I have a great idea for a (tangible) product innovation in a very niche industry and would like to find out what the optimal steps are for pursuing this.
Note: I have been reading a lot about the theoretical accepted processes however my question is directed more towards those who have practical experience doing this.
I don't know about this being the optimal approach, but here is a sales strategy that has worked for us in the past for getting a new product off the ground:
With a bit of luck you will soon find somebody who will back you, or at least point you in the right direction.
If the sales process is a bit daunting, you can play up the "I just need advice" angle. For more assistance in selling you might want to read SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham which presents a specific process for working with large value sales.