This article first appeared on February 18, 2011.
I’ve come up with a product that I want to commercialise – I don’t want to give too much away but it is an appliance that will assist elderly people. How can I best go about testing the product? Should I let lots of people see it and test it? Or should I get it to market as quickly as I can?
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Market research is a very valuable tool in business planning and it’s highly recommended for new ideas.
In fact I would insist on it. If you consider the risk of what could happen if something went wrong versus the risk of someone copying you it becomes a “no brainer”.
The chance of someone stealing your idea, getting it right and launching it before you is very slim.
But the risks involved in not having the product optimised are very high. The potential loss to you if the product and business are not successful would be very dramatic.
You’d lose time, money, reputation and on top of that you’d have all the personal anguish and heartache. It’s just not worth it.
So the real question should be about how to conduct effective research while protecting your IP.
The traditional way is to have anyone involved sign a confidentiality agreement, which at least gives you the legal option to pursue them if you feel they later copy your idea, although that scenario is most unlikely.
You may be able to download a standard confidentiality agreement from the internet.
My experience is that the threat of someone taking your idea is rarely a real threat, but to allay your fears prepare a list of the types of people you think may have that option and don’t include them in your research.
There are usually enough people to work with who would give you genuine feedback and not pose a threat.
I would include potential customers, both wholesale and retail, depending how you plan to get your product to market. Essentially you need to engage with end users.
You may even be able to work with aged care providers, asking them if you could visit their premises and talk to their tenants, who would probably love to be included.
Good luck with your new project – Australia needs more entrepreneurs.