In your fervent imagination, I'll bet there was a time when you thought, “I can just sell my idea to someone and get rich!”
Admit it! You did think that didn't you?
But, after a small amount of due diligence, reality hit with a thud: you cannot sell an idea. Otherwise, everyone with a few novel ideas would be wealthy. In fact, as an inventor, you must invest money into your invention – for patents, prototypes, etc. – before you can hope to make any money.
Wow! Inventing is not a ‘get rich quickly' business. For most; it is a get rich slow, or not at all business. But, surely there must be a way to achieve success quickly as an inventor, right?
Yes. While most inventors may spend years attempting to get a good invention to success, there are ways to speed up the process – to achieve inventing success more quickly. Read on.
Be Clear About Your ‘Why' and Business Path – and Use the ‘Back Door'
You may have taken up inventing as I did, as a sort of hobby – tinkering on ideas in your shop on weekends. Hobbies consume money and; after a while, you begin to seek ways to actually make money; even if only to offset your costs so you can keep ‘tinkering'. Right?
To move from a tinkerer, a hobbyist, into a true inventor, striving for commercial success, requires three key mindset shifts:
- Have a strong ‘why' – a ‘burn in the belly' that motivates you
- Be crystal clear about your business path
- Learn to use the ‘back door'
Have a Strong ‘Why'
If your primary reason for becoming an inventor is to ‘make a lot of money,' good luck.
That thought is not going to motivate you, during the bleakest periods, when your are spending a lot of money with no clear vision as to when you will actually make money. You simply must have a bold vision that is much bigger than yourself to keep you motivated, moving forward, when nothing seems to work.
I invented a slim, flexible wallet (Wonder Wallet) that took years to achieve notable success.
But, my customers loved the wallets and gave me enthusiastic testimonials about how much simpler and better it made their lives – easy access to all cards and no more ‘pain in the butt' from sitting on a thick wallet. I realized that, in some small way, I was changing the world with my little product. If I quit because the going got tough (which happened frequently), not only would I let myself down, but tens of thousands of other people, as well.
That was my ‘why' – to finally create and sell a wallet that really worked and made the lives of my buyers easier, more productive, and less painful. What is your why?
Be Crystal Clear About Your Business Path
You must be crystal clear about your business path. What do I mean about ‘business path'? There are two business paths for an inventor: either you choose to DIY or you choose to license your invention for royalties.
DIY – do it yourself – means that you are going to build a business around your invention. The DIY business path is an expensive and extremely risky one, but Lori Greiner, Sara Blakely (of Spanx), and Joy Mangano have earned lucrative livings from choosing to DIY their inventions. Licensing your invention is nearly the polar opposite business path from DIY. When you license your invention to a company, they take over all the responsibilities of operating the business from sourcing, to selling, and handling returns. They pay you a small royalty percentage on all sales each quarter.
Why is it important to choose one path early and then stick to it?
Because, if you try one, then the other a few times – as I did – you may spend many years struggling to succeed. Time is your most valuable asset and you must invest it wisely. Pick one path and stick to it and you will achieve success much more quickly because you are focused only on that path.
Learn to Use the ‘Back Door'
Job seekers have discovered that the ‘back door' is often the best way to secure an interview – having a friend within the company to walk their resume to the hiring manager. Meanwhile hundreds of resumes submitted by other candidates to the website are languishing in an HR in-basket (the front door). Almost all will be screened out by a Dilbertesque bot that selects those with the most keywords, not necessarily the best candidates.
A very similar dynamic exists for inventors. Do you want to get your product onto QVC? Just go to QVC.com and submit your invention to be on the show! That's the front door. Every month thousands of would-be vendors submit their products directly to QVC in this way and a tiny fraction of them are chosen – their products are sent to a QVC buyer for review. Don't care much for those odds?
I didn't either, so I used a back door.
An inventor friend of mine who'd sold successfully on QVC got me directly in touch with a QVC product rep. The rep liked my product and worked with me to present it to a QVC buyer. She liked it as well and I was on QVC for two years, selling over 5,000 wallets – over $120,000 of retail product.
After almost 5 years of persistent effort to get my wallet into DRTV (infomercials) via front doors, I finally found a back door: a DRTV colleague willing to “take a chance” and test my product. It tested very well, both via the web and via a few test spot TV commercials. We took these good test metrics to Allstar Products and before long they rolled my product, the Wonder Wallet, into retail stores across the US.
Think about this back door approach for your product.
Do you know a person who can give you a referral into an industry contact? Maybe the contact you need is attending an industry trade show. If so, on the last day of the show (when things are slow), you can introduce yourself and get a face-to-face audience with him or her. It takes creativity to find a back door, but it can definitely be worth the effort! As an inventor, you're a creative person, right?