How do you persuade companies to take notice of you?
- If you have an actual product and adequate IP protection, send a press release to relevant business publications. To do this effectively you may need help from a marketing professional, as information not presented in the format preferred by editors may be ignored.
- Do not phone companies except to find out who best to write to or email. (Ask which is preferred. Email is cheap and simple but much of it will be treated as junk and never read. Mail may be better for a first contact.)
- Target marketing people rather than technical people. The former are more likely to see the sales potential of your invention.
- Do not call yourself an inventor. You are simply someone with a business proposition to make to fellow business people.
The mailshot letter or email
The mailshot letter or email
- Your aim should be to arouse curiosity, not overwhelm the reader with unnecessary information. Write a brief summary of your invention or product on one side of A4. Concentrate on its commercial benefits, detailing what it does that is special but not how it does it. Use the language of business, not of advertising. For example, instead of: ‘It will make you millions!' say: ‘It may have the potential to increase your sales significantly'.
- Only include a photo if (a) you have adequate IP protection and (b) it is a good quality image of a good quality product or prototype.
- You can mention a patent application but do not disclose any detail, even if it is already published.
- Accompany the summary with a short covering letter. For example:
‘I attach brief details of a novel product which may be of interest to your company. A prototype is available which I would like show you if this can be done in full confidence.I can attend a meeting at fairly short notice. Please let me know if you require any further information. I look forward to hearing from you.'
- If there is no reply after two or three weeks, phone or email to find out how your idea has been received. If they are not interested in the invention, do not try to argue. Try instead to find out why. You may learn something that you can use to improve your approach to other companies.
- If you get replies, do not be fooled by flattery. If the company says that your idea is ‘ingenious' or ‘highly original' but there is no offer of a meeting, they are not interested. They are just too polite to admit it. Or they may say that your idea ‘does not at present fit in with our plans'. The truth is that it never will.
- What if you are invited to a meeting or asked for more information but the company will not sign a non-disclosure agreement? You can trust them or you can look elsewhere. If they ask specifically for information that you want to keep confidential, you should politely refuse and explain why. But as we explain in Part 5 , it should be possible to have a first meeting without any need for disclosure of confidential information.
During the process of contacting companies, beware of anyone who may contact you expressing an urgent interest in your invention. Some of these approaches may be from fraudulent invention promoters (Part 3 ). Possible clues are:
- However they justify it, they will want money from you.
- They will put a lot of pressure on you to ‘act now'.
- They are based in another country.
- They are keen to visit you or meet in a hotel, but not keen for you to visit them.
As a general rule, be suspicious of any company that appears too enthusiastic about your idea and too willing to arrange a meeting or further phone contact. The chances are high that they just want your money. A genuinely interested company will be much more cautious and non-committal, and will not expect you to pay them for anything.
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