If you’ve got a product idea that you want to make reality, then doubtless you’ve spent countless hours trying to perfect its design and functionality. What may have started as a simple napkin sketch gradually became a more formal drawing. From there, maybe you created a CAD prototype, at which point you troubleshot some initial issues.

Then, let’s say you created a working prototype, where you worked out any other problems that arose. After one or two more iterations, you decided your product was ready for the marketplace.

But how do you get it there? How do you go from a functioning prototype to a product with safety certifications, packaging, a marketing plan, and a spot on store shelves?

The process, as you’d imagine, is a complicated one, but here’s our brief guide to how to take your product to market.

Take steps to protect your intellectual property

If you’re planning on spending the time and effort to get your product in stores, you should really take the time to secure a patent.

It’s the only way you can be absolutely sure of legal recourse if someone tries to copy or steal your product idea. While the process can be time-consuming and expensive, it’s a little bit like insurance – you’d much rather pay for it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Depending on how complex your product is and how much commercial value you think it has, you can either patent the product yourself, or hire a patent attorney.

If your product is more of a trade secret, then you can apply for trade secret protection instead, which is a quicker and easier method of legal protection. Trade secret protection can apply to any design, formula, process, instrument, or commercial method that gives you an economic advantage over other businesses. The formula for Coca-Cola and Mrs. Fields’ chocolate chip cookie recipe are examples of trade secrets.

Decide on your business model

Once all your legal ducks are in a row, it’s time to decide whether you want to start your own company, or license your product to an outside organization.

There are pros and cons to both approaches, but essentially, starting your own company to market and sell your product means that you’ll retain complete control over the manufacturing, marketing, and selling of your item. You’ll also assume all the risk involved in those processes.

If you choose to license, you would sell the rights to your product to another company. From there, that company could decide either to manufacture and sell it, or to simply hold on to the rights indefinitely – the choice is theirs.

Since the company holding the rights now has a vested interest in making your product successful, if they do decide to sell it chances are they’ll use their best marketing, manufacturing, and distribution people to get the product moving. However, as mentioned earlier, you won’t have any control over things like the packaging, the materials they use, etc.

Essentially, it comes down to how committed you want to be to your product: is it something you want to dedicate all your time to for as long as it takes to make it a success? If so, you should probably look at starting your own company. If not, consider licensing a less committal, potentially easier route.

Put together your marketing and launch plan

If you’ve decided to produce the product yourself, you’ll need to develop your marketing and launch plan.

First, this involves doing market research (some of which you probably completed before you developed your product) to get a clearer idea of whom you should target your product toward. This will help you narrow down your list of potential retailers, trade shows, and other outlets to target. Pivot International conducts market research for our business development clients frequently – contact us if we can help you with yours.

Then you’ve got to create a detailed launch plan that includes a crystal-clear message and defined goals. As you go through the launch process, you’ll most likely meet some of these goals, and fail to meet others – but having them set out will allow you to quantify your actual results, rather than relying on your gut feelings about how the process is going.

At Pivot, we love helping entrepreneurs and companies make their product ideas a reality. Contact us for a free consultation today!