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This post is excerpted from the book Turning Your Invention Into Cash by Don Debelak. https://www.amazon.com/Turn-Your-Invention-into-Cash-ebook/dp/B07N8JSQJW.

Small stores and big stores are increasingly being forced out of business by Internet retailers. This is a big disadvantage for inventors. Social Media fortunately does step into the spotlight to get products into the marketplace.  Here are some steps.

  1. Have a web page and have a sign up for a newsletter. Use Constant Contact or Convert Kit to set up routine newsletters to people. You can send out offers to people on a regular basis.
  2. Have friends pin your product on relevant Pinterest Boards. For example if you do a search for babies Pinterest baby boards on Google, you’ll get lots of boards. Your friends can pin items from your site on the board. Be sure they included your web page. You might even ask people who come to your site and like your product to Pin your product to boards they may know of.
  3. Set up a Facebook Store. http://www.websitebuilderexpert.com/how-to-set-up-a-facebook-store/
  4. Set Up an Instagram Store. http://www.wikihow.com/Establish-an-Online-Shop-through-Instagram
  5. Start using Facebook Fan pages https://blog.kissmetrics.com/facebook-fan-pages-guide/
  6. Start Using Instagram Fan Pages. http://blog.fanpagekarma.com/2014/08/26/5-tips-for-more-success-on-instagram/                         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnIlPM-
  7. Post videos on You-Tube of your product. You don’t expect people to find you on you-tube but you want to refer to the video on your web page, plus all your information on other social media sites.

You need to expect to work 20 hours a week keeping up with all the traffic you generate and answering queries and writing your blog.  But you can generate the buzz and sales you need to help license your product or place your product into major retailers.

Internet – Social Media Success Story

Lisa Pinnell is a young mom whose success has all happened because of Social Media. Her company, Binxy Baby, started selling the first commercial version of the product in 2014 and its current version of her product in February 2015. Binxy Baby had sales of $250,000 in 2015 and Pinnell expects to sell $500,000 to $750,000 in 2016.   All the sales have been from her web site, which she promotes on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Inspiration: In September 2008 Pinnell’s second child was born and she soon learned that taking two children, including one infant, to the grocery store was impossible.  The baby needed to go down into the grocery cart itself, with child number one the shopping cart’s child safety seat area.  The problem was there wasn’t any room for groceries. Pinnell thought the solution was a baby hammock that would hang across the shopping cart which sells on the Internet today for $49.95.   http://binxybaby.com/products/shopping-cart-hammock

Social Network Marketing

Pinnell’s unanticipated marketing plan started when she placed a photo of the product on her Facebook site.  She had only a bare bones Bixny Baby web site set up at the time.  One of her friends noted the picture and pinned it to Pinterest with a reference to her Facebook site. Then, while not quite going viral, the interest took off.  People loved the picture of the baby in the hammock. Moms knew moms and suddenly many moms were seeing the picture.

Pinnell wasn’t set up at all for this traffic. But she moved fast.  On her web site she set up an email list for people who wanted to know when the product was available.  She also let people friend her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram so that when her product was ready she could let her network know

Pinnell placed her first order from China for delivery in the fall of 2014.  About 6 weeks before delivery she started letting everyone know the product was coming either by email or by her postings of pictures on both Facebook and Instagram and let people place pre-orders on her site.  She received over 600 pre-orders before the shipment arrived. She was also helped by being featured on a Steve Harvey show in the fall of 2014 right after the shipment came in.  Within 30 days Pinnell sold out of her first order

Today Pinnell still markets through her pins on Pinterest and her Facebook and Instagram pages. Her favorite is Instagram. The only promotional program she runs is to team up with some other baby product inventors who sell primarily on Etsy.com, a site where many moms are sellers of handmade baby items. On one promotion Pinnell teams up with four other sellers of baby related products and they post a picture of all four of their products with, for example, a spring-give-a-way promotion. To be eligible for a prize they have to sign up to follow all four sellers.  Pinnell mentions that this is a great way to get people to sign up to follow them or friend her site.

Pinnell has tried more traditional marketing, she attended the ABCKids show in 2014 with samples in a booth.  She attracted some retailers but she has found that they just aren’t as profitable as selling online.  The key, says Pinnell is that “when moms of infants see her product, they want to buy.”

Facebook Groups

If you haven’t heard the news, Facebook pages don’t have the same reach they used to. Instead, there’s a hidden world on Facebook that’s taking over: the Facebook group. Groups are collections of like-minded people who share a common interest or goal and cover all sorts of niches.

Why Join Facebook Groups?

One of the biggest reasons to join Facebook groups is the visibility and networking they offer. On any given day that I inventors look at their news feed, they should many posts from groups that they are active in.

Groups are also more visible because people who belong to the group get notifications about new posts, which tends to keep the discussions going. (However, people can turn these notifications off if they want to.)

One of the downsides of Facebook groups for some business owners is that you have to join as your personal Facebook profile—your page cannot join a group. So if you don’t want to use your profile, then Facebook groups may not be for you.

Before You Join a Group

Inventors can join up to 6,000 Facebook groups, but I suggest focusing on 10-20 where you know you’ll be active regularly. If that’s too many to focus on, choose a few that will have the highest impact for you.

Before joining a group, make sure it’s a good fit. Measure it against a few key criteria: active members, good description and low spam.

If it’s a closed group, you won’t be able to see the activity until you join, so it will be hard to tell if the membership is active. If you join and find the group isn’t right, don’t feel bad leaving the group right away.

When looking at a new group, read the About section to see the mission of the group. This will give  a feel for whether it’s right for your invention. Some group restricts membership based on certain qualifications.

No group is going to be a valuable place to participate if it’s just a bunch of sales messages with no-one contributing conversation. Many groups have rules about what you can and can’t post. Some allow a little bit of promotion, but with qualifications—such as only promoting on certain days or within certain threads.

Find Facebook Groups

If  you’re looking for a Facebook group to join, you can take Facebook’s suggestions or you can search with Facebook’s Graph Search.

https://www.facebook.com/graphsearcher/ search box on top.

Create Your Own Facebook Group

Bring Fans Into a Focused Facebook Group. Check out the following web site for more complete information: https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-build-community-on-facebook/

The control individuals have over a group’s visibility is part of the appeal. Many Facebook groups are private communities where people connect outside the prying eyes of their friends and families. However, within a group, Facebook doesn’t limit who can see what. Members of a group see all of the posts in it.

The post Introducing Products with Social Media appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

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This post is excerpted for the book How to Turn Your Invention Into Cash by Don Debelak. https://www.amazon.com/Turn-Your-Invention-into-Cash-ebook/dp/B07N8JSQJW

Licensing

Licensing is when a company takes over your new product idea and pays you a royalty on the sales from your idea. The licensee can be a manufacturer, marketer or a product development company. Since licensees take on all the risk of a product, they are cautious about what products they will license. Most companies will only license an idea if they are fairly certain it will be successful so it is up to you to convince them it will succed.

While the earning potential is lower than both the outsource entrepreneurial approach and starting your own company, many inventors choose this strategy because once you license the idea you have no more responsibility to the project.

Finding Licensing Targets

Key Characteristics of a Licensing Target

  1. They are a company with less than 15 % market share. Companies with large market shares don’t want to cannibalize their own products with a licensed product, and they typically won’t take on a licensed product where they need to pay a royalty.
  2. Companies who lag the industry in new product development, often because they lack product development departments. The companies are looking for new ideas.
  3. Companies that have licensed products before.
  4. Companies where the marketing and sales departments have major management influence. You almost never license a product by convincing the product development group you have a good product, after all you are their competitor. You license a product by having a good response from marketing and sales
  5. If your product is inexpensive to introduce, often a company with limited resources will want to introduce it. Be sure you license to a company with the resources to promote your product.
Key Contacts

You need two types of contacts. The first are people who will convince a potential licensee that your product is ideal for the market. These would be key users, key people in the distribution channel, or key retailers. The second type of contact is someone who can push your product inside the company toward a license agreement. This could be a company executive, a regional or national sales manager, a marketing person, or sometimes the R&D director.

Of the two, your most important contact is someone inside the company. This person can help you fine-tune your proposal, tell you whom you have to convince, and then after your presentation, offer you insights into what you need to do to get the deal done. To meet these contacts, you need to get out and attend trade shows, industry events, and association meetings.

Making these contacts improves your chances of licensing a product at least 100 percent. Without a helpful contact, you may never make it past the company’s product submission policy to make a presentation.

Often the first person to help you license a product is the local sales person or rep.  They have a lot to gain by helping you as they will look like real go-getters to their company.  You can often find them just by choosing potential target companies, calling them up for literature and asking who the local salesperson is.  Then meet with them for coffee or lunch and see if they like your idea.

Preparing a Licensing Presentation

When you find interested companies, you will be asked to come to the company’s office for a presentation. This presentation should not last more than 15 minutes and you should allow for questions after the presentation. If at all possible, you should include a demonstration. This is the most effective way of selling your idea. If you cannot provide a demonstration, try to incorporate a five-minute video showing people using your product. During the remainder of your presentation, you need to show the company why the product will be successful and that your product matches the company’s goals and current market strategies. Key points in the presentation should be:

  1. A little introduction by your company inside contact on why they like the product
  2. Your experience in the market, or in the technology of making the product.
  3. A brief history. Provide a short summary of why came up with the idea, what made you take your particular product design, and why you think it will sell. Include a list of any industry related people you’ve worked with, such as sales representatives, retail store owners, distribution people, inventors who have succeeded in the market, or key end-users.
  4. A competitive products chart. Analyze the products that are already on the market, what they costs and what their strong and weak points are. Include your product in the chart. Also try to get some of the more popular products either the actual product or brochure, printed web pages or ads for the competitive products.
  5. Market research you’ve done comparing your product to the competitive products.
  6. Current sales efforts. If you have done anything to sell you product successfully, list those efforts here.
  7. Why you chose this company to present your product. Talk about synergy of existing products and the fact the company is capable of launching a major campaign to promote the new product.

The best way to launch a presentation is have a great prototype package and show both your product and competitive products. If the cost isn’t too great have the major products on hand.

Approach Your Candidates and Sign the Deal

You should propose your own  licensing deal as that is the way you will get an agreement that protects you best. You can look up licensing agreements on a search engine and find many licensing agreements to review and find one you like. As an intermediate step, to get a final commitment from the company you might want to sign a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU. This non-binding agreement shows serious intent on the part of the potential licensee and also the agreement typically has mutual confidentiality clauses which offer you protection. MOU agreements are also available on the Internet. This site has template for an MOU that you might find helpful http://templates.openoffice.org/en/template/sample-memorandum-understanding-between.

The post How to Approach Invention Licensing appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

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Excerpt rom the Book, Turning Your Invention into Cash by Don Debelak. https://www.amazon.com/Turn-Your-Invention-into-Cash-ebook/dp/B07N8JSQJW.

You will have an easier time convincing people to help you if you can show them that your product is a winner. Here are a couple easy-to-do research tactics you can use to show your product is a winner. Chapter 8 is devoted to showing your product is a winner, but for a starting point observational and comparative product research will give you immediate feedback on whether or not your product has a good chance to succeed. 

Observational Research

One type of observational research consists of just watching end users use the product, noting each step the user takes and then asking the user why they do every step. This is the type of research that many consumer giants such as Procter and Gamble use regularly. If you observe four or five users in action you will notice that they experience, and compensate for, different drawbacks to products or services, drawbacks they may not even realize exists. If you ask people about how they are compensating, they will either affirm that is a problem, or explain it is not a problem. You want to be able to say that a high percentage of the people you observe have experienced the problem your product solves.

Comparative Research

This process simply asks buyers or end users to evaluate your product against three to seven other products and then asks them to rank the products or concepts both by value and by likelihood of buying. It is useful to do comparative research for both directly competing products or services that achieve the same purpose as yours and for other products or services of a similar type that a company or consumer might buy.

For example, with the Garlic Twist, a new more effective way to prepare garlic for cooking, you would buy every other product that also prepares garlic for cooking. Then, if the Garlic Twist cost $8.00, you would also obtain four or five other kitchen items, with a cost of $4.00 to $12.00. Make sure that some of the products are strong sellers, or your research won’t matter much since no one wants any of the products you are comparing yours to. For effective comparative research, don’t tell the participants what product is yours.

To start research, just find 10 to 20 people to review all the products. Ask them to rank the products on how likely they are to buy it, with “one” being the most likely to purchase. Also ask them to rank the products by value, with “one” being the most valuable product. You should be able to determine if people are likely to buy your product, and what is the price point they would buy it at. If people place your product’s value by products that are $4.00, then that means its value is about $4.00.  Prepare a graph report on your findings to show potential contacts.

The post Easy to Do Research to Show Your Product is a Winner appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

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From a blog on the USPTO website

{Don Debelak’s new book, Turning Your Invention into Cash is now available on Amazon for $3.49. Go to Amazon.com and enter inventions Don Debelak to purchase. From the author of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Bringing Your Product to Market.}

Intellectual property resources in your area

By Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Providing entrepreneurs, small businesses, and independent inventors with access to intellectual property (IP) resources is one of the major priorities for the USPTO. These entities are vital to our country’s economy, but they often don’t have the same resources that larger entities can leverage to protect their innovations. Because of that, the USPTO oversees several programs to assist with free or reduced-cost help in applying for patents, including the Patent Pro Bono Program, the Pro Se Assistance Program, the Certified Law School Clinic Program, and Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. That’s all in addition to the reduced filing fees we charge to small and micro entities.

Recently, we updated our website to make many of these resources easier to find. Take a look! The “Find help in your area” link under the “New to IP?” area at the top of the USPTO homepage takes users to a map of the United States where they can select state-specific resource pages and regional USPTO office pages. From free legal assistance to listings of local inventor clubs, there’s a large array of helpful programs. In addition, we’ve added regional event filters to our main USPTO events calendar so you can easily find upcoming events in your local area. Overall, we updated more than 60 pages, and over the next few months, we will be gathering public feedback in order to continue making even more helpful changes to our website. Send us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Recent USPTO website updates make finding local resources and events easier

Under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses may be particularly interested in securing free legal representation to help them protect their inventions using the Patent Pro Bono Program. Located across the country, each of the 21 local nonprofit pro bono programs matches inventors with volunteer patent attorneys to help them navigate the process for obtaining a patent. Since the program began, over 1,900 inventors have been matched with registered patent practitioners, and currently more than 1,500 attorneys are available to volunteer through the program.

Another way for inventors and entrepreneurs to secure free legal services is through the Law School Clinic Certification Program. Currently, there are 60 participating law school clinics where law students draft and file patent or trademark applications for clients under the supervision of their law school faculty. Since its inception, over 4,000 law students have participated in the program and have filed more than 850 patent applications and more than 3,300 trademark applications for clients.

Some independent inventors and small businesses choose to file patent applications without the assistance of a registered patent attorney or agent—also known as “pro se” filing. We have tools to assist pro se filers, as well as a dedicated USPTO team available to answer filing questions and explain the process. To learn more, visit the Pro Se Assistance Program page of the USPTO website.

We also offer independent inventors and small businesses reduced patent filing fees for “micro entities” and “small entities.” Entities that meet the micro-entity requirements are eligible for a 75 percent reduction on most fees, and small entity status offers a 50 percent fee reduction. View the full USPTO fee schedule.

Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) are another great way to get IP help. This nationwide network consists of public, state, and academic libraries designated by the USPTO to support the public with trademark and patent assistance. They provide the human touch in helping inventors and small businesses find the information they need to protect their IP. Please note that PTRC representatives are not attorneys, and they cannot provide legal advice. Find a PTRC in your state.

These are only some examples of the various services we offer to help inventors and entrepreneurs protect their IP. Visit the USPTO website to learn about even more resources.

American history is filled with remarkable stories of inventors and entrepreneurs who worked hard, took risks, persevered, dared to go where others would not, and ultimately overcame tremendous odds to succeed. We will continue to encourage the sparks of inventors’ ideas to grow into the flames of world-changing innovation.

The post USPTO Resources for Money Strapped Inventors appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

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Trade Shows are expensive, so you want to be sure to carefully check out trade shows you might attend to ensure they are a good fit for your product. Here are some steps you can take to decide if a trade show is worth attending.

{Don Debelak’s new book, Turning Your Invention into Cash is now available on Amazon for $3.49. Go to Amazon.com and enter inventions Don Debelak to purchase. From the author of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Bringing Your Product to Market.}

  1. Ask you industry contacts, or any potential customers you may have talked to, which trade shows they attend regularly. If there are one or two shows everyone mentions, those are the shows you should investigate.
  2. If timing permits, try to attend a show a year before exhibiting. This is the best way to investigate a show, and it allows to talk to small companies exhibiting about their experiences. You will also be able to see exactly what type of an exhibit display you will need. You can also see how your competition exhibits its products. You will want your booth to be comparable, or better than your competition’s booths.
  3. See if the show is sponsored by a major trade magazine or industry association targeted at your key potential customers. These shows often have educational seminars related to the industry and they are typically the trade shows key buyers attend. Some shows are run by independent groups and my experience is they are not as worthwhile.
  4. Ask for a list of last year’s trade show exhibitors. Also ask for the floor plan from last year’s show. Most trade shows will give you this if you call up their sales departments. Look first, to see if all the main industry players exhibit at the show. Second look for names of smaller companies who have small booths. You’d like to see a variety of smaller companies exhibiting as they typically won’t exhibit if they don’t get a good return for their investment.
  5.  Call up some of the small exhibitors and ask for their Trade Show Manager, who usually will be the Sales Manager. Tell them you are considering exhibiting at this year’s show and ask them if they felt the trade show was a good investment for their company. After you receive some general feedback ask these questions.
  6. Were there many of their target buyers at the show?
  7. Did the show have good traffic?
  8. Was the company satisfied with the number of leads they received?
  9. Have they attended the show for more than one year, and will they go back next year?
  10. Was the company looking for sales representation, and if so, did they meet any potential reps?
  11. Was the meeting well-attended by industry press, and if it was, did the company receive any press coverage?
  12. Were there unexpected costs of the trade show, for example costs of setting up the booth, charges for bringing the booth into the hall, or electrical charges for plugging in equipment?
  13. Ask the trade show exhibitor sales persons if they have a new product showcase, which is typically less expensive, or do they have another exhibitor who might want to share a booth. Find out if you can bring in your own booth and set it up yourself, or if you need it to go through the drayage company. The drayage handles, for a price, handles the movement of your exhibit items between your carrier’s vehicle and your trade show booth space. Try to find options for keeping your expenses as low as possible.
  14. Consider the impact of the trade show on your budget.  You don’t want to spend your entire marketing budget on a trade show. Your costs include the exhibit, marketing materials, the space rental charges as well as travel and hotel expanses.  If the costs are too high at a national show, consider attending regional shows, hopefully in your geographic area.

The post How to Decide if a Trade show is Right for Your Product appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

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{Don Debelak’s new book, Turning Your Invention into Cash is now available on Amazon for $3.49. Go to Amazon.com and enter inventions Don Debelak to purchase. From the author of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Bringing Your Product to Market.}

  1. Look for a sounding board. Your goal in visiting an inventor’s club is to meet “soul mates, people who had been through what your are going through to bounce ideas off [them].” The spirit of camaraderie is strong in most inventors’ clubs, and that’s what keeps even experienced inventors coming back. To find an inventors’ club near you, visit the United Inventors of America Web site (www.uiausa.com) or Inventors’ Digest magazine online (www.inventorsdigest.com).
  2. Make contact. One of the most valuable assets of an inventors’ club is its membership list, and it pays to get to know the people on that list. Members of most clubs include industrial designers, marketers,
  1. prototype builders and patent attorneys.
  2. Present your ideas to the group for feedback and help. Inventor clubs typically give plenty of opportunities for inventors to throw out questions or problems to the group for input. Some groups hold question-and-answer sessions, while others organize round-table discussions on specific topics, such as marketing, manufacturing, patenting or licensing. Some clubs even let inventors make full presentations to the group and receive feedback.
  3. Get a variety of input. Inventors’ clubs tend to attract inventors who work at large corporations as well as those at small businesses. This variety in the membership allows an entrepreneur to gain many different perspectives–whether it’s regarding the resources available
  4. to inventors or advice on how ideas are sold to businesses. Inventors from large companies are also typically aware of all the latest technology available to help inventors.

Things To Keep in Mind

  1. All industries are different. This is especially true in terms of patent strategy. In some markets, companies won’t even talk to an inventor unless he or she has a patent, while other markets and industries will license and negotiate with inventors even if they lack a patent. It helps to talk to members of your inventors’ club who have experience in your industry.
  2. Don’t rely solely on the inventors’ club for contacts. For a better shot at success, you should also find at least one or two contacts outside the club who have recent experience in your particular industry.
  3. A second opinion can make all the difference. New inventors frequently expect success to come right away, so when they run into obstacles, many end up giving up far too easily. Before ditching your idea, visit an inventors’ club and explain your situation. You may discover that you’re doing just fine and that all you need is a little more perseverance.
  4. Everybody needs help. A successful invention requires someone to create it, design its look and its function, write a patent, make a
  5. prototype, design the packaging, create a marketing strategy and eventually manufacture the product. Since few people possess all these skills, inventors don’t always get the results they want when they try to do everything themselves. Now’s a good time to admit that you could benefit from some help.
  6. There is always a less expensive way. Inventors often have trouble keeping to a budget, mostly because they don’t know how to cut costs at each step. Inventors’ clubs will teach members how to keep prices down in every phase of a product introduction.
  7. down in every phase of a product introduction.
  8. Your creativity always needs nurturing. When you join an inventors’ club, you’ll get to see innovations from fellow inventors and hear a group of talented people offer their suggestions on how to solve a vast array of problems. Spending time with other bright minds will surely inspire you to think more creatively.
  9. Inventors’ clubs are fun. Really. Most clubs hold contests, feature fascinating guest speakers, have plenty of interesting inventors as members and, most of all, spark great conversations.

To find an inventors club in your area go to https://www.uspto.gov/custom-page/inventor-organizations

The post Reasons to Join an Inventors Club appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

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{Don Debelak’s new book, Turning Your Invention into Cash is now available on Amazon for $3.49. Go to Amazon.com and enter inventions Don Debelak to purchase. From the author of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Bringing Your Product to Market.}

Recently I discussed 10 points to consider in a preliminary product evaluation and how to determine if you should move ahead.  This newsletter discusses how to evaluate a product idea after it is developed further to see if you should keep spending money through the final product design and then product introduction. 

When you start out with an idea you have a vision of what the product will be like.  After working on the idea for a while, the product starts taking shape and you have something people can react to that will indicate how the product will sell. You are entering a phase where you may be spending a lot of money, and may need to get investment partners.   So you need to take a deep breath and revaluate where you stand.  Inventors tend to move forward with lots of enthusiasm at this point. But that can be a big mistake as now is your last stopping point before a major investment.

This newsletter will have a summary of the five points, the next five newsletters  will cover each of the five points in more depth.

  1. How effective are your patent claims? Many, many times inventor’s patent claims are scaled back by the patent office and they end up not being significant.  The way to judge a patent claim is how many qualifiers or steps there are.  When the first claim (the most important claim) has four or five points, a competitor only needs to only be different in only point to not violate the patent.      
  2. Does the product have good value when compared to competitive products? People are solving the problem your product addresses in some other way.  If your product costs the same as other solutions, but does a much better job, then you are providing value.  IF it costs less that is even better.  But your product can cost more, the iPhone is certainly more expensive than other products, but then it has to be worth the extra costs.  You can often see if customers see that your product offers value by showing your product, even if it’s just a brochure, versus other products and then simply ask people to rate the products based on which one they feel has the highest value.
  3. Can you make the product for 20 to 25% of the expected retail price? Retailers typical mark a product up 50% so that means your wholesale price is 50% of the retail price.  My experience is that it is difficult to make money if you can’t sell your product at wholesale at a price twice as high as your manufacturing costs.  If you sell direct the same 25% rule applies as you will have much higher sales and marketing costs to bring your product to market. Many inventors ignore this rule, but it is not a good idea as they ending up spending lots of time, money and energy without making any money.
  4. Can you afford to manufacture the product with “world class” fit and finish? This is one area where the invention world has changed dramatically over the years.  In the past inventors could get by with a more handmade or rustic look.  Not anymore.  You will find  that people simply won’t buy a product that looks like it was made in a blacksmith shop.  But getting the professional look can call for large tooling expenses or other expensive equipment and it might be more money that you can afford. I found that often SCORE  (www.score.org) Service Corps of Retired Executives frequently has manufacturing experts on their staff that can help you if you don’t understand how to find the right manufacturer. Their services are free, and while they won’t do the work for you they are very useful mentors.
  5. Do you have an effective marketing and packaging strategy?  New inventors almost always totally ignore packaging and marketing till they have spent a ton of money getting ready to manufacturer without ever considering how to package and market the product, including what type of distribution to use.  Selling the product is very difficult, and it is an area where inventors run into stiff resistance.  When you approach a prototype company to sell your product, of course they will help you out, you are paying them.  The same principle applies to manufactures and anyone else you pay.  But in marketing and distribution, you are asking people to invest their own money and resources in your product, and they won’t do it unless they believe the product will sell.  I fell you iron out your sales and distribution plan before spending money on your product, and have a clear idea how you will sell your product and who you will approach to sell your product.  Without effective marketing, all the other money you spend will be wasted.

The post Is Your Product Ready to Introduce – Key Evaluation Points appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

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Look at Your Patent Strategy

May 27, 2019 by Don Debelak (

How to Cut Patent Costs

{Don Debelak’s new book, Turning Your Invention into Cash is now available on Amazon for $3.49. Go to Amazon.com and enter inventions Don Debelak to purchase. From the author of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Bringing Your Product to Market.}

By Don Debelak

January 18, 2016

Patent costs for a utility patent can range from the $3,000 range up to $25,000. Before moving forward you want to understand some basic concepts that can cut your patent costs significantly.

  1. Micro entity fees
  2. Patent Agent versus Patent Attorney
  3. Understand when a patent offers broad protection
  4. Matching your patent effort to your approach to the market
  5. Take Steps that can cut your costs.

The more you do on you on your own to get prepared for your visit to the patent agent or patent attorney will not only cut your costs but your efforts will probably improve your patent.

  1. Micro Entity Fees

Patents fees have three categories, normal fees, small entity fees which are 50% of the normal fee, and microentity fees which are 25% of the normal fees.

To qualify as a micro entity, an applicant must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Qualify as a USPTO-defined small entity.
  • Not be named on more than four previously filed applications.*
  • Not have a gross income more than three times the median household income in the previous year from when the fee(s) is paid. For 2011, the most recent year that data is available, the median income was $50,054.
  • Not be under an obligation to assign, grant, or convey a license or other ownership to another

These are significant savings you can’t afford to pass up.

2. Use a patent agent versus a patent attorney

From the USPTOO web site:  http://www.uspto.gov/inventors/independent/eye/201101/advicepracticioner.jsp

A patent attorney has a law degree, can prosecute applications before the USPTO, and can represent you in patent litigation or infringement cases. A patent agent can prosecute applications before the USPTO, but not in a court of law. To be a registered patent attorney or agent, one must pass an exam administered by the USPTO. A roster of all registered patent attorneys and agents that is searchable by name or geographic location is available on the USPTO’s website. Because patent agents are not attorneys and specialize only in applying for patents they they to be considerably less expensive than patent attorneys

3. Understand when a patent offers broad protection

Patents that are restrictive and use closed ended phrases such as consisting of are patents where only the very specific design of the patent are covered are generally considered not as valuable because people who make small changes to the design may be able to potentially patent their idea and compete with you with a patent, or they will just be able to compete with you without a patent.

Open ended patents typically use phrases such as comprising, which in patent terms means it covers not only the items specifically covered, but other similar items.  You want to look at the terms in competitive patents to see if they are open ended or closed ended and then discuss with your patent agent or attorney on what that means for your patent opportunity.  Also ask your patent provider if he/she feels they will be able to use open ended or close ended language in your patent.

You must then decide if that patent you can get will have coverage that to you justifies its costs.  You must be in a position to make this evaluation in order to make an intelligent on whether or not to proceed

4. Matching your patent effort to your approach to the market

Certain approaches to commercializing, such as licensing your idea require a patent.  For others like a private label approach or a joint venture approach don’t require a patent but a patent can assist the process.  Taking a product to the market on your own doesn’t require a patent, but it can help you protect your idea if you are successful.

Look at the approach you are taking and then decide on whether or not you need a patent but by looking at the scope of your patent and your approach to the market.

5.  Some Steps You Can Take before Talking to a Patent Agent of Attorney to Cut Patent Costs

  •  Do a patent search on your own or through a professional patent search and get a list of competitive patents.  Go through each patent and clearly describe how your invention is better,
  • Prepare a background section on your patent, which includes how the product is used, why it is used, what are issues involved with the product and its application, how other patents have addressed this issue, the problems with the other approaches and why your approach to resolving the issue is best.  You will pay a patent agent from $100.00 to $200.00 per hour, and a patent attorney much more, so you can cut down the patent preparation time by doing this first yourself.  This section is very helpful in preparing a final patent and improves your patent.
  • Do some drawings yourself, they don’t have to be perfect, but if you label each component in the drawing it will help cut the time required for patent drawings.
  • Do a sequence of operation for your idea, exactly how it works, and then you want to list clearly which part of the sequence of operation is your new invention and which steps are from the traditional product that you are improving.

Don Debelak offers affordable patent work. Check out http://patentsbydondebelak.com/

The post Keeping Patent Costs Low appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

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The Road to Becoming a Target Vendor

Mike Eaton of Hero Clean, Inc. has branded his product line with the tag line Cleaning Products Made for Men.  Starting in August 2015 Hero Clean’s product line was on the endcaps of 16 Target stores in California and soon he will be going into select stores on Long Island.  Eaton took three and a half years to go from conceiving his idea to getting onto Target shelves, and the journey was more complicated than he expected but there a lessons to be learned in the story that I believe will benefit every inventor.

{Don Debelak’s new book, Turning Your Invention into Cash is now available on Amazon for $3.49. Go to Amazon.com and enter inventions Don Debelak to purchase. From the author of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Bringing Your Product to Market.}

Inspiration

Eaton’s story started out when he would open laundry detergents to see just what detergents had the least offensive odors. He couldn’t take the heavy fragrances of many of the brands, and the cover-up fragrance idea really wasn’t what he was looking for.  Eaton came to the inspiration that every cleaning in the store was made for women, fragrances were added for women, and that there weren’t products geared for men.  A little checking on the Internet and Eaton found some pretty powerful statistics, 47% of US adult men (18 and over) are single.  The average age of a male getting married today is 29, and still 47 % of first marriages fail and 42 % of second marriages fail.  The result is that 42-43% of purchases made by men.  Eaton figures that 70 to 100 million men are buying cleaning products.

Eaton study men habits and needs for cleaning products. One aspect was to look into cleaning products that better fit men’s sweat pH and bacteria that are more associated with men than women.  The other aspect was the number and type of cleaning products men prefer.  He found men like easy to use products, and all-purpose products that can do many tasks.  From his evaluations, Eaton determined he needed different

Lesson 1.  Have a clearly define target market that comes complete with an interesting story.

Defining the Product

Eaton study men habits and needs for cleaning products. One aspect was to look into cleaning products that better fit men’s sweat pH and bacteria that are more associated with men than women.  Men also need stronger surfactants (the chemical group that gets out stains and perspiration in clothing, and loosens food from dishes) and longer lasting much milder smelling fragrances (to deal with lingering bacteria odor without an overpowering scent). The other aspect Eaton considered was the number and type of cleaning products men prefer.  He found men like easy to use products, and all-purpose products that can do many tasks.  From his evaluations, Eaton determined men needed four different products:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Dish soap
  • All-purpose spray cleaner
  • Odor eliminator

Lesson 2.  Understand your target customer needs

Creating the Product

Eaton identified a great market but the question is how to develop the product.  The answer for Eaton was not to try and do everything himself, but rather to turn first to the suppliers, in case the ingredients industry

Manufacturers in the ingredients industry are always working to trying to get more business.  They do this by developing new formulations, including their products of course, that address some of the market issues their customers face.  Eaton was able to get ingredients companies to supply him with new formulations that he was able to evaluate. Since Eaton is a marketing person, specializing in brand building, he wasn’t comfortable dealing with all the technical aspects of the proposed brand so he hired a chemist familiar with the cleaning industry to help in the final formulation.

Many of the major ingredient customers weren’t willing to help out as they didn’t see Eaton as major customer.  Eaton had to find smaller companies.  Trade shows were a tool Eaton use to find those smaller companies.  The show he attended that were most helpful were International Cleaning Experts EXPO, https://iceexpo.org and the ACI (American Cleaning Institute) show, www.cleaninginstitute.org/about/aci_convention.aspx where ingredients companies exhibited.

Lesson 3.  Take advantage of the supply network for product design, concentrate on smaller companies who are more likely to help a new inventor-led company.

Testing

Eaton’s used a rather large network of single friends to do performance testing.  He gave them samples and told them to go to town on seeing if the product worked.  These tests went well. This was not unexpected though as Eaton’s earlier work with ingredients manufacturers allowed him to use formulations where there was a substantial body of data indicating the formulations would be effective.

Eaton’s products used different formulation and the cleaning chemicals can react in unexpected ways over time.  Eaton needed to tests the shelf life of the product to ensure he had a long shelf life.  Big retailers like Target also require cleaning vendors to be Wercs Smart Vendor https://secure.supplierwercs.com/ which is an organization that helps retailer participants select quality products with chemical formulations. Eaton wasn’t really in a position to do this testing on his own.  Instead he used testing capabilities as one of is criteria in selecting a contract manufacturer.  Rather than doing the testing on his own, the contract manufacturer did most of the testing.  This testing revealed that Eaton’s laundry soap had some issues which caused the product to be reformulated which caused about a one year delay in the market.

For detailed, updated and comprehensive information  on the best cleaning products for every situation  check out this completely free, more than 10,000 words and article packed with practical tips and advice. You can find it here: https://www.jenreviews.com/best-cleaning-products/

Lesson 4.  Don’t try to do technical steps on your own.  Use vendor support.

Financing the Development Phase

Eaton’s path seemed fairly straightforward. But there was a catch –money.  To the ingredient supplies and the contract manufacturers Eaton’s venture was a long shot.  And even if he was successful, it might take him two years or more to introduce his product.  In fact it took Eaton three and half years to land on Target’s shelves.  So suppliers weren’t willing to fund Eaton’s efforts, and he had to pay for everything.  Sometimes felt that the suppliers were trying to make all their money off of him in the development phase.  The result was that Eaton had to invest to get through this development phase.

Inventors do have options with companies which Eaton didn’t pursue.  They could offer royalties to the suppliers to cover expenses, or offer a share of the company to the suppliers in return for their financial support.  These tactics work only if an inventor can make a strong case that their product could succeed. In Eaton’s case, he was pioneering a new product category and that is an inventor’s hardest sell.  Vendors and possible investors tend to be conservative and supporting a new product category is a risky venture.

Lesson 5.  Expect companies to charge you for their support.

Eaton is a marketing professional who had branded his product into concept, Hero Clean, Cleaning Products Made for Men.  He knew that he did not want to just go into and talk to buyers.  He had a concept for a market and he wanted to go to an executive who was involved in merchandising cleaning products.  In a retail organization merchandising managers are responsible for the entire selection of products available, and or how those products are grouped together, or differentiate to appeal to customers.  This is a much function than buyers who are selecting existing product lines and working with vendors of issues such as packaging, price and quality.

Eaton had done a lot of work with sponsorship of events before starting Hero Clean and one of his contacts knew a sponsorship at Target.  That Target contact gave Eaton the name of the Director of Merchandising for Cleaning Products at Target.  Eaton talked to him on the phone and the response was immediate and positive.  It turns out that Target studies had shown that there were a tremendous number of men walking through their store alone or with other men.  Target wanted to do things to entice these men to buy more products.  Hero Clean and Target it turned out was match. Definitely a concept that Target wanted to try out.  Phase one of the sale was made.

Lesson 6.  A big message is what gets in front of someone who can push your product through.

Sales Details Take Time and Effort

Target of course like all big retailers is conservative about what products they put in their stores.  They worry about quality, the vendor’s ability to deliver and support returns, and just how well the product is received.  Target’s starting point is on-line sales. But to even do that the starting point is the vendor site on Target.com.  Vendor’s need to post a tremendous amount of information before getting started regarding specifications, packaging requirements, and details on steps vendors need to take to receive approval for product changes. This information is not shared with customers, but is required before you go on line. The site also requires a vendor to agree to Target policies such as payment terms and returns.  This process took several months. Target, as well as all other big retailers, will return products to you for the smallest deviation in a product or package from the agreed upon specifications.

Lesson 7.  You need all you details lined up with the retailers requirements before you’ll make sale one.

Market Testing

The first test was Target.com where the Hero Clean line did well.  But Target.com was also the testing ground for invoicing, Target and most other retailers have EDI requirements. EDI  is electronic data exchange where retailers send orders to vendors and receive invoices back. Retailers also use EDI for other communication.  www.edibasics.com/edi-by-industry/the-retail-industry.  EDI is tough for an inventor to do on their own, but there are many EDI contract services you can use.  Selling on Target.com allows Target to run orders through you, receive invoices and generally ensure that a company is ready to sell to Target stores.

Putting Hero Clean on the endcaps of 16 Target stores in Southern California in August 2015 was step two in market testing.  Now in the summer of 2016 Target is expanding the test to additional stores in Long Island.

Lesson 8.  Expect major retailers to test new concepts carefully before making a major commitment.

Expanding Sales to New Retailers

Eaton reports that other retailers including Fleet and Farm type retailers, as well as Lowes, Home Depot and Wegman are talking to him now based on his success at Target. He hopes to launch sales and some of these stores by the end of 2016.

Lesson 9.  Success leads to additional success.  Momentum counts.

Inventor Focus Groups

Eaton sent his product out to friends for a performance evaluation.  He also had feedback from friends that he had a good idea.  But what can you if you want a more thorough evaluation.  “How do I evaluate my product” is probably most common question inventors email me.

This task is more difficult as Inventors don’t usually have big ad and promotion budgets so they need to have their products succeed either because they have unique and highly desired features, or they have better perceived value.  I have found inventors can easily discover how their product relates to other products with some simple focus group testing among friends or acquaintances. No inventor should overlook this step as it could cost them a lot of money if it their product is considered too expensive for what it does.

Steps to Running an Informal Focus Group

  1. Friends and acquaintances are OK as long as they are potential users of the product. You can have anywhere from three to 10 people.
  2. Have people sign a non-disclosure form, it shows you are protecting your idea. You can go to the web site http://www.biztree.com/non-disclosure-agreement?ppc=1&gclid=CPaJ-8iPl7MCFYpFMgodk3UABA for a variety of non-disclosure forms you can choose from. (Cama – you may have a non-disclosure form on your web site.  If you do, substitute your web site for this one.)
  3. Select five to eight products for people to evaluate. You don’t need products that accomplish the same goal, but do include products just from the same industry. If you have a kitchen product, you should have some kitchen products that do other jobs. All the products should be in a price range of 50% to 150% of what you feel is your targeted retail price. For example if you are targeting a price of $10.00, try to have products that vary from $5.00 to $15.00 in value.
  4. Decide how you want to present your product–a “looks like works like” prototype is best, but other options include drawings, rough prototypes or sales flyers. If you have a sales flyer, either obtain flyers for the other products or print out one of their web pages.
  5. Have people first rate all the products by how likely they are to buy the product. You want to see that your product is at least in the top 50% of how likely people are to buy a product. After the vote, ask people why they gave the products the rankings they did. Often people’s comments will give you a better understanding of how people view this category of products, which will help you in your product’s final design and also in your future marketing efforts.
  6. Next have people rank the products by value, with the product they feel is highest value first, and the lowest value last. This helps you determine how consumers value your product. Since you will know the price of the product just above your product and just below, you get an idea of what price your product should have. Again ask participants why they ranked the products as they did to get a better idea of how consumers think.

Most inventors are disappointed if their product isn’t the hands down rankings winner both in value and desirability. But it is not necessary to be first, only in the top half. Remember you are competing with products that already have had market success, and in many cases, products your focus group members were already aware of. A successful product doesn’t need to be better than every other product on the market, just some of them. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore comments or rankings by participants that are negative towards your product. Instead look at those comments as an opportunity to improve your product so it can be a true market winner.

Don Debelak offers affordable patent work. Check out http://patentsbydondebelak.com/

The post Become a Target Vendor appeared first on One Stop Invention Shop.

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Finding Contract Manufacturers

{Don Debelak’s new book, Turning Your Invention into Cash is now available on Amazon for $3.49. Go to Amazon.com and enter inventions Don Debelak to purchase. From the author of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Bringing Your Product to Market.}

A Top Source for Design Help, Contract Manufactures

Inventors frequently need an engineer, designer or prototype builder.  Rather than struggling through Thomas Register or state industrial directories consider checking out a web site http://thejobshopcompany.com/ home of the job shop company.  They have six divisions including:
Design-2-Part shows, Design-2-Part Magazine, Supplier Directory, Job Shop.com and Job Shop Web Design.

The design-2-Part shows are small shows that are arranged around the country.  No matter what you are doing for design, prototypes or manufacturing, I recommend you attend a local show. You can meet people and get new ideas about how to produce your product and how you might be able to solve design issue or simplify production.

Another options I recommend you pursue is attending the meetings of your local invention club, which you can locate on https://www.uspto.gov/custom-page/inventor-organizations, or at http://www.uiausa.org/inventorclubs.  These meeting often have great guest speakers, I speak at them occasionally, but more important you can meet people who have experience with prototypes, design and manufacturing. 

You might also want to start a subscription to Inventor’s Digest (where I write occasional articles mostly on marketing issues.)  They frequently have information on design and manufacturing of your inventions.  https://www.inventorsdigest.com

Remember to be careful  when you talk to people prior to having a patent.  You might want to consider having the contact sign a confidential agreement.  http://onestopinventionshop.net/blog/2017/02/3126. Some people won’t sign it, then you need to consider how much you trust the individual.

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