General Question

FlutherMe's avatar

How do I go about marketing a business?

Asked by FlutherMe (335 points ) January 31st, 2010

I got an idea recently about a technology product I could develop for the construction industry. I got the idea while working with my brother plumbing when he complained he wanted to go paperless.

My idea is basically small printers mounted in the vans that will interface with a mounted laptop or smart phone. The application I will develop will handle all the printing, gathering of customer data, storing notes on customers, process credit cards, storing invoices, and even GPS tracking\vehicle monitoring (Not sure if I want to implement this. You could monitor if your employees are abusing the company vans and\or are not where they are supposed to be).

Ok I have an idea. I can develop it. How do I market it? My plan was just to drive to all the local plumbing, construction, and AC companies and demonstrate my product. Is this a good strategy, or are there better ways to market? I just don’t want to waste my time developing something that can’t sell.

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10 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

I’m not going to offer any real advice. I will just say that everything you mentioned -GPS can be done with a webpage. And the GPS stuff can kinda be done too.

FlutherMe's avatar

John, explain further? Do you mean the marketing or the idea?

As for the idea I was going to make it web-based most likely (so it interfaces easily with a smart phone or computer). How is the contractor going to print physical invoices for the customer without a printer w\ a laptop\smart-phone physically in the van? A webpage can’t do that ;)

EDIT: Also guys don’t be afraid to flame me or my idea. I want all the criticism I can get

marinelife's avatar

First, you need to check whether your idea is not already being done. I think I have seen versions of it.

Secondly, you would market it by using VARs (Value Added Resellers), a Web presence, and at trade shows, as well as driving around demonstrating it.

FlutherMe's avatar

@marinelife

Good point. There are various ways to get it done (all it is a computer\printer mounted in a van). The thing is, most people don’t know HOW to get it done or want to bother with supporting it themselves. I have never seen a company that actually goes around doing the sort of thing though.

The product isin’t original, the service is

EDIT: Read about VAR on wiki. This product seems to be something that would be considered VAR (a software\hardware bundle that is a complete solution).

srmorgan's avatar

I think this lends itself to a smart phone application. That uses the web cloud as suggested and avoids the need for a physical device for data entry in the van.

As to printing an invoice using a smart phone, e-mailing a PDF file to the customer’s box would be the smartest thing to do. Should the customer not have an e-mail address, it could be texted in some format, although it might be hard to read. Worse comes to worst, you text the bill at once and follow up with a paper copy. You can get handheld printers, think of the devices used when you return a rental car, your receipt is printed right in front of you .
Your only issue is if the customer wants a piece of paper right then and there. Not sure how to handle that off the top of my head.

I think you will find that there are similar packages already in the market. UPS has something similar, tracking the travels of employees, uploading delivery information and signatures, tracking each and every package (it is not foolproof), even tracking the how long the driver takes between delivery stops and the speed at which he or she drives the UPS truck.

I recently had my roof replaced and the owner had some information, like who was working at which work site, available to him through his iPhone.

SRM

FlutherMe's avatar

@srmorgan

Yes, I was given advice about smartphones are the way to go. Thats why I intend to make it web-based, so it will work with a smartphone AND a laptop without the need to develop custom apps for each platform. If the employer does not want to purchase smart phones\smart phone plans, a mounted laptop will also work ($29\month for autonet mobile vs > $50 for a smartphone plan). Data entry on a laptop seems easier though, but it is whatever the employer wants.

I was also given advice about email. I personally would like a paper copy of the bill. Thats why I intend to interface the phone or computer with a wireless printer mounted in the vehicle. Then again if the employer does not a printer and prefers just email, he can save money by not getting the printer and the application will be email only.

Yes, I know there are solutions out there, but people don’t know how to implement them. Thats why they call the IT guy. There are solutions on changing a toilet too, but most people just call the plumber.

The marketing aspect of this is what I am stuck on. I am worried I will not be able to sell it.

Good advice guys. Keep it coming!

srmorgan's avatar

You have to get the application into a preliminary state, not even Beta, and demo it for people in the trade. Find out whether what you have put together is of any use and find out what is glaringly absent.

After that, it is finding beta testers around the region and then getting it to market.

A couple of thoughts: I am not in the plumbing trade and as a matter of fact I have a toilet to fix that I have been putting off but be that as it may,
If I were working out of my van, or had guys out in the field, I would like to have my inventory updated, if possible, when parts are pulled and put into use. Again, I don’t know if this is needed, just a thought.

The other thing would be that you try to make this attractive to other trades that make house calls, like the electricians, HVAC et al.

A good place to find testers might be a local trade association or even a local branch of a union depending on whether your home area is unionized or not. I am not saying you should tailor this to union shops, but only to find users who can give you an opinion on the product.

Value added resellers are important, but I would roll this out locally or at least within a couple of hundred miles of your home area. You are going to have to support the VAR’s with software bugs, features, implementation problems. You are also going to be responsible for the choice of equipment that you will run on. Choice of printers and support is going to be more critical than supporting the application.
I don’t know how software on smart phones work, but if the software platform is upgrade you will have to keep your system current with the software maker, whether RIM or Microsoft or Google Android…..

Good luck

SRM

Ruallreb8ters's avatar

You say you dont want to develop something you cant sell, but its hard to sell someting you havent developed. One you have it, just hit the streets, play the numbers, some one will buy it and if its a good product they will recomend it to others… the rest will be history

FlutherMe's avatar

@RuallrebBters

No I intend to develop it and test it (it’s simple software. Beta is no problem) fully before I market it. What I mean was I wanted to be sure I could sell it (have a marketing strategy) before I waste time developing.

I intend to make it web based. Therefore no matter what smart phone or laptop you are using, you can use the app (every smart phone I know has a full functioning browser).

Out of curiosity if you were a contractor how much would you pay for something such as this developed, installed, trained, and supported? Would you want to see any other features (inventory managment, customer storage, invoice printing, cc processing, possibly a speed\location tracker, and daily report generation are what I intend to implement so far). Remember a smart phone will cost atleast $50 per month per user. Autonet mobile with a laptop is $30 per month per user.

billio's avatar

go buy a market

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