Bringing an idea to market or going through the process of bringing a product to market isn’t easy, in fact it can be downright hard, especially if the product you’re bringing to market needs to be imported into the United States. That said, successful factories and retail vendors who constantly innovate and introduce their products into the retail channel can be a very lucrative business. Retail customers have high demand for product innovation, such as arts & crafts, furniture, home décor and even DIY hardware items, etc. These retail categories represent a significant market opportunity for savvy factory owners and existing retail vendors of record.
If you are interested in how to get a product to market—whether you are based in the United States or not—you will need to do your research regarding both the country of export and the country of import.
In this article you will learn how to turn an idea into a product, how to get an invention started, and how to bring a product to market in the very difficult retail industry.
Everything starts from an idea. However, having a good idea is not enough for product invention in the retail industry. Strategies of how to turn an idea into a product which can be profitable, and how to bring a product to market are the major concerns for product developers. It may not be difficult for a product developer to have an idea for a new product by observation and research, and it is quite an instinct to think of a solution addressing a pain point. The question is usually whether consumers are willing to spend money on the solution in order to solve the problem. This is why you need to be skillful in how to bring a product to market. We have seen plenty of product launch failures, such as Google Glass from a few of years ago, which proves bringing an idea to market can be more difficult than it seems even for a first-of-its-kind product. What we should take from these failures is that we have to care about more than just how to get an invention started. How to bring an invention to market is also a key for a successful product launch. Here comes a quick guide for product developers to walk through when you are developing a plan on how to invent a product and bring it to market.
Spot the common problem
Through day-to-day observations, you may spot problems that have not existed before or haven’t been solved. Make sure your solution is to take out a common problem, which is the first step of how to turn an idea to a product. Especially for a retailer, knowing how to bring an invention to market is essential but very tricky, given there are a lot of existing products and solutions in the market. It is not enough for you to think your idea is great. You need to relate your idea with a huge audience base to successfully get an invention to market.
In this modern era with advancing technologies and innovation, our way of living has been changing constantly. So, as a product inventor, spotting the latest common pain points is a regularly repeated task, or it should be embedded in your daily life (if it is not already) to keep your ideas floating around, and this is usually how to get an invention started.
Learn from competitors
Always remind yourself that the competition has never stopped or given up. Understanding your market well and focusing on how to bring a product to market should always be on the top of your list for product invention. Your idea may seem to be innovative and unprecedented for you and your team but be sure to look around at what is currently available in the market. In a saturated retail market in the US, it is very hard to have a brand new product invention. Very rarely you can be a solo pioneer entering a territory where no one has been before, so it is important to study what is already in the market. This step is helpful for your invention to go through the product to market process smoothly, ensuring your product is on demand, not just a replica, and helps you to decide which angle to take to define the competitive edge of your product.
Apart from identifying what sort of products are already in the market that share your ideas, you should be taking notes of how they present their idea to the market, including which sales channels they use, how they market the product, what is the pricing model and other information which could later help you plan how to get a product to market. Conducting preliminary research gives you a better concept of whether your idea is on demand and allows you to envision what kind of competition you will face when you are bringing a product to market.
Talk to people
Once you have an idea to invent, make sure your plan reflects its feasibility and profitability. To understand how your plan sounds, test your ideas on the demographics which you think is your potential target audience. At this stage, you might not be able to have the best presentation to pitch your ideas, because it’s still too early to decide the details of how to get an invention started. But simply illustrating your ideas with graphics and text could be a good way for your audience to understand your ideas and invention. In the conversation, you opt to confirm if your ideas are addressing a common pain point, and get comments and feedback on your ideas. The comments would then help you to build confidence in walking through later stages in the product to market process, and define your potential customers.
You can also consult a business professional who will be able to give you advice on how to get a product to market, and better structuring your invention plan and further development. Business consultants usually have huge networks which can line you up with the subject-matter experts and share with you their invaluable experience and knowledge. Since profit making is one of the very important elements in retail product development, it is always a good idea to ask for advice from a business perspective and keep shaping tactics for how to bring a product to market.
Define your customers
Even though you think your invention is going to interest many people, if not everyone, you should still define a group of people who are more likely to learn more about your product and spend money on it. Knowing your customers helps you strategically plan on how to get a product to market without taking too many detours. That said, you will be wasting resources on marketing if you fail to understand your best audience and sell your product to an indifferent group of people. At an early stage, you can consider demographic information such as age, gender, location and occupation, and later you may dive deeper to their behavioral information like their reading habits and how much time they spend on the internet daily. It is notable that conducting demographic research can be rather time consuming, but at the end you will find it is worth it because it can guide you through on how to invent a product and bring it to market.
This is also a chance for you to refine your product to market process. Gathering ideas from the potential audience could vet your initial ideas and give you direction on how to bring a product to market efficiently. You will find answers to questions like:
How to package it?
How much to sell it for?
Where to sell it?
What should it be named?
Document your findings
After doing quite a lot of work behind the scenes, you should have not only a plan on how to get an invention started, but also a concept of the product to market process, i.e. how to invent a product and bring it to the market. With all the findings and results supporting your plan on how to turn an idea into a product, you will be collating all the parts into a business plan with the below components:
Company and team information
Product or service
Documenting a business plan does not just simply tell how you get a product to market, it also helps you to pull together your thoughts and ideas on execution, and projection of the product development in a short term of three or five years. Being organized in business is crucial. Not only does it help you and your team to have better pipelines to follow, but it is a vital element for you to get your audience and investors to be convinced by your ideas and plans. This is to gain trust from investors and resources for bringing a product to market.
Bridge the gap from idea to market
Usually, the market needs some time to learn and digest after a new product is launched. After you have done some work on knowing your audience better, now it is the time to communicate with them. You will be making a marketing plan on how to get an invention to market and tell them they need your product. There are a lot of ways to reach out to your audience, including physically going to the marketplace to demonstrate your product, and putting a demonstration video on social media. The point here is to put educating your audience on the agenda, because sometimes the product team knows so much about the product they produce, they forget there is a knowledge gap between the audience and themselves. Do make sure you are creating marketing content that is able to present your idea to the market in an understandable way, and is powerful enough to trigger the buying needs. Identifying the knowledge gap would also contribute to ideas for further research and development of the product.
Make a prototype and patent your product
You might wonder if it is a little late to start making a prototype after doing all the research work and plans. Indeed, figuring out how to bring a product to market before creating a prototype is a good practice. It saves you a lot of resources — waiting time, refinement work and money — with your very detailed evidence and background knowledge of the market. We totally get the excitement in the process of how to turn an idea into a product, but the last thing you want to see is knowing your product is not able to find a place in the market, which can easily happen if you have not sorted out how to bring a product to market.
Do not forget, protecting your idea is very important once the invention process starts, even though you may not be so sure at the start if your invention is a good one. Filling out a provisional patent application (PPA) is crucial during the process of bringing a product to market. Compared with a non-provisional patent, the provisional patent gives you equal protection with a lower cost at $100. It takes you less resources to go through the application process and allows you to focus your time on how to bring an invention to market without worrying about your product idea being stolen. It also gives you room to improve your design or simply call it off if the prototype is not generating the interest as expected. You will have 12 months to decide if the prototype is worth applying for with non-provisional patent, which requires a huge amount of paperwork and a processing fee. Unless you have reasons to get a full patent immediately, a provisional patent actually allows you to test the water by selling your product in the real market under protection and have final touch-ups on your product before it is officially launched.
Plan for the future and start it over
Once you start getting the product to market process up and running, you will be thinking of its future. There are few routes you can go down, depending on how much involvement and responsibility you would like to take on in its future development. If you would like to hand off completely and jump on to another invention adventure immediately, licensing your product to a company could give you a chance to take your product completely off your shoulders. That depends on how much risk the licensee is willing to take and the licensing agreement. Looking for a business partner would be another route if you would like to keep working on product research and development. You simply need to look for partners who can take care of anything other than R&D — manufacturing, distribution channels, marketing, and sales. Collaborating with business partners is regarded as one of the quickest ways to make cash from your product invention, and a better profit generation compared with licensing your product.
Last but not least, it may be time to start a company with your invention. Going down this route, you will have full control on everything around the product — pricing, distribution channels, marketing strategies, and all the teams working to help push your product idea to market. There will be other things that are not directly related to the product for you to take care, such as managing human resources, paying bills and other operations. This route is more risky compared with the above two, but it is potentially the most rewarding if you manage to have good ideas together with a winning team.
By going through these steps, you will be able to create a better plan of how to bring a product to market. Before jumping on to the production and mass manufacturing process, you are encouraged to study and plan thoroughly on how to get an invention to market. If you’re looking to find the easiest way to collaborate with suppliers in order to get product in your hands, check out CBX Software’s Supplier Management Software which allows retailers to track product lifecycles and collaborate on the smallest of details with their many vendor partners.