Import/export, managing people, raising capital -- the questions asked in September and October Networks provoked many helpful responses from readers. This month the questions focus on marketing and product development. Any suggestions?
Cracking a Market
My company sells an industrial burner that works more efficiently and therefore pollutes less than conventional burners. We have installed about two dozen burners in power plants, refineries, and pulp and paper mills, and we have impressive statistics to show. Yet we have been unable to penetrate one of our target markets: asphalt plants, which are perhaps the most inefficient fuel users in any industry. We get the same response over and over again: "It looks great, and 40% fuel reductions are wonderful, but do you have one already installed in another asphalt plant?" When we say no, they say, call us when you do. It's the only target industry that we haven't been able to sell to in two years.
So . . . help! If anyone has any great ideas, I'd love to hear them.
John W. Copeland
Vice-President of Marketing
Innovative Energy Technologies Inc.
My company provides temperature-control and building-automation services, from computerized systems for heating and air-conditioning to precision-controlled environmental chambers.
Although we have grown to $10 million in revenues in just 10 years, one problem has hampered our ability to sell to large companies. We deal mostly with middle managers who are more concerned with making the safe decision -- "no one ever got fired for buying IBM" -- than making the right decision. Many of these managers won't bother calling up our customers and checking our credentials. They stay with the established competition, even while confessing their dissatisfaction.
What do we do? Please don't suggest going over the manager's head; we've tried it, with no success.
President and Owner
Control Solutions Inc.
In Search of Engineering
I am an M.B.A. student with plans to start a specialized market research firm. The research involves monitoring consumer behavior by means of a simple electronic device. I know exactly what the device should look like and how it should work, but I don't have the electrical engineering background to design the circuitry myself.
Where do I find a person to design and build a prototype? He or she would have to work inexpensively or accept a piece of my company as compensation, because I don't have a lot of money to put into the project at this time.
Graduate School of Business
University of Chicago
Until recently, our company used plastic foam "peanuts" to pack our shipments. The plastic is environmentally unsafe, however, so we purchased a $5,000 machine to shred paper for packing.
Now, our customers tell us the shredded paper is too dusty; they want us to go back to the peanuts. Can anyone suggest an alternative packing material that doesn't harm the environment?
Wiseco Piston Inc.