(BPT) - In 2015, thousands of people filed more than half a million patent applications for their good ideas, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. That’s a lot of ideas. Sadly, only half received patents, and fewer still made it to market. Anyone can have a great idea, but how do you sell it to the investors, partners and customers who will help turn that idea into a success?

Here are four tips to get you started:

1. Keep it to yourself ... until it’s perfected.

Having a great idea can be very exciting, and you may be tempted to tell everyone about it before your idea is fully fleshed out. Don’t. Instead, focus on developing your idea by asking and answering key questions like what problem does your idea solve, why is your idea an innovative solution, and what do you need in order to make a prototype or sample.

2. Get some practice selling an idea.

Luckily , some companies ask consumers to submit their own ideas for new products. Participating in an opportunity like the Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest can give you the chance to practice your idea-pitching skills and see your ideas come to life on store shelves.

Some of the most interesting chip flavors over the years have been created by everyday fans, and the popular potato chip brand is again asking consumers to suggest new flavor varieties for the latest installment of the contest – “The Pitch.” Creativity is encouraged, and you can submit your flavor idea through a video, photo or written description. Submissions close on March 19, and three winners will have their flavor developed and brought to store shelves by Frito-Lay. A grand prize winner will receive $1 million, two finalists will win $50,000 each, and seven semi-finalists will win $10,000 each. Go to www.lays.com for complete contest rules and to submit your entry.

3. Know your audience.

For your pitch to succeed, you have to be sure that your idea will resonate with the people who matter. Something might sound like a great idea to you but it needs to benefit others as well in order to catch their interest. For example, you might think of a unique potato chip flavor idea for “Do Us a Flavor,” but you need to be sure other people love that taste as much as you. Before you present your pitch, analyze the idea through the eyes of the person you’re pitching it to and also through the eyes of the end consumers who would be using your end product.

4. Pitch perfectly and briefly.

Once you’ve perfected your idea and practiced selling it, it’s time to perfect your pitch. Actually, you’ll want to have multiple versions of your pitch, each one taking a different length of time to deliver – because you never know how much time you’ll have when new opportunities arise to pitch your idea. For example, you should think about having 10-second, 30-second and three-minute versions. Each pitch should address basic selling points of your idea/product, including why people need it, what problem it solves, and what specific action you want the listener to take after hearing your pitch. And don’t be afraid to get creative with how you deliver your pitch. Could be a rhyme, dance, or song, much like how Nick Lachey pitched his flavor idea earlier this year!

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