Time is money, but for successful inventors, that truism has special meaning. Most successful inventors will tell you that not spending enough time researching your million-dollar product idea before bringing it to market is the biggest mistake you can make.
Still, many inventors are prone to becoming so enamored with their own ideas that they don't have an objective mind-set and therefore don't ask key questions about product viability before launching.
"Your product is not your baby; it is a business opportunity, and it must prove it is worthy of your investment and effort," said Tamara Monosoff, inventor and author of "The Mom Inventors Handbook."
If you want your million-dollar idea to have a successful market introduction, ask yourself the following three questions.
1. Have you completed a competitive analysis on the competition your product will face—bricks-and-mortar, online and mail-order?
Understanding the marketplace before proceeding is essential to determining if your product should move forward.
Monosoff said inventors need to research across the entire competitive landscape: big-box stores, small boutiques, online retail and catalog shopping. If you aren't a whiz on the existing product landscape, you're likely finished before you even begin. "It's surprising how often inventors have come to me, having spent thousands of dollars developing a product, and a brief online search reveals that it already exists on the market," Monosoff said.
2. Have you created a prototype and solicited feedback?
Let's say you've done your homework on the market and decided to take the next step. Don't assume your product is perfect the way you've designed it. Monosoff encourages prospective inventors to create a prototype to share with others and then to solicit feedback. "If you want to be successful, you have to have a thick skin and be able to learn from each comment that is made," Monosoff said.
Listening to the consumer is a vital part of product development. "Sometimes a simple suggestion can easily improve a product, and if people don't like your product, it's better to find out at this stage rather than after you have 20,000 units collecting dust in your garage," Monosoff said.
3. Do you know the perfect price for your product?
Let's say you've received a positive response about the prototype. It might be time to move ahead. But there's one more thing. ... You need to price the product right if you want it to sell. Price it too high and no one will buy it; price it too low and you can't sustain a business. Monosoff said reviewing similar products on the market—and you should know them all now anyway from the competitive landscape research you completed—is the best way to learn the price the consumer is willing to pay.
Then you just need to "do the math" on production costs and product differentiation.
Monosoff said that once you have come up with a good, research-based figure for the retail market value of your product, take that number and divide it by 5 to come up with the price you will likely need to pay for production.
So if your product is $10, you can estimate two dollars or less for production costs. It's seemingly simple math, but many inventors think they can play with the numbers to enjoy a greater return. Monosoff cautioned against ever thinking that would lead to success.
"Consumers are price sensitive and will not pay more than they think the product is worth."
And if you are planning to price higher than your competition, the market research has to justify that the specific features and benefits of your product makes it stand out from the crowd, Monosoff said.
Tune in to CNBC's new series, "Make Me a Millionaire Inventor," on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT.