Size Up the Market for Your Invention
Selling your great idea requires thorough market research and an enticing licensing strategy.
In Part 1 of this series, we started the process of moving an idea From Potential to Pitch by testing assumptions. Now, we’ll take the next step and size up the market for our case study idea: the motorcycle bra.
Welcome back! We’ve been talking about my client Albert and his patented Motorcycle Protective Cover. Commonly called a motorcycle bra, the cover protects the bike’s fairing (the upper and lower cowling and fender) from all sorts of flying road debris. Albert has two patents for the invention and came to me for help in finding the right strategy for licensing his patents and for locating industry partners.
My early research showed that Albert’s target market should be sports bike owners. Our next step was to get a handle on the size of that market and estimate potential sales.
During my study period for Albert, I used estimates from the Motorcycle Industry Council to find numbers for total cycle sales and the percentage of sport bike sales.
Here’s an easy equation you can use, too:
UNITS = U.S. X SB%, where
U.S. = total motorcycle sales in the United States, and
SB% = percentage of those sales accounted for by sport bikes
We’ll use round numbers to make this simple: the Council’s numbers showed annual sales of new motorcycles at 1 million units and the sports bike share at 25%, yielding potential sales of 250,000 units/year for Albert.
In addition, Albert’s motorcycle bra has sales potential among the larger pool of existing motorcycles in the United States (8.8 million at the time I researched). On a conservative basis, let’s assume that sport bikes equal 10% of this existing base. That means Albert’s unit potential in the existing market would be 880,000 units.
I usually advise clients to run these numbers and check out other reports before investing in the patenting process. In Albert’s case, he was so confident in this idea that he pursued his patents first. Had Albert talked to me before submitting his patents, I probably would have suggested some level of market research to help shape the patent approach. Knowing your sales pool potential can inform your important patenting decisions.
Today’s lesson: Estimating the size of your potential customer base is an important step in testing the commercial viability and validity of new ideas. In many cases, I suggest you consider this level of research before filing your patents.
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About the Author
Will Jacques is President of Emanus, a consulting firm that works with entrepreneurs, early-stage, and small-/medium-sized businesses.