A service company has had a particularly difficult time reaching its market. A successful regional company wants to expand in two directions at once but wonders if old methods will work in new markets. And another reader needs to wheedle information out of the airline industry without losing control of his product idea. See if you can offer them any help. Also, this month, Inc. introduces a new Network feature, Resources, in which we list sources of information for readers' most-often-asked questions. See [Article link].
In the Shop
AutoClaim provides third-party administration for more than 40 independent extended automobile warranties. When car owners who are covered by one of the warranties we service bring their cars into a shop with which we're affiliated, we pay the shop the cost of the repair and handle all the insurance paperwork. Repair shops don't need to charge customers up front, and customers don't have to wait for reimbursement. Our problem is directing service-contract holders to the shops that use our service. How can we reach them?
North Kansas City, Mo.
My regional greeting-card company produces and sells cards with sporting themes. We have established excellent distribution in our home state, North Carolina, through sporting-goods stores. Now we've begun to expand into new regions and into traditional greeting-card outlets. But I wonder if we're going about it wrong. We have persuaded some regional greeting-card sales representatives to carry our line, but it's taking some time to see results from them. Should we be looking for national representatives? Are there major brokers we should contact in the card or sporting industries? How can we best evaluate potential distributors and reps?
Risa & Co.
I am developing a product for the airline industry that would work with the airlines' computer reservation systems. The product would prevent lost revenues, save time, and improve service. I have spoken to friends in the industry, and they agree there is a market for my product. But to proceed, I need more information about the airlines' reservation systems. How can I get that information without divulging my idea? It's a software product, so I'm not sure I can patent it. Also, where can I obtain information on U.S. and international regulations governing the operation of reservation systems?
West Palm Beach, Fla.