What are your thoughts, ideas and homegrown processes worth to your business? It very well may be that you can give your firm a distinct competitive advantage by monetizing your ideas and building an intellectual property portfolio.
**This post was originally published on Iconic Woman.**
It is no secret that small businesses drive the economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 99.7% of all employer firms and employ over half of the U.S. workforce. We’re talking 40% of our scientists, engineers, and tech talent. But there is an underlying reason for small businesses being able to employ technical and creative talent – intellectual property (IP).
What is Intellectual Property?
Let’s start with the basics here. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has this to say:
Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.
We’re talking about ideas. Thoughts. And more than just fueling your daily actions, your ideas – some of them, at least – have market value.
Why IP is important for Woman-Owned and Minority-Owned Businesses
IP can boost the value of your company. Intellectual property presents a huge opportunity for minority business owners who may be cash-strapped but idea-rich. Women entrepreneurs actually seek outside funding far less than their male counterparts. Adding intellectual property to your portfolio can not only help you build multiple streams of income but a collection of copyrights, trademarks and patents boost the value of your company.
IP can give you a fast and firm market advantage. Intellectual property can also help your firm gain the advantage over your competitors by bringing new innovations to market. What business owner wouldn’t want to be responsible for an invention that helps her dominate her market and have a patent in place to ensure her competitors cannot duplicate her processes?
Inventions and patents aside, the Internet is built on intellectual property. If you want to remain competitive in tomorrow’s market, minority-owned businesses should start adopting the practice of creating content – videos, books, articles, social posts, podcasts, courses, and other intellectual property – today. In our web-driven, search-engine-fueled economy, a business will have a hard time surviving without it in the coming years.
IP can help you differentiate yourself from your competitors. Intellectual property also strengthens your ability to differentiate yourself in the market. As a consumer, whom would you rather patronize: A professional who works a 9 to 5 and does the occasional lecture at a nearby college campus, or the expert who has invested so much time and effort into mastering their profession that they have produced half dozen books and training courses to present and sell at the occasional lecture?
If you miss the live event, you already know you can buy the recording on her website in a matter of days or weeks. IP makes the difference by allowing you to meet your targets right where they are.
The U.S. Economy Thrives on Intellectual Property
Small businesses may be paying everybody, but intellectual property is creating the jobs. A report released by The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and The Economic and Statistics Administration offers insight on just how valuable intellectual property is:
“The entire U.S. economy relies on some form of IP, because virtually every industry either produces or uses it.” – Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus
The United States is not exclusive in its mission to perpetuate innovation by offering creators protections for their ideas. These protections – delivered in the form of copyrights, patents and trademarks – encourage creators to market and monetize their ideas. The more great ideas we are able to turn into profitable businesses, the more economic stability the country can enjoy.
Look, I grabbed this report published by the World Intellectual Property Organization called Intellectual Property for Business. It contains very valuable information, insight and strategies for how small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) can get ahead by using intellectual property.
If you’ve thought at all about formalizing a process or creating and selling multimedia content, I urge you to download Intellectual Property for Business by clicking here.
With Internet marketers and online gurus selling ebooks as “information products”, it can be a challenge pinpointing exactly where the line is between regular eBook and an “information product.” Just what is the difference?
Lead with Value
Master copywriter, Bob Bly, extols the virtues of creating information products that deliver the kind value that far exceeds the retail price of the product. That sentiment is in line with Gary Vaynerchuk’s resolve that you start every relationship by focusing on giving value long before you think about selling anything.
Unlike regular books and eBooks, people buy information products for more in-depth information.That means there should be a difference between the content you put in an eBook and the value of the content you put in an information product.
Information Products Create Turnkey Solutions
Look at the picture above from Suzanne Evans’ Be the Change program. Whether digital or physical, this is what your customers are expecting from an information product. The person who buys an information product is looking for something very close to a turnkey solution.
So, an eCourse on copywriting cannot be developed in the same way one would develop the content for a 40-page eBook on copywriting. No. A course has far more depth.
According to Bly, information products should provide detailed instructions on how to do instead of just pointing readers in the direction of what to do. It is this depth that justifies a price tag of $49 or $297 or $5,997 for an information product.
It is true that for some people, even a turnkey solution is too much work. You may pour your heart out to provide turnkey but they will complain because they wanted magic. You and I both know building any business at all takes time. It takes energy. It takes focus and resilience. And it takes money. So don’t worry too much about those people. They probably aren’t going to do what it takes to succeed anyway.
Still, if you are developing an information product, you should seek to be the only solution your customer ever needs. Use your information product to detail every thought, strategy, action and result your customer can expect. Anything short of that is probably an eBook that you should sell online for $19.99 or less.
Filling in the Blanks to Create an Info Product
What if you don’t know enough to lay out every thought, strategy, action, and result? Well, you probably need to learn more before creating an information product.
Start learning not just your job, but your industry, your market, your competitors, and the names of the thought leaders in your space. Find out who is good at what, and leverage their knowledge to your advantage. An encyclopedia doesn’t reveal new findings. It only aggregates what has already been published. In the same way, creating a quality information product requires you to be the resource. Be your customer’s encyclopedia. Teach them what to do and why, but make the crux of your effort explaining to the reader how to do it.
Finally, have a tool whereby customers who buy your info product can receive continuing support on their efforts. That may be in the form of a membership to your VIP circle, access to a special online forum, or even just an address for them to email you questions and have you respond.
Whatever your choice, focus on becoming your customer’s primary resource for news and insights in your industry.
What is a non-disclosure agreement, and is it every really necessary to have your team members sign one?
You have a fantastic idea that you believe will perform well in the market, so much so that you’ve gone beyond thinking about it and are regularly doing research to find out as much as you can about the industry, competitors, materials needed, and possible distribution options.
You know you’re going to need help getting the prototype done, so you start putting together a team of people you know can help you get the product done.
There’s just one thing.
How will you ensure your team keeps things under wraps while your product is in development? How do you keep your “secret sauce” from ending up in the hands of someone who can complete, patent, and bring your product to market before you do?
What is an NDA?
A Non-Disclosure Agreement (otherwise known as a Confidentiality Agreement) is a contract that protects your right to be the sole beneficiary of your idea. By signing an NDA, your team members agree to keep confidential the material, knowledge, or information you share with them during the development of your product.
If you are in the process of having your creative idea developed and you hired other people to work with you toward completion, one of the more important issues you need to address is protecting your intellectual property. Surely, the last thing you need is for some wack, knock-off artist to get your product in stores before you because your graphic designer couldn’t, or wouldn’t, shut-up about the project.
Having your team members sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement helps to protect your creation from being stolen or published prematurely by someone else.
There is risk inherently involving in working with other people. The primary goal is to make sure the people you recruit to help you don’t turn around and bite the hand that feeds them.
You want protection against them double-crossing you (pulled that term right from my mental catalog of language from ’70s police dramas), telling company secrets, and revealing what’s in your “secret sauce” so to speak.
What Goes In an NDA?
What you put in an NDA depends on what you are protecting, and the scope of your project. If you really think about it, a pinky swear is a confidentiality agreement and it takes all of 5 seconds to enter one.
If you draw up a Non-Disclosure Agreement, your best bet is to seek the counsel of an attorney.
But if you need an agreement on the fly, here are some things to include:
- Identify the parties to the agreement
- Outline specifically what information is confidential
- Disclosure period – the length of time the parties are expected to keep sensitive information confidential
- Any exclusions about what must be kept confidential; typical exclusions include:
- Information the signer previously knew
- Information the signer learned from other materials outside of the project
- Information and materials that are publicly available
- Any restrictions of data that become a matter of national security
- Duration of time in which the agreement is in effect
- Agreement that the employer can exercise injunctive relief if the signer violates the agreement and goes out on his/her own to do the job without you
- Allotted use of information
- Use sensitive information for specified purposes
- To share the information only with those authorized by the employer to know
- To use appropriate efforts to keep the information secure
- Types of permissible disclosure (such as court order)
- Law and jurisdiction governing the parties
Again, work with an experienced attorney who can help you draft an airtight NDA to protect your idea. If you need something quick you can grab a copy-and-paste form from Nolo here, a fillable form from Rocket Lawyer here, and a quick-fix from LegalZoom here for $14.95.