You’ve had an idea for a while now. You’ve researched it, revised it, gotten feedback, and revised it again. If you think you’re ready to go to market with it but you’re not sure what to do, keep reading. Should you get a patent first? Develop a marketing plan? Go on Shark Tank? We’ve got answers and most of them start with one action: research.

Research the product marketing process

Though you’ve already gathered a lot of background on the best way to design your product, your next task is additional research but with a different focus. You want to understand if your product is likely to be successful on the market and if you should proceed further with the rest of the process. It may seem like unnecessary, painstaking work but it’s not. It’s like the foundation to a building, the stronger you build it the more stable a building — or your product’s lifespan — are likely to be.

Start by understanding the process of getting your product to potential buyers. Find out what kind of tools others have taken to be successful. It is likely that they’ve used sell sheets and marketing collateral with descriptions of the product and their benefits to consumers. Understand the details that go into the content of these materials, the formatting of each piece of collateral, and when you’ll need to use each. At this stage, it’s also not a bad idea to start a marketing business plan to roadmap future marketing activities.

Do more research to understand legal processes

The next area you’ll want to research involves the legalities of bringing a product to market, starting with the intellectual property process. Your first goal is to understand if your invention is too similar to something that is already created and what kinds of differences the law requires for you to be able to call your product your own.

Start by researching inventions that are similar to yours and in both real-world and online retailers. This will help you understand how unique your offering is from a legal perspective, and it will help you set it apart from others as part of your marketing process. You can also research patents of products like yours at the US Patent and Trading Office Website. If all of this research inspires you to further tweak your invention, that’s a good thing. It will make it more likely you’ll make money from your hard work.

Become an expert at protecting your product

The next thing you’ll want to do with your invention is to protect it. This involves still more research. Try to understand as much as you can about the patent and trademark establishment process and become familiar with the jargon involved. You’ll save yourself from the headaches of doing something wrong later on. Websites that can help you with this process involve the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization as well as the already mentioned US Patent and Trading Office.

Develop a prototype

The research process may have inspired you to make changes to your invention. At this stage, if you have a prototype, update it based on what you learned. If you don’t have a prototype, its a good time to get one started. This doesn’t have to be complicated — in some cases, even a drawing will do. It will help you with both the patent/trademark processes and marketing.

Apply for a patent or trademark

Once all of this research is finished, you’re more than ready to complete one of the most exciting parts of bringing your product to market, applying for a patent or trademark. If your situation warrants, you may decide to get legal help with this process, many inventors do.

Networking helps

While the process of bringing your invention to market is exciting, it’s not always straightforward or easy. Luckily, there’s help out there. Your local area may have networking groups for local inventors where newbies can benefit from the experience of others who are more familiar with the process. Connect with others where you can. While you may be using someone else’s help now, you will eventually be experienced all on your own. You can return the favor in the future as an inventor who has successfully brought a product to market and made something new in the world.