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How to Find Licensing Success at a Trade Show

If you are serious about innovation, you should attend the trade show that is relevant to your field. This allows you to identify companies for potential associations. It also shows these companies that you are a professional. Inventors who repeatedly license their ideas for new products attribute much of their success to the relationships they have built. Why? Because they are given targets to hit and can get feedback quickly, which is crucial to developing an idea that companies really want to license.

After a rough couple of years of trade show cancellations and postponements, it looks like they’re coming back in full force. Last week, my business partner, Andrew Krauss, attended SuperZoo, the annual trade event primarily for cat and dog products, in Las Vegas. Business is booming in the pet industry, he told me. The floors of the trade show were so packed it was hard to hear. He learned that the pet industry is recession-proof: pet owners are willing to spend money on their beloved companions day in and day out.

When you intend to secure a licensing deal for your invention, the best way to approach trade shows is to walk the floors with your marketing collateral in hand, ready to show off when appropriate.

I strongly advise against buying a trade show booth to display your prototype. This is an expensive rookie mistake. Waiting for someone to come and discover you, especially when you don’t even have a product for sale, is not an effective strategy. It’s also too much exposure. Doing this is like asking someone to scam you.

I caught up with independent product developer Cigdem Delano, who is attending SuperZoo for the third time this year, to show them how easy it is to connect with open innovation companies at trade shows. (Full disclosure: Cigdem was a member of my training program, inventRight, years ago.) In addition to inventing for the pet product industry, he has commercialized an innovation that makes pendants hang properly on necklace chains.

Why did you attend the show?

SuperZoo is a great place to grow and develop your network. You can see what’s new, learn about trends in pet products, and meet people you might not otherwise meet. The presentations are also very educational. My licensee, Advance Pet Product, placed my patented invention, a non-spill bowl called Unspill-a-Bowl, neatly on his stand. It received a lot of attention, with many retailers expressing interest in bringing them into their stores.

How has your experience evolved?

Since I have developed relationships with companies that have participated in multiple SuperZoo events, it is much easier for me to reach out to them, catch up and show them my new product ideas.

Did you schedule the meetings in advance or did you walk up to the booths?

I mainly walked to the booths. If no one was available to meet at the time, he would schedule a time to come back later.

Were companies interested in meeting with you? Were they ‘inventor friendly’, in other words?

People in the pet industry are very friendly and welcoming. Most are interested in hearing new product ideas and are open to outside submissions. Some companies prefer to develop their products. However, you must be very careful: most people admit that the products are copied.

What advice would you give to an inventor who has never been to a fair and is a bit nervous?

Set up! Review the list of exhibitors, identify companies that might be interested in your product idea as well as the names of potential contacts, approach them at their booth when they’re not busy, strike up a friendly conversation, learn about them, then ask them questions. . if they are open to outside submissions. Tell them you are a product developer and ask if they have time to review your idea. Be sure to get their contact information and follow up with them a week after the show. It is easy!

Seeing new products displayed at trade shows never fails to inspire me creatively. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to review them, as they are a great indication of where the industry is headed. Some of my other favorite tips? Bring two pairs of comfortable shoes and dress appropriately.

Opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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