To move from concept to production, you must be able to communicate your product to investors. Read the 5 ways to market your product and how much prototyping is required for each marketing opportunity.
5 Types of Prototype Marketing and Their Product Requirements
Prototyping is necessary to move a product from concept to production but is unsustainable without capital. While many inventors self-fund their projects, there is often a moment in the journey where the costs associated with the next step are too big a leap and additional funds are required. It is then that some sort of marketing activity is required to secure investment or an injection of cash whether that be via private investment from friends and family or investors, or presale through the web or crowdfunding.
Different types of marketing activities require different levels of prototypes while some do not require any. The following are five stages in the marketing journey for a product along with how far along your prototype needs to be for each.
Often the first and easiest step to market your prototype is to set up a website. Easily share the concept to get feedback on the product, take presale orders, and support the rest of the marketing plan. It can be set up quickly and evolve with the development, requiring anything from no prototype at all to a fully working product. When the product is launched and available for sale, ecommerce can be added to the site with images and videos of the factory-made product.
Show Progression of Renderings and Images
In the early stages of the product’s journey, you may still be working out the kinks of the technology and not have an aesthetically pleasing prototype. In this case, you can find an industrial designer or graphic artist to come up with renderings of what the product may look like so that you can get investors or potential partners excited about what the product can be. As the product progresses, the renderings can be replaced by images of aesthetic prototypes.
Over the last decade, it has become increasingly common for inventors to use crowdfunding as a means to both validate the product concept as well as fund the journey to production. In the early days of crowdfunding, it was normal for products to launch and achieve fully funded status with just renderings or images of non-functional prototypes.
However, many of those products were not able to deliver on their promise. This caused crowdfunding platforms to get serious about vetting the products before they launch, and this means having prototypes.
Prototype Requirements to Use Crowdfunding Platforms
The two main crowdfunding platforms are Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and their requirements for prototypes are slightly different.
To launch a physical product or gadget on Kickstarter, you must show a working prototype that achieves the functionality that you state in your campaign materials. If not, you risk having the product unapproved or pulled midway through the campaign. It is common and above board to have the main product video (with hero shots and engaging music) to be spoofed in some way.
Perhaps the product’s WiFi was not fully functional in certain shots or you hard-coded LEDs to turn on at certain times. No problem. Just keep in mind that the Kickstarter staff will require you to submit an unedited video (which can be shot on a smartphone) of the product demonstrating functionality before it will be approved for launch.
They also specifically call out that no renderings of any kind can be used in the campaign. This means that all images should be of real prototypes either in the product’s current form or iteratively along the way.
Indiegogo does not require a prototype for physical product or hardware projects but highly encourages them. In this case, you can use renderings of the product and claim functionality that is not yet developed. However, images and videos of prototypes in any state are additive to the campaign, showing potential backers that the product is developed in some capacity and building trust that their dollars are being put towards a viable campaign.
Indiegogo still reserves the right to cancel campaigns and refund backers before the end of the campaign if the product features are too magical relative to what is shown working. So, no matter what the specific requirements are for either platform, the best way to make a splash in crowdfunding is to show beautiful, working prototypes.
With the impact of the pandemic lessening, trade shows are starting to come back and will continue to be a great place to showcase new products. The level of finish of a prototype that is brought to a tradeshow is variable and depends on the needs of the program at the time.
For Physical Products
For purely physical products that have no electronics, it is prudent to have fully working prototypes to show off as this will be crucial to convince show-goers that the product and its claims of efficacy are real.
For Electronic Prototypes
However, there is a little more leeway for electronic prototypes. Electrified products often have wireless technology that can be slowed down and hampered in a congested environment with lots of smartphones like a tradeshow. This makes it difficult to demonstrate product features that require a strong wireless connection and access to the cloud.
Fortunately, big electronic trade shows like CES even offer wired ethernet connections to booths to help with this. On top of this, show-goers are savvy enough to know that the show itself is rarely representative of the product’s intended environment and understand if the features are not demonstrable there.
Some Shows Don’t Have Product Requirements
Some shows like CES also offer areas for companies that are early stage and pre-production so there’s no pressure or requirement to show a fully working prototype.
4. Pitch Deck
If you plan to get investment from angel investors or venture capital groups, you will need a pitch deck. The pitch deck will include not only information about the current state of the product’s development but also information on its financial projections, history of the company, and the timeline to get to market.
Product’s Development In Proportion With How Much You’re Asking
There is no hard and fast rule about how developed a prototype needs to be for a pitch deck, but will likely need to be in proportion to the ask you are making. For example, you may be able to get away with product renderings and rough prototypes if you are doing a local pitch competition with a small cash prize.
However, if you are looking for a series A round of funding from a group of seasoned investors, you are going to need strong evidence of that your prototype works as promised. This is to justify your valuation and the level of funding you are asking for. Experienced investors will insist on live prototype demonstrations and information on the cost of goods to produce the product so it’s a good idea to develop nearly market-ready prototypes.
Applying for grants can be a great way to procure funding for development and launch. Grants.gov shows all of the active grant opportunities with some available for small businesses to fund R&D activities whose cost may normally be out of reach. Depending on the nature and depth of the grant opportunity, you may not have to show a prototype for the application.
Each Grant Has Different Product Requirements
However, you may have to show enough due diligence and prior research to prove that the proposed path is feasible and justified. Once the product is funded, sometimes the final payment will be held until the working prototype is demonstrated. Keep in mind follow-on grant funding may require a certain technical efficacy that can only be demonstrated through a working prototype.
Market Your Prototype with Enventys Partners
Enventys Partners knows more than a thing or two about marketing prototypes. When you’re ready to receive funding for your idea, reach out to us!
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