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So You Want to Be an Inventor: Get Some Attention
You'll rarely find an inventor who is a business mogel or a publicity whiz. Inventors tend to be unknowns, and the publicity game is a foreign language. If that's you, learn to garner media attention with your amateur status.
But some people take those dreams a step further - -from gestation into creation. We call these people inventors.
To handle foreign competition, complex patent laws and leasing agreements, an inventor must be more than just a dreamer and a schemer. To succeed, you must also be a marketing expert, public relations specialist and finance whiz. Though you can, and should, find someone to handle your financials, promotion is another matter. Free publicity is about the only kind most beginning inventors can afford, so learning the art of self-promotion is vital to bringing an idea before the masses.
The following six promotional tips will help in garnering great publicity for your invention:
- -KNOW THEY AUDIENCE. While self promotion and marketing are big factors in an inventor's success, the real key is that the inventor thinks like a professional inventor. Like other professionals, think in terms of doing something better, easier and quicker. Then, put your ego aside and get to know your audience. Create products that other people would want as opposed to inventing things that you want. It is your audience, those other people, who will be buying your product, so get to know them.
- -CREATE A NOTICEABLE NICHE. For those intent on a career in inventing, finding a niche is the first step. Take the world of toys, games and gadgets, for example. Ken Hakuta is known internationally as Dr. Fad for his off-the-wall fad items. Hakuta made more than $10 million within several months of introducing his first product in 1982. Hakuta's Wacky WallWalker is a little rubber octopus that crawls down the walls and were sold in novelty, toy and dime stores for less than $1. According to Dr. Fad's web site, more than 240 million Wacky WallWalkers have been sold.
In terms of publicity, it doesn't get better than the case of the WallWalker, Kellogg gave away WallWalkers in its cereal boxes. NBC created a prime time holiday special which featured WallWalkers as cartoon characters. And, publicity begets publicity. Turn on VH1 and you'll see the Wacky WallWalker during the show "I Love the 80s" for the year 1983.
- -MAKE IT EASY ON THE PRESS. It's tough for inventors to get that free publicity when they are fighting against impending nuclear war and natural disasters for space on the news. It's really tough UNLESS it's a slow news day. Then a good feature story about an inventor is a sought-after commodity.
When that slow news day comes, you have to be ready. There's a legendary story of Debbie Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields cookies. She took her cookies to the street, stopping passersby to sample one kind or another.
Whether it's novelty items or cookies, business is business, as Hakuta decided when he took to the streets of Washington, D.C. Hakuta kenw media interest could make or break his fad items. He also knew reports are swamped with slick media kits from business, so the odds of getting noticed would be slim.
So Hakuta did his own peddling in shops surrounding the Washington Post, his hometown newspaper, on the chance that one day a reporter would wander into one of the shops, spot his Wacky WallWalker, feature it in the newspaper, and history would be made. Big dreamer? Maybe, but it worked.
- -MAKE IT REALLY EASY ON THE REPORTER. Once you have gained media attention, don't let it go. Any good business person will tell you that it is far more efficient and cost effective to make current clients happy than it is to get a new customer. Keep in contact with the reporter who did the article on you. Ask for his or her expertise on getting more publicity. While reporters won't share breaking stories or leads, if the story has already been done by the reporter, odds are he won't do another one specifically on your item anytime soon.
You won't have to search hard once you get those first articles in print or on TV. One aired or print story will, most certainly, beget another. So, make yourself available to the press for interviews. Don't forget small local papers in all of this. They live for stories about hometown people doing interesting things.
- -BE A GOOD EGG. Volunteer for seminars within your niche market. As you progress, speak at trade shows to tell other inventors how you found your successes. If you have any expertise in your field, you won't be turned away from professional organizations that host trade shows. Again, the publicity will beget more publicity. If a trade show is covered by the local daily, and you're teaching on the seminars, you have yet another opportunity to get your name out to the public.
- -AMATEUR DOESN'T MEAN NOBODY. Inventors who work for a big corporation rarely attract attention beyond the corporate walls. Many are rewarded handsomely for their invention, but that's where it ends. Not so with the independent inventor. Americans have always regarded inventors as mavericks, just the kind of personality that attracts the media.
Ken Hakuta says that inventing is one of the few fields where being an amateur is one o the few fields where being an amateur is almost an advantage in temrs of publicity. In his book, "How to Create Your Own Fad and Make a Million Dollars," Hakuta explains the odd relationship between beginning inventors and media coverage. "If I hadn't been an amateur, I would never have captured the imagination of the mediaâ€¦The little guy with a dream who makes a million is a lot more newsworthy."