(c) 2000 Market Launchers, Inc.


Publisher: Paul Niemann



We've recently moved our headquarters from St. Louis, MO to Quincy, IL, which is about 110 miles north of St. Louis. Our new phone number is (217) 224-7735 while our 800 number remains the same: (800) 337-5758. "The Online Inventor" is usually published on the last day of the month, but the move has caused me to be about a week late with the May edition, and for that I apologize.

The 43rd Annual Minnesota Inventors Congress will be held June 9, 10, 11 in Redwood Falls, MN. This is an opportunity to present your invention(s) to manufacturers and other potential licensees, as well as to network with other inventors. There's still time to register - call them at (800) 468-3681 or you can visit their web site for more info: http://www.invent1.org.

Haystack Toys' 2nd Annual Great American Toy Hunt is now on. This is their search for the type of toy that makes you say "WOW" twice -- once when the child first sees the toy, and again when the child continues to play with the toy. They're looking for the proverbial "needle in a haystack."

Inventors whose toys they choose will receive the following:

I've met the 2 co-founders of this company, as they are located in St. Louis, and they are serious about finding hot new toys. As is evidenced by what they offer to inventors, if they select your toy, you will be rewarded very well. It's great to see companies who are not only open to outside products, but are actively soliciting outside products. Plus, and I don't know what it is, but there's just something REALLY COOL about toy companies.

They will be conducting their Toy Hunt live in 9 cities this fall: St. Louis, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, Denver, San Francisco and Dallas. For more info, you can check out their web site at: http://www.HaystackToys.com. The application deadline is August 15th.

Best Regards,

Paul Niemann

"A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do" -- Walter Gagehot

"Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve" -- Edwin Markham


In this issue:

Article # 1:    "Getting the Most From Trade Shows" and "Interviewing at Trade Shows," by Ron Docie, excerpted from his book, "Royalties in Your Future."

Article #2:    "The Value of a Logo," by Jeffrey Dobkin

Article #3:    "The Importance of Good Follow-Up," by Paul Niemann


Article # 1:    "Getting the Most From Trade Shows" and "Interviewing at Trade Shows," by Ron Docie of Docie Marketing

Getting the Most From Trade Shows:

An inventor with a new product has two basic ways of utilizing a trade show -- as an exhibitor with a booth, or as an attendant walking through the trade show. It is usually not appropriate for inventors to be an exhibitor at trade shows unless their products are at a production stage so they can accept orders at the booth. An exception to this would be in the case that an inventor wants to test market his or her protected invention to the trade. This requires somewhat of an entrepreneurial effort and a budget that could range from $5,000 to $10,000 and more.

The more prudent way for inventors to use trade shows in the beginning of their invention development, when they are trying to collect market research information about a trade, would be simply to attend. The cost to attend the show usually does not exceed $20. In some cases trade shows require attendants to present business cards or some other form of verification that they are involved in the trade. This differentiates you from a consumer walking in from off the street.

It is helpful to pre-register for the trade show by notifying the trade association at least one month before the trade show. When you do this they will usually waive the entrance fee. You can also register at the trade show site. For the purpose of your name tag, the typical designation given to inventors is "guest." It's also possible to register as a buyer. Later we'll explain why you may want to do that.

At a national trade show you should allow at least one to two days in order to completely walk through the trade show and seek out as much information as possible. I find it most helpful to arrive on the second day of the trade show, and most business can be completed within one and a half to two days. In the case of exceptionally large trade shows such as the electronics show, you may need to spend a full two, three, or even four days in order to complete the show. In the course of walking through the show, you can:

1.    Gather valuable information about the marketplace as it pertains to your invention, and about trends in the marketplace.

2.    Get a critique of your invention and valuable feedback from key people at the various booths.

3.    Identify and have conversations with manufacturers who would be potential licensees for your invention. The point of caution here is to bear in mind that the primary purpose of the exhibitors at the trade show is to sell their products. It is important to use discretion when discussing your invention throughout the trade show. It is not uncommon for some exhibitors and trade show officials to take offense when an attendant seems to be pitching a product. Emphasize the market research nature of your motives.

In order to maximize your results from interviewing at the trade show, it is best to at least talk to the key decision makers with respect to new product introduction for any given company. To do this, simply ask for the person who makes the bottom line decision on which new products are introduced into the product line of the company. This usually is the president, owner, vice president of marketing, or other line manager.

Another important reminder is that if you talk to potential licensees and offer your invention for sale, this could set the one-year time limit (time bar) ticking with respect to obtaining a patent. In other words, you have one year from the time that you offer your invention for sale, or disclose it publicly, to file your patent application if you have not done so already.

There is a distinction between offering your invention for sale and seeking a potential licensee who would in turn commercialize your invention. However this differentiation is a fine line; therefore, it is important to distinguish exactly what it is that you are offering. Offering to sell your technology is different from offering to sell products based on your technology. Supposedly, offering to sell your 'technology', per se, will not start your one year time bar.

When walking the aisles of a trade show, pay attention to those manufacturers who offer items that would be complementary to your invention. Take note of how many different manufacturers seem as if they would be potential licensees, their size, and the overall emphases in their presentations.

Keep in mind that trade show booths can be deceiving. Although you can usually judge the size and scope of a company by the product line offered in their trade show booth, there are those situations in which companies that are very dominant at the marketplace only occupy small trade show booths and emphasize a few of their newer items rather than their whole line of products. On the other hand, sometimes smaller companies want to evoke an image of largeness and credibility and create a trade show booth nearly as large as the major companies.

Stop at those booths that seem to be potential licensees. Some of the key people at the booths may offer a considerable amount of information for you while others may tend to be brief. It is hard to predict which people will take which stance. This is largely determined by their personalities, and not by their position in the company. In other words it is not uncommon for the president or owner of a company to spend a substantial amount of time to help you while the marketing manager may be brief, or vice versa. Some upper level executives only attend one or two days of the show; therefore, it is important to know if they have a limited schedule so that you can pace yourself accordingly.

One school of thought says you should walk the entire trade show and get the lay of the land and then go back to those booths that pique your interest. Another way is to stop at those booths that seem as if they are appropriate on your first round. In either case, remember to wear a good pair of walking shoes. By the end of the trade show you may have traveled five to ten miles on foot.

Interviewing at Trade Shows:

A good opening line when you are at the booth is to introduce yourself and then ask, "Who in the company is responsible for deciding which new products will be introduced into the product line?" After determining who these people are, determine if and when they are available to speak to you. If they are not at the trade show, try to find out where they can be reached. It could be that they are at the company headquarters, in which case you may want to call them from the trade show to let them know that you want to introduce a new product to their company. They may in turn refer you to another person who is at the trade show to look at your new product concept. Let's say that you do talk with the president of the company at their headquarters and he or she refers you to the vice president, who is at the trade show. When you go back to the booth and tell the vice president that the president suggested that he look at your product idea, the interview will be much more meaningful.

Since, at this stage, you are still gathering information about the company and not pitching your new product idea, it is not so critical that you speak with the key decision maker. However, when the opportunity presents itself, it can be extremely valuable to have that initial conversation with the key decision maker. In this way you are killing two birds with one stone. You are not only gathering information about the company, but you are also planting a seed with the person who may ultimately be interested in licensing your invention.

Through your questions, you should receive answers to some of the following questions:

1.    Is the company interested in new product ideas in your area of invention?

2.    Does the person you are speaking with make the final decision about new product introduction and are there any others involved in making this decision?

3.    What are examples of new products that the company has introduced in the marketplace recently?

4.    What kind of success have they had with their more notable new product introductions?

5.    What is the experience of the company in dealing with outside inventors: how many, who, when, and has up-front money ever been paid out to the inventor? What is an example of the various royalty rates? (The objective here is to get a range, not to nail the company down to a specific figure.)

6.    Would the company be interested in looking specifically at your invention?

If the answer to the last question is affirmative, you face a major strategic decision as to whether you should actually present the invention to the decision maker at that time. Your other option is to go into a deeper discussion about the procedure for submission to the company, disclosure agreements, etc. The factors that go into weighing this decision are found in the following chapter on strategy.

If you decide to find out more about their submission procedure and you want your submission to remain confidential, you may very well find that the key decision maker is willing to sign a confidential disclosure agreement on the spot in consideration for having an opportunity to review your new product idea. This author has attended trade shows where up to 70 percent of the people approached were willing to sign confidential disclosure agreements in order to look at an invention.

The key decision maker may ask you to first sign one of the company's disclosure agreements before proceeding with disclosing the invention. Rarely will there be a copy of these disclosure agreements at the show. In this case you will have to go through the company's procedure in reviewing their disclosure agreement. Further discussion about this follows in the chapter on disclosure agreements.

If this is the direction your key decision maker takes, the next step is to talk to him about the specific advantages and benefits of your invention without giving away its trade secrets and other working knowledge. Then ask the key decision maker if these specific advantages and benefits would be valuable to the company. If you are striking a positive chord with the key decision maker, describing advantages and benefits he or she is actively seeking in the marketplace, he or she may be more willing to be lenient about submission procedures in order to have a look at your invention.

On the other hand, if the key decision maker is interested in looking at your invention on the spot, either by signing a confidential disclosure agreement, looking at your patent or other non-confidential information, or being disclosed confidential information in the presence of your own witness, then the next step of course is to go ahead and disclose your invention to him or her.

After you have disclosed your invention to the key decision maker, the next thing you should do rather than trying to pitch your invention, is put your entire attention on observing the decision maker's response. There is an old saying in sales that at this point, the next person to speak loses. When you present your new product, it is significant when the benefits of your invention, in and of themselves, evoke a positive reaction from the person you are presenting it to. In other words, the merit of the invention needs to stand on its own, with the exception of any clarifying explanations that are needed.

The next steps depend on the relative enthusiasm and response from the key decision maker. He or she may say that the company is interested, in which case you may want to ask what it is about the invention that he or she sees as needing improvement. You can also ask for a referral to another company that may be interested and in a better position to commercialize the invention.

The key decision maker may have a tentative or lukewarm response. He or she may want the invention to be reviewed by others within the company, including the marketing department, the engineering department, or the patent council. Although this can be taken as a positive sign, it is an indication that the decision of whether to accept your new product will be based on many factors and the judgments of various other people. This tends to bog down the process and heighten the risk involved.

The best possible scenario, of course, is that the key decision maker is so excited about your invention that he or she is interested in seeking exclusive rights to the product, on the spot. Although this is rare, it is possible and it has happened. Most of the strategy involved in how you approach this next step will be more thoroughly discussed in a later chapter on strategy.

Suffice it to say that when you are at this point and you have a key decision maker as a captive audience, there is much to be said for cooking while the griddle is hot. You should make the key decision maker aware that if you consider an exclusive licensing arrangement or an all-out sale, you are particularly interested in the minimum performance level that the company can maintain. This puts the burden of responsibility on the company to determine what minimum performance figures they would be comfortable with in considering a license or other arrangement. If your invention is that hot, they will likely want to schedule a dinner meeting or other meeting with you outside the trade show, perhaps at their hotel later than evening.

In this case, there are two possibilities. Either you have lucked onto finding the perfect company, possibly the only company who would ever offer you a deal of the magnitude being contemplated, or your invention is so hot that any number of companies would be willing to offer you as good or better a deal. In fact, it may be part of your strategy to offer several non-exclusive licenses in the industry in order to increase your royalty and broaden the distribution. Therefore, it would be prudent to inquire of the key decision maker along the following lines.

If this company was the only one to maintain an exclusive license with the invention, which other companies may have wished that they had the exclusive rights to the invention? If you had an exclusive license with the company, which other markets might you be missing because those other companies possess market share that the key decision maker's company does not? In other words, if the company you are dealing with has only 50 percent of the market share, at least one other company has a significant influence in the market as well. If your invention is as hot as we are indicating here, the key decision maker should be more than willing to answer these types of questions with some degree of truthfulness. We are now entering a mode in which the key decision maker will be pitching the company to you.

Another key bit of information to obtain from a key decision maker is, what would be the company's stance if they knew that: a) other companies knew about the invention, and b) three or four companies in the marketplace had non-exclusive rights, or rights to specific markets. It is important to listen carefully to the response to this question. The key decision maker will outline the parameters in which he or she would be interested. For example, the company may not be interested in the least in pursuing your invention, patented or not, if they feel it has been shopped to several of their competitors.

Many companies are interested in outside inventions only when they can maintain exclusive rights. In some cases the company will bluff and suggest that they are interested only if the license is exclusive. They may ultimately do the deal with a non-exclusive license, because of how it will help them in their market. The preliminary information you gathered through interviewing in the channels of distribution can help you weigh this decision.

The main thing you are trying to determine at this point is whether you should work with this company exclusively or whether this would be a hindrance to your overall market position. Answers to the questions outlined above should help you make this judgment. If you still have doubts, you may want to seek the advice of others in the industry, including manufacturers' representatives and high ranking members of the Trade Association. You may be able to discuss with them the benefits and advantages of your invention without disclosing what it is, and therefore not betray the company's wish that your invention not be shopped around.

The section about Submitting to Companies and Negotiation will explain the steps that follow from this point.

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Ron Docie is the author of "Royalties in Your Future: How to Find Manufacturers, Negotiate, Market and License, Inventions, Patents and Technology." Five years in the making, this 200 + page book is an authoritative step-by-step guide to help inventors through that complicated maze from idea to commercialization. Particular attention is paid to how to identify and qualify appropriate manufacturers and potential licensees. Docie Marketing provides comprehensive services for inventors. One of their specialties is their ability to locate manufacturers who can produce your invention, market it, and pay you royalties. Visit their web site at http://www.docie.com


Article #2:    "The Value of a Logo," by Jeffrey Dobkin

~ Office of the President ~
Box 100 * Merion Station, PA 19066
610/642-1000 * Fax 610/642-6832

I admit it. My firm, The Daniel Adams Publishing Company, doesn't have a logo. And you know what? I don't think we need one, either. I admit that, too.

Yet I've seen hundreds of companies pour money into a logo they don't need; and countless companies stopped in the midst of important matters -- like making money -- to create or reproduce a logo. Here's when you need a logo, and when you don't.

The only value of a logo is in its repetitive use. Once in a great while a logo will be so outstanding, and so memorable, it'll get some great attention when it's seen for the first time, but so what? If it's never seen again, it had little value.

You need a logo when you're starting your advertising or marketing campaign and your ad or marketing material will be appearing week after week, month after month, to the same audience. Then your logo creates a recognizable mark for your company. This adds credibility to your firm. Customers who may not remember what your last 4 ads said should certainly remember your logo after seeing it the last 4 times.

Since the Danielle Adams Publishing Company doesn't run any coherent type of consumer advertising schedule in the same publications, I haven't spent forty hours or so creating a logo that isn't necessary.

Sure, it's nice to have a slick logo on your letterhead - and something that can make that corner of your envelope sizzle in a blaze of high-quality graphics. But for us, I simply set our name in small caps in a pleasant Bookman typeface and noted that this would suffice for now. It's been a year and a half, no one has complained, and I haven't missed it, either.

Famous logos make their mark by repetition. I'm sure a definite image comes to your mind when I say RCA, Coca-Cola, IBM, or NBC. These specific logo images, measured in number of impressions per year, are pressed into your brain over and over again, millions of times a year. But for us smaller guys? It may not be all that important. Don't let it slow you down.   

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This tip provided by Jeff Dobkin. There are many more solid marketing tips in Dobkin's books, "How To Market a Product for Under $500" and "Uncommon Marketing Techniques." To purchase either book, go to www.dobkin.com or call (800) 234-4332. Both of these books are available in finer bookstores nationwide, or directly from the publisher by calling the above number.


Article #3:    "The Importance of Good Follow-Up," by Paul Niemann

I still receive product submissions from inventors on behalf of Grove Products, Inc. An inventor who sent me one this past week followed it up with a phone call a few days later. Nothing major about this story to report, but I mention it to emphasize the importance of following up with a phone call after you submit your product, whether you submit it to me or to another company. There are three major reasons why you benefit when you follow up:

1.    Following up on the phone gives you another chance to sell the company on why they should license your product. It also gives you a chance to get an idea of where they stand.

2.    It gives the other person a chance to get to know you a little better, and vice versa. The importance of this is that people want to do business with someone that they're familiar with, as opposed to doing business with a total stranger. The more contact you have with the person on the other end, the better your chances of his/her company doing a licensing deal with you.

You don't want to call them too many times, though. Respect their time, but feel free to call when you have some new information to give them, such as additional market research results, lower production costs, pending government legislation that would require people to use a product that does what yours does, etc.

3.    Following up gives you a chance to make sure that they did in fact receive your product. Sometimes these things really do get lost in the mail.

I don't see a problem with following up every so often until you receive either a "yes" or a "no." Keep in mind, though, that some companies will never tell you "no" until you press them for an answer one way or the other. It doesn't cost them anything to procrastinate, plus they may figure that they can keep you from showing your product to other companies in their industry (their competitors) for a while. This is why it's important to have more than one potential buyer for your invention. It gives you additional leverage and control, and prevents you from having to be dependent on any one company. (For more on the importance of having more than one potential buyer, please see the third article in our February 2000 issue at: http://www.marketlaunchers.com/archives.html.)

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Feel free to forward "The Online Inventor" to your inventor friends and colleagues. If you change your e-mail address, please subscribe with the new address in order to continue receiving it each month. To unsubscribe, please reply with the word, "unsubscribe" in the subject line. If you would like to request a topic for an upcoming issue of this newsletter, just send us an e-mail or give us a call. Thanks.

Until next time, Successful Inventing To You!

Best Regards,

Paul Niemann;
Humble Proprietor of Market Launchers
(800) 337-5758
(217) 224-7735 (outside the U.S.)

Copyright 2000
All Rights Reserved


Click here to read the April 2000 issue.