It’s never fun to watch a new idea fail. Whether it’s your own or someone else’s, it’s important to know when it might be time to move on and look for something new. In this post, we’ll take you through some tips on how to know if your product has failed, what you can do about it and what steps you can take next as an entrepreneur.
Know when to cut your losses.
When you’re in the business of making things, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea that your creation is going to be a huge hit. You’ve spent so much time and energy on this product or idea, and it feels like such a big deal to you—why wouldn’t it be as exciting for everyone else?
But sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes your product will fail, no matter how hard you try or how much money and effort you put into it. There are many reasons why this could happen: maybe your product isn’t what people want; maybe a competing product came along at exactly the right moment; maybe there was some kind of marketing error that prevented customers from even knowing what they were buying until after they’d already bought something else (and by then it was too late).
Whatever the reason, when this happens—when someone comes back from their vacation trip with no pictures because all their friends used Snapchat instead—it can feel like there’s nothing left but despair and frustration at all those hours wasted (or worse: sunk). But know that failure happens even for successful people! And if anything good does come out of your failed attempt at building something new, then consider yourself lucky: not only did you learn something valuable about yourself as an inventor and developer but also about other people’s desires and needs as consumers of said invention/creation/etcetera!
Reassess whether the market has changed, or if the market needs more education about your product.
It can be costly to continue pursuing a product rollout. These endeavors can quickly cost thousands of dollars, and may become prohibitively expensive. The potential success of a product can eventually outweigh the expected revenue. You must constantly weigh the risks and rewards of your pursuit, and be open to accepting that it might not be a financially viable venture.
If you can determine that the problem is not your product, but rather a change in the market, then it’s time to reevaluate your approach. If many competitors are offering similar products, perhaps it’s time to find another way of approaching the market.
Most importantly, don’t get discouraged if your first attempt fails. This happens all the time! Just keep trying until you find your niche within the industry and build something that works for everyone involved—whether they’re customers or other businesses within that same industry.
Beware of sunk costs.
One of the most important lessons you can learn from a failed product is to not let sunk costs influence your thinking. If you have tried to contact all the relevant potential licensees and industry-specific manufacturers about your product and still have no interest, it is likely that industry insiders have concluded that your product has limited potential for profitability and market value. This does not mean you have a bad idea. It just means there is no current market for your product.
A sunk cost is anything that has been spent, no matter how much or how little. The time and money invested in a project are obvious examples; for example, if you’ve spent 10 hours working on a prototype, then those 10 hours can’t be recovered once the project fails and you cancel it. But even if there’s no direct monetary investment involved, there may be other costs associated with moving forward with an idea that lead people to continue on longer than they should have—the time they’ve invested in researching ideas or building prototypes and getting feedback from friends (or even strangers).
These are all sunk costs—you can’t get them back once they’re gone. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth taking into account as part of your decision-making process; it just means that knowing about them shouldn’t stop you from making smart choices about your business going forward.
It’s hard to adjust but it’s not the end of the world (or your business) if you fail.
While it’s okay to fail, you can’t give up. As long as you’re learning from your mistakes and trying new things, there’s no reason why your product wouldn’t make it in the market. It might take a lot longer than anticipated or require some major changes, but that’s okay! The only way to succeed is by failing first.
At one point or another, every inventor has experienced a moment when all seemed lost. Each industry contact that could offer a pathway to success has been reached and every avenue has been explored. Although the idea was simple, the item was transformed into a prototype and then turned into a product by a professional design company. However, it has not received the attention from the industry that was hoped for.
For those who have spent hours developing their product, establishing relationships with patent attorneys, industry insiders, designers, and other inventors and have yet to bring their product to market, this realization can cause serious grief. It can feel like you’re saying goodbye to someone you have been a friend for so many years.
It is essential to have an Inventiv mindset. Knowing when something isn’t working is a key part of keeping it in check. Even an idea with great potential may not be realized. A Serial Inventor must learn how to retire an idea safely and move on. A strong, repeatable work ethic can help you develop a passion for product development and ideas.
You are not alone in this struggle—everyone has failed at some point in their lives and careers. The important thing is that you don’t give up on your idea; instead, learn from your failures and keep trying until you’ve found success.
Find a new problem to solve.
Having a hard time? Try this: Ask yourself, “What is the next problem to solve?” If your product doesn’t have traction in the market or you’ve hit a wall, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board and ask yourself what needs solving.
While your first product idea might not prove to be successful, it is a start and if you persist, your future ideas will likely succeed. You must have the right mindset to be able to receive inspiration when it strikes. This is part of maintaining a steady flow of ideas. Low attitudes don’t make it easy for inspiration to strike. Positive ideas will follow if you keep a positive attitude.
People who are able to think up multiple ideas throughout their careers often share two traits: solid work habits and processes (see the above) and the ability invent for the marketplace. They are always aware of market trends and “inventing for the market”.
Consumer needs are predicted and can help predict where the industries will go. This is done by spending time with other people and watching out for market inefficiencies or problems that don’t yet have solutions. This proactive market monitoring is crucial in building a strong library of ideas that could be placed on shelves at retail shops.
You can make a habit of sketching or writing down ideas as they arise. Ideas don’t stay around for long. You need to start thinking creatively as soon as an idea comes into your head. Your brain will associate the idea with your creative mind immediately and allow it to marinate in you brain as efficiently as possible. You can expend a lot of energy if you trust your brain to accurately archive your ideas. Use your organization to organize yourself with a notebook available.
If there’s no immediate answer, look at your unique perspective on the problem—how do you see it differently than anyone else? Why do you think that gives you an edge over everyone else who is trying (and failing) at solving this same problem?
Once that has been answered, ask how are going to test your idea. Will it require an MVP (minimum viable product), or maybe just some simple mockups and wireframes before jumping into development? No matter what method of testing is chosen, remember that getting something into users’ hands quickly will help clarify whether there really are people who want what we’re making.
File a Provisional Patent Application after testing the idea with a few customers
If you have a good idea, you should test with a select group of customers under NDA first. Once you are ready to test it more broadly with the customers who may not sign NDAs, start by filing for a provisional patent application. A provisional patent application won’t mature into an issued patent — it’s just a way to lay claim on your idea with an early filing date in case anyone else tries to steal it. The process is quick and inexpensive, and if someone else attempts to copy your invention after you file the provisional patent application (and before you’ve filed for an actual patent), they can be held liable if they continue producing their product after learning about yours. Note that you must file a non-provisional patent within 1 year of filing your provisional.
A provisional patent application can be filed online using lawyers or a software service such as PowerPatent. It will protect your idea until such time as you decide whether or not it’s worth pursuing further down the road (which may include developing prototypes and testing them with customers). And best of all? You don’t even need paying customers yet!
Test, retest and test again.
Before you launch, test your product with a few customers and collect feedback. This is the best time to refine your product as you go. Don’t be afraid to change the marketing, pricing, distribution channels and team. The most common mistake we see startups make is that they don’t adapt quickly enough. The market has changed; so should you!
You can use SurveyMonkey or another tool to gather feedback from users, but remember that only a small fraction of customers will actually take the time to fill out a survey. Keep this in mind when collecting data on how well your product is doing: the feedback you get may not be representative of how many people are actually using it.
If you get negative feedback during these tests, don’t panic—it’s just one step closer to learning where improvements need to be made. Your goal should be gathering enough positive feedback so that it outweighs any negative comments or issues that come up during testing. If this doesn’t happen after several rounds of testing and revising (and sometimes even if it does), then there’s probably no way your product will work for most people—and now would be the time for pivoting into something entirely different!
File a Non-Provisional Patent Application when you find true traction, but do this within one year of provisional
If you have a product that has gained some traction, and have decided it’s worth pursuing, then it’s time to file a non-provisional patent application. A provisional patent application can be filed quickly and easily—but if your idea fails, there is no cost to abandoning it. Note that you must file a non-provisional patent within one year of filing your provisional patent application.
When all is said and done, failure is just a part of business. We’ve talked about how to avoid it, but it’s important to remember that failure is not the end. In fact, it can be a good thing for your business if you’re able to pivot after failing at something else and find success elsewhere. So don’t get discouraged when things don’t go as planned; instead use this knowledge to plan better next time around!