesting to address 5 often overlooked keys to inventing success – starting with B for Balancing Risk versus Opportunity.
As I stated in a previous blog, inventing is one the riskiest business ventures. The invention process is very much front-loaded with costs: patent prosecution; prototype development, product development, packaging, etc. Profits, if any, may not come for many months or perhaps even years later depending on the product.
Given that inventing is quite a risky pursuit, it is particularly important to be able to assess risk at every stage of the process and weigh or balance the risk versus the anticipated opportunity.
Two stages where this is important is patenting and marketing your product.
Patenting involves considerable time, effort and resources working closely with a patent attorney or agent. But, especially if you plan to license your product, achieving a strong patent could well be worth the risk, time and effort. How do you balance the risk of patenting versus the reward of ongoing income? Look at your expected cost for patenting, consider the chances of obtaining a strong patent (your attorney can help with this) and weigh that against your financial gain if the product is moderately successful. Generally more complex products may require complicated or multiple patents which quickly escalate the risk (cost). Unless you have considerable financial resources at your disposal that you are comfortable liquidating, the guaranteed risk outweighs the potential reward (not guaranteed). Simple, lower cost products that involve simple patents offer a much better balance of risk to reward.
Marketing of your product is another stage where risk versus opportunity needs to be weighed carefully. I highly recommend taking small incremental risks to test the marketability of your product before you leap into large expenditures. Selling at fairs and low cost events can be a great way to market test your product with minimal risk. I did this for some years before I took my product to QVC. I had developed confidence with the product from having interacted with a couple thousand buyers before I went on air at QVC, so I had no script to memorize; I was just taking it to a much larger platform. This is an example of incremental risk.
QVC has a tremendous upside potential in sales and exposure, but there is considerable risk: you are only paid for the amount of product you sell successfully on air. Typically a QVC buyer might choose to buy about $50,000 – $75,000 of a new product coming to QVC. The inventor needs to have a clear Plan B for selling that large amount of product if sales on QVC do not go as anticipated (or hoped).
The next key to inventing success is R – Resources, Find and Develop Them
B – Balance Risk versus Opportunity
R – Resources, Find and Develop Them