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You have an idea, you want to tell people but are afraid they will steal the idea and then you’ll have nothing. It’s a monumental dilemma for every inventor – “I need to talk to my potential customers but someone is likely to steal the idea.” A couple of things to remember before you spend too much time afraid to speak and someone else gets the idea out there first: 

  • It’s likely you are not the first person with this idea
  • Most people are too busy/uninterested to want to steal your idea.
  • Ideas have little value, it’s all in the execution.

Below are some steps you can take protect your idea (before an NDA and Patent) to get some valuable feedback without giving it away.

Know the real secret sauce

Often inventors are not even sure what is so secret about their idea.  There is a belief that all of it is what makes it possible, but in reality there are probably only a handful of elements of the idea that are truly unique to your idea.  Talking with a patent attorney can help you identify what is patentable about your idea.

Avoid details (leave the technical stuff behind)

Inventors frequently want to start their explanations with all the unique technical aspects of the idea and how they came up with them.  When you are out to get feedback from customers you want to focus on the intangible, emotional benefits of the product – not the technical aspects. 

Talk about the problem (or niche)

The conversation with potential clients or investors should always focus on the why.  Why did you create this product, what problem are you solving or niche are you filling in the market?  If you focus on the problem instead of the solution first, you will be able to better understand if others experience the same problem as you.  This leads to refinements in your product idea that might make it more marketable to a larger audience. 

Focus on the pain points

When you talk to potential customers you should be focused on the pain points they may be suffering from (that problem listed above) to determine which pain point is the biggest.  Often, new inventions are solving one or two of these pain points to make life a little easier.  Try to focus on those and understand how people are currently solving this pain point and how much they would pay to make it go away. 

Ask Questions

Your initial conversations with customers should be a minimum amount of talking from you and a lot of listening.  This is the opportunity for your potential customers to tell you what they are willing to spend money on to solve a problem.  When talking about problems and pain points, direct your conversation towards questions to get them to open up and give you valuable insight into what they want.

Paint a picture of life with the solution

When it is your turn to explain what you are doing, focus on the bigger picture vision of life without this problem/pain point.  You want customers or investors to go to state of mind that makes them think its possible to not have this problem in their lives any more.  You don’t need to embellish the vision, be practical and emotional about how they will benefit once your idea comes to life.

Create your elevator pitch based on the value proposition

After you’ve listed to some customer feedback continue to evolve your “elevator pitch” to fit the audience you are speaking too.  Remember the elevator pitch is just one or two sentences and should leave people asking you more about what you are doing and how they could be involved or get that product. 

Eventually everyone with an invention idea worth pursuing needs to talk to an expert in patenting, but starting with these elements can help you determine if it’s worth moving forward.