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3 simple steps to monetising your invention –  Tame it, Name it, Frame it

Ahead of World Intellectual Property Day on 26 April, serial inventor Graham Harris tells Real Business why a strong sense of sales and marketing is vital when inventors begin monetising their products.
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Sadly, the odds of inventors recouping the money they paid to patent an invention are a miserable 1/4999. For people to think about making a fortune from their inventions surely makes them delusional, right?

If there are two things I have learnt in my 20 years of inventing, it is that (a) no one is waiting in the wings to give inventors a break and (b) no investor wants to make them rich – that desire and responsibility needs to be claimed by inventors themselves.

Most inventors focus on the easy 10%

The invention itself equates to only 10% of what is needed. The other 90% include important factors like marketing and sales techniques to help get it in front of the right people. A huge percentage of inventors focus on the easy 10%. Little wonder that the odds of success are so staggeringly poor.

Inventors can stack the odds of success in their favour. First though they must shift their mindset from delusional to real!

The delusional mindset is common, those voices in our heads that say, “we are only the ideas people and not marketers.” We can wear casual clothes (because James Dyson does), or tinker for months on an idea that is far too big for us ever to make it real. The longer you tinker the more your costs will increase.

Inventors need to beat the patent clock

Tinker too long and your first 12 months patent protection will elapse. Before you’ve a decent proto-type, let alone an idea of what it is worth and which market it belongs to, you will need to find another £3,000 plus to secure your international patents for a further period.

Shed your inventor skin and swap it for a business attitude. The more business minded you become the more value you add to your idea, and the better chance you have of securing your first customers, or that elusive investor.

When I made this shift in mindset I finally realised that there was no better person to evolve my idea into a saleable product than me. I beat the patent clock and profited from getting sales that paid my patent fees within a 12-month cycle. Here’s those 3 steps.

Tame it

Tame the beast you have created. Take away the” bells and whistles” and settle on a first version of your solution that is unique enough to compete in the market.

One key feature that works well might be better than adding four more that function less than adequately. Your customers’ feedback will help you create the upgraded Deluxe version when the time is right.

My proto-type Tri-Creaser was laughed at by my first customer, who almost rejected my offer to demonstrate what it could do. They did place an order – but the more “polished” version I produced made it to demo rooms up and down the country without hesitation.

Name it 

The baby you are nurturing needs its own identity. One day it will probably need to survive without you being there, so as well as giving it a name, give it a character and define its worth (features and benefits).

Inventors often fall into a trap of thinking that potential customers or investors can somehow work out exactly what their star performer does. Create a product sheet that sets out its benefits and produce a simple instructional leaflet. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, what do they need to know to understand the unique qualities of your creation?

Frame it

Just like a precious picture needs a frame, your product needs the same! So, frame your work of art with the best packaging you can muster (put time into being inventive with the presentation).

Going to the effort of refining every aspect of your product, within the minimum time frame of 3 months into your patent pending status will add perceived value and increase the chances of you using the remaining nine months to make sales.

The more sales you acquire the more confidence you gain to charge the premium rates you deserve. My proto-type Tri-Creaser sold for £359, the more evolved and polished item for £1,050 for similar manufacturing costs.

So, ditch the casual wear. Both you and your product need to look business like and professional.

Graham Harris is founder and managing director of Tech-ni-Fold Ltd and Creasestream LLP, global leaders in print creasing technology. His invention has saved customers over £8bn to date. His book Against the Grain is available now.

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Real Business

As the champion of UK enterprise for 20 years, Real Business is the most-read SME website dedicated to high-growth businesses and entrepreneurs. Through daily news, unique insight and invaluable guides we are an essential resource for thriving businesses.

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