Making old ideas new again

Jan. 1, 2020
One of the provisions of the new tax law allows businesses to write off investment in tools and equipment at 100 percent.

One of the provisions of the “new” tax law allows businesses to write off investment in tools and equipment at 100 percent. Yes, I realize there is more to it, but I am a technician and not a CPA. It seems like this might create a win/win for both your business and your customers if you are in the tool business or the selling of tools business.

The question becomes what kind of pent-up demand is there? The opportunity is useless if you can’t answer that question. Several years ago, I designed a tool to cut off exhaust pipes cleanly and quickly in the car. I shopped it around the country and had great response to the design. Ultimately, I received a patent on the design but it never got placed with a tool company. I was shopping it when the economy was rough and tool companies seemed afraid to take a chance on anything except revisions of existing technologies. The companies’ reasoning was that they did not have a cost effective way to do market research and were unwilling to license a tool without that. Despite several companies who agreed that the income potential was in the $10 million range, the first year they were unwilling to invest in their own market research. Of course I have considered that this was a convenient way of getting rid of me. My evidence to the contrary was the length some of these companies went to for a meeting and the required follow up.

This experience got me to thinking that the model for market research might need a little bit of modernization. With the large number of visitors to your websites, why not take the lead from the companies who are asking visitors to do online surveys and ask your visitors to do a new product survey? Clearly this is not reinventing the wheel. I think you would find that with a couple of qualifying questions you could determine your audience. I receive survey requests by email from one of the TV networks. Sometimes I am the person they are looking for and other times they thank me after a couple of questions. They are fun and don’t take much time.

My next idea is also not new, but its use has faded over the years. The focus group provides feedback that is valuable in so many ways. Sure, they can be expensive by the time you pay everyone from your company to be there and offer some attraction (food, prizes, etc.) to get the desired customers to attend. Why not modernize this old-school program by taking it online? You could place invitations through trade associations, iATN and your website. Use a couple of questions to qualify the demographic and invite those that meet your criteria to a web conference to see your new idea and provide feedback. Many of us who buy your products would be very interested in participating in this type of program.

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The final challenge that you meet, after you decide what to make and sell, is getting the word out about the new product. Mailers are expensive, email lists wind up in spam folders and faxes can land you in hot water with folks who don’t want you to use their paper and toner without permission. In the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, he identifies three groups — connectors, mavens and salesmen — that can assist you in promoting your product to success. Rather than do a book report, I will say that identifying these folks in your customer base and offering them free product or use of the product could go miles toward promotion. Also, consider offering it through non-traditional channels like iATN, blogging about it on SearchAutoParts.com’s community site or ASA’s online marketplace, which is available to vendors, members and their employees.

Often we look for brand new ideas when just some rework of old ones can be very effective. If you have some of your own ideas, drop me a line, and I will put them on my blog at http://workshop.search-autoparts.com.

One of the provisions of the “new” tax law allows businesses to write off investment in tools and equipment at 100 percent. Yes, I realize there is more to it, but I am a technician and not a CPA. It seems like this might create a win/win for both your business and your customers if you are in the tool business or the selling of tools business.

The question becomes what kind of pent-up demand is there? The opportunity is useless if you can’t answer that question. Several years ago, I designed a tool to cut off exhaust pipes cleanly and quickly in the car. I shopped it around the country and had great response to the design. Ultimately, I received a patent on the design but it never got placed with a tool company. I was shopping it when the economy was rough and tool companies seemed afraid to take a chance on anything except revisions of existing technologies. The companies’ reasoning was that they did not have a cost effective way to do market research and were unwilling to license a tool without that. Despite several companies who agreed that the income potential was in the $10 million range, the first year they were unwilling to invest in their own market research. Of course I have considered that this was a convenient way of getting rid of me. My evidence to the contrary was the length some of these companies went to for a meeting and the required follow up.

This experience got me to thinking that the model for market research might need a little bit of modernization. With the large number of visitors to your websites, why not take the lead from the companies who are asking visitors to do online surveys and ask your visitors to do a new product survey? Clearly this is not reinventing the wheel. I think you would find that with a couple of qualifying questions you could determine your audience. I receive survey requests by email from one of the TV networks. Sometimes I am the person they are looking for and other times they thank me after a couple of questions. They are fun and don’t take much time.

My next idea is also not new, but its use has faded over the years. The focus group provides feedback that is valuable in so many ways. Sure, they can be expensive by the time you pay everyone from your company to be there and offer some attraction (food, prizes, etc.) to get the desired customers to attend. Why not modernize this old-school program by taking it online? You could place invitations through trade associations, iATN and your website. Use a couple of questions to qualify the demographic and invite those that meet your criteria to a web conference to see your new idea and provide feedback. Many of us who buy your products would be very interested in participating in this type of program.

PAGE 2

The final challenge that you meet, after you decide what to make and sell, is getting the word out about the new product. Mailers are expensive, email lists wind up in spam folders and faxes can land you in hot water with folks who don’t want you to use their paper and toner without permission. In the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, he identifies three groups — connectors, mavens and salesmen — that can assist you in promoting your product to success. Rather than do a book report, I will say that identifying these folks in your customer base and offering them free product or use of the product could go miles toward promotion. Also, consider offering it through non-traditional channels like iATN, blogging about it on SearchAutoParts.com’s community site or ASA’s online marketplace, which is available to vendors, members and their employees.

Often we look for brand new ideas when just some rework of old ones can be very effective. If you have some of your own ideas, drop me a line, and I will put them on my blog at http://workshop.search-autoparts.com.