(Continuing the sharing of my failed and successful experiences at getting a new product created.)
After you have narrowed down who may manufacture your idea into reality, you have to take the next step: spend a little money. Not to develop your idea or to hire a lawyer. No, not yet. You want to find out if your invention has merit.
By this stage, you have already bounced your idea off of your trusted friends who are willing to tell you like it is, and you have found a manufacturer who gave you an estimate you can live with. But you don't want to spend thousands of dollars making a product just to discover no one wants to buy it, right?
I highly recommend you check out Innovation Institute for what they call a "Preliminary Innovation Evaluation Systems Report" or PIES. For ~$200, their experts will review your idea and provide a break down of 45 criteria to determine the feasibility of your idea. These criteria range from "Societal Criteria" - safety, environmental impact, to "Business Risk Criteria" - functional feasibility, investment costs, to "Demand Analysis Criteria" - potential market, potential sales.
I have no affiliation with Innovation institute. I just know it was the best $260 I ever spent. All you have to do is fill out their online form, and mail it in with the check. Within 4-6 weeks you will receive a personalized and detailed assessment of your idea. To give you some background, this company has been using variations on PIES since 1979.
According to their vast experience, 80-85% of all ideas submitted receive a Not Feasible rating. 10% receive a Mixed rating, and the other 5% are Feasible. For those 5%, they will offer to connect you to the right channels. My idea fell into the Mixed rating range, and they still gave me contact information if I should decide to pursue this idea anyway.
There are questions they ask that forced me to dig deeper into my intentions and projections than I would have otherwise. How much did I project to sell in a year? I dunno! How much will I spend on marketing? I dunno! What will my return policy be? I DUNNO! But I should have an approximate idea, and this process helped me to get my head out of the clouds and look at this idea realistically.
My report was the expert constructive criticism I needed. According to their findings, I would need to reduce my cost significantly if I was going to appeal to my target customer. If I couldn't find a way to reduce costs without sacrificing quality, then I didn't have a feasible invention.
And all I had to spend to get that critical information was $260.