In part 1 of our series on vetting an idea for marketability, LapWorks owner Jose Calero discussed his background an an entrepreneur and laid the groundwork for the first set of his 8 steps. Today, we start with the first four!
Step #1 – STAY CALM AND THINK CLEARLY. The next time a great product idea pops into your head, the first thing to do is stop! Calm down, take a deep breath and try to remove the emotion from your thinking. Emotions cloud our thinking and prevent us, even the smartest of us, from thinking rationally. So settle down and look at the opportunity in a cold and calculating way. Remember, stay emotionally distant or divested from the new idea.
Step #2 – DON’T USE AN INVENTOR’S SERVICE. Almost all of the tragic stories I hear revolve around those people who used an Inventor’s Service. Don’t use an inventor’s service – they’re all the same and out for one thing only . . . your money. Their fees are outrageous and they exist like vultures looking for those who are weak and helpless. Don’t trust them, don’t engage them, don’t give them an opportunity to get in. They’ll rip you off the very first chance they get and the longer you stay involved with them the more they’ll take from you.
Step #3 – WHO IS YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER? Before you invest any money or make any prototypes you have to first determine who your customer is. Don’t try to figure out how often they will buy or reorder your product. Just try to get as firm a number as possible through this research step. This will give you an idea of the size of your market. For example, we make accessory products for the laptop computer market. So who is my target market? Folks who use notebooks computers. We know from various sources there are over 125,000,000 notebooks in use in the world with 60% of them located in the U.S. alone. We know that last year the industry shipped over 70,000,000 notebooks worldwide. (Unfortunately we don’t know how many of those units are for new users vs. replacement units.) The information is out there – you just need to find it.
Step #4 – MAKE A PROTOTYPE. Once you identify your target market, you need a prototype in order to show it to your target audience. If it is a service business, make a Power Point presentation to explain it. If it’s a product, make an inexpensive prototype - and the emphasis in on “inexpensive”. When I made my first prototype of a Laptop Desk, I made it out of 12” x 12” x 1/8” aluminum sheets that I cut to shape with a jig saw. Then I added a hinge and covered it with that no-slip gritty material with adhesive on one side and voila! Instant and inexpensive prototype. Obviously not all products are as simple as a Laptop Desk so if your invention is a lot more complicated, then produce some engineered drawings of the product in order to show that it will work.
Come back soon for the next set of tips on becoming an entrepreneur from Jose!