There are many ways to introduce a new product to the market, but if you don't have the experience, budget, tools or name recognition to get your invention on the shelves and into the hands of consumers, then you may find it easier to sell your idea to an existing company instead.
There are a lot of pitfalls to this approach. You may have a hard time getting an appointment with the right people, you may be concerned that they will steal your idea without compensation and even if you have the opportunity to give your new product idea presentation, you'll have to battle your own insecurities and gain the courage to confidently and competently demonstrate your idea. That's why it pays to research the process and be prepared for everything to come.
Protect Your Product With a Patent
Many people assume the first step of presenting an idea to a company is to get a foot in the door with an executive, but before you do anything else, you should get some legal protections in place. It's advisable to get in touch with a patent lawyer who can advise you on whether or not your product is patentable and if it is, how to patent the idea.
In order to obtain a patent, your idea must be fully developed, which doesn't always require a prototype although a prototype can help speed up the process by proving the idea is fully developed. It is generally advisable to develop a prototype even if it is just a handmade mockup because this can not only help you obtain a patent but also aid in product presentations.
A patent shows that you have a unique product that is fully developed, which can help ensure that a company will take you seriously. More importantly, a patent will protect your idea because it means that you can sue anyone who steals your invention. If you attempt to obtain a patent, it can be beneficial to wait until the United States Patent and Trademark Office has approved your application, which can take a year or more, but even having a patent pending for your product can reduce the likelihood that someone will steal your idea.
Using Legal Documents for Your Protection
If your idea is not original enough or not fully developed enough to obtain a patent, though, there are still things you can do to protect yourself. A lawyer can and should help you with this.
A confidentiality agreement and nondisclosure agreement can help protect you from a company taking your idea by allowing you to take legal action against anyone who tries to steal your idea. Some of these contracts actually specify exact monetary penalties a company may face if it steals your idea, but it's worth knowing that many businesses will refuse to sign such documents before viewing a product idea presentation.
This isn't necessarily because they hope to steal your idea but instead because there is always a chance that they may have already had their own design or engineering team come up with a similar idea, and they do not want to risk legal action related to creative similarities.
Prepare Your New Product Idea Presentation
While it can help to tweak your presentation based on to whom you are pitching your idea, you should always prepare a basic presentation ahead of time so you can be ready when you get a chance to present the product to a company.
This is particularly important because while some pitch meetings may be scheduled weeks or months in advance, you may be given a last-minute chance to demonstrate an idea, and you don't want to scramble to come up with creative ways to present a presentation of your idea. New inventors can get a lot of ideas and inspiration by watching Shark Tank or similar programs, but it's important to remember not to copy any product presentation example exactly but instead to analyze what works and what doesn't.
Aside from coming up with a prototype, you should also do other legwork to prepare your presentation. If you can't create a prototype, you should have many drawings and documents detailing how your idea works. You may also wish to conduct surveys of your target audience to prove that your product is an improvement over other products available on the market. It can also help to learn more about the manufacturing process and learn exactly what the company will need to do to make your idea a reality.
Prepare a Sell Sheet
Come up with an elevator pitch that describes in only a few sentences exactly what your product is and how it differs from other designs on the market. This information can then be used to put together a one-page or two-page sell sheet that says:
- What problem, challenge or need the product meets
- The features and benefits of the product
- The target market
- If you have any pending patents, copyrights or trademarks
Get Ready to Make Contact
Now that you're ready to present your idea to companies, you need to find companies to which you can present your idea. To start off, create a list of as many companies as possible that may be interested in your idea. If you can only come up with a handful of relevant companies, think outside the box and consider businesses that might only be peripherally related.
For example, if you're selling a board game, go beyond board game makers and consider book publishers or toy makers. Once you have a list of companies, short list the top five companies to which you'd like to reach out and research the contact information for these companies.
Next, create an introductory letter to include in an email with your sell sheet and create a phone script. Be sure to practice your phone script until you have it memorized before calling so you don't stumble over your words. Try to impart the fact that your idea could help the company rather than suggesting that the company can help you. For example, when you call, rather than asking "Is your company open to new product ideas?" try saying, "I have a product idea that needs to be submitted for your consideration."
Build Your Confidence
You might start with companies where you have an in, even if it's a friend's cousin or someone on LinkedIn. That's not only because people with even some distant connection to you might be more open to your pitch but also because you'll likely feel more confident pitching to someone who is not a total and complete stranger.
It's important to remember that the success of your introductory phone call and your product presentation is only partially based on your idea and presentation materials. It's also largely based on your confidence and charisma. If you're nervous and uncomfortable, you'll have a much harder time convincing someone that your idea is worth investment.
If you absolutely can't get past your anxieties when it comes to pitching your product, consider bringing in a family member or friend to do the speaking for you. Just remember that if your product pitch is successful, that person will probably expect a cut of the profits too.
- Wall Street Journal How-To Guides: How to Protect Your Product or Idea When Pitching It to a Company
- Inc.: How to Get in to Any Company to Pitch Your New Product Idea For Licensing Consideration
- UpCounsel: How to Sell an Idea to a Company: Everything You Need to Know
- Business News Daily: How to Turn Your Idea Into a Product (and Launch It!)
- UpCounsel: How to Get a Patent: Everything You Need to Know
- UpCounsel: Provisional Patent Application: Everything You Need to Know