I've been inventing nearly all my life, although I've never really thought of myself as an inventor. (And still don't.) That's because my first inventions were out born out of necessity. They were really products more than inventions, which has always had a different meaning to me. After studying art, I was dubious about my ability to get a job, and I needed to support myself. I liked working with my hands. So when I met a friend who liked to sew imaginative creations, I was inspired to design my own -- first for fun, shortly thereafter, for profit. I learned I needed to be able to pivot. When one of my designs didn't sell, I came up with another. I needed to pay rent. I took note of what was popular and got better at designing marketable creations. I've invented different products since then, also businesses. And what I want to tell inventors is this: You're not really in the game until you start testing the market. If you want to license an idea, you need to start contacting potential licensees to show them your sell sheet.

It's unfortunate that this step seems to hold so many inventors up! I meet the smartest people, the most talented people, who are just hesitant. They're not ready. I think they are, though. But for whatever reason, they're unwilling. But the truth is, at some point, it becomes essential you get feedback. You shouldn't go forward without it. And I'd argue that point is a lot sooner than many people want it to be, or are ready for it to be. I wish that weren't the case, because there's no reason to be fearful. This is why: When you ask a company to check out your sell sheet, you're opening a door. You're merely starting a conversation. Think of yourself as a deliveryman. You're delivering a desirable package. Because when you create effective marketing materials, they do the selling for you. Killer copy and visuals -- those can very successfully express benefits. And benefits are what sell ideas. Not prototypes. Definitely not patents. Benefits capture imaginations.

So, really, if I could ask aspiring developers to do something, it's this. Get started! Make those calls. Fill out those online submission forms. Start getting in touch. Start having that conversation. You shouldn't guess what the market wants, and you don't need to. Let it tell you. The key word there is let. Receiving feedback about your invention from potential licensees is a great way of testing the market. You really become a product developer when you start doing that. You will discover you can do this, that companies will want to talk to you when you act like a professional, when you follow up. It's not a difficult conversation to have! Who doesn't like to be brought an opportunity? It's all about the message.

Take a deep breath. It's time. Every day I hear from inventors who have taken the plunge and are elated to be conversing with innovative companies.

Published on: Jan 29, 2016
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