The right way to contact big companies about your invention

When you’ve invented a new product, it’s natural to want to work with the biggest company possible to help bring it to market. Market leaders have excellent distribution and brand awareness. But getting a big company to agree to license your invention is not easy.

Many of these companies do not want to work with inventors due to liability issues. Maybe they were burned by unreasonable inventors in the past. Their R&D departments are large which makes it difficult for them to know exactly what they are working on at any given time.

They may feel like the best and the brightest are already working for them, so why open their doors to work with outside inventors and product developers? This is a version of the “not invented here” syndrome, the phenomenon in which ideas that are not generated internally are ignored. Big companies also tend to require idea proposals to be patented, which is a barrier. That said, some market leaders have truly embraced the benefits of open innovation — and these are the companies inventors should seek out for licensing.

But how? Many of these companies have created portals for you to submit your invention ideas. On their websites, you will find buttons that say “submit an idea”. They’re tempting, but there’s a better way to reach out.

Licensing agreements are forged on the basis of personal relationships. Using a portal is like submitting your invention to a black hole. A better strategy is to send a simple three-part message using LinkedIn, which has made communicating and building a relationship with key company decision makers much easier than before.

First of all, before sending a single message, I recommend that you file an intellectual property on your invention, such as a provisional patent application.

Polish your LinkedIn page.

This will encourage others to accept your connection requests. Your page is like your own personal sell sheet.

So look straight into the camera and smile in your profile picture. Don’t waste the space under your image on rewards. Instead, describe your mission in one sentence. People who share your mission are more likely to respond to your message, and this is an opportunity to make your value proposition loud and clear. If you are inventing and developing new types of sustainable packaging, for example, you might write: “Creating sustainable packaging solutions”.

Completely filling out your profile does not hurt.

Do your homework.

When you submit your invention idea to large corporations, targeting the right people in the right companies are essential. The only way to make sure you’ve identified a great potential partner is to take the time to first understand the company’s mission and goals. This information is easy to find by reading the company’s press releases and social media posts.

Figuring out who exactly to approach with your idea can be a challenge. So I asked Lisa Rose, Director of Marketing at LifeScan, the 40-year-old blood sugar monitoring and diabetes management provider, directly for her insights. Rose is a marketing veteran who has fully embraced open innovation to develop and bring to market innovative new products at some of the world’s largest companies, including Procter & Gamble.

In general, the best breeding grounds for ideas and innovation in large companies, she told me, are business development, product development, and marketing. These groups can influence product choice, have access to budget and resources, and can serve as internal advocates. To get the most out of LinkedIn, Rose recommends checking to see if you or someone in your network is already connected to an employee. This person may be willing to give you more information about business priorities, help you navigate the business, and ultimately connect you with the right decision makers, which will make you save time and effort.

Get your message across properly.

After identifying a few great candidates and sending out connection requests, it’s now time to write your first message. Overall, your goal is to showcase the benefits of your product idea. It is not a question of presenting your invention itself. It’s too early for that. Please no attachments or links. You’re trying to find out if they’re doing open innovation because you have a product that’s right for them. What if they say yes? Follow up with a sell sheet.

First, recognize the mission of the company. Remember that this information is easy to find online.

“On LinkedIn, the reviews I get that are effective are those that say, ‘Hey, I looked at LifeScan online and see you’re supporting people with diabetes with digital health and wellness as a strategy’ , explained Rose.

She’s driven to respond to people who tell her they’re working on something proprietary and have proof of concept and/or data on their invention.

Then end your request with a direct request. For example, “I would like to meet someone in business development to share my idea in 30 minutes or less.”

When Rose receives messages that include these three elements, she will respond, she said.

“We’re actively researching. A few people on our team spend all day, every day talking to people about what they’re working on,” she explained. “The way to reduce clutter is to show that you’ve done your homework and have something to offer.”

As you write each of your messages to employees of large companies, study the language these people use to describe themselves and their mission. The information you get will help you write a better value proposition, more targeted to their employer. If you’re not sure if they really practice open innovation, ask directly: Do you work with external product developers?

To summarize: Keep it short. Do not disclose any confidential information, including intellectual property. Instead, share the profits of your invention.

Connecting with great companies is easy when you do and say the right things. It all comes down to doing your homework well. It’s the only way to introduce the right person to the right company with the right product.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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