NEMRA and its rep members can play a unique role in marketing new products. The article, "Job-Site Inventors," which appeared in the July issue of Electrical Wholesaling (p. 32), was right on the money in how it described the creative thinking and problem-solving by electrical contractors that result in the invention of innovative products. There's an additional perspective I would like to add, however, and that's the role that the National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association (NEMRA) Tarry-town, N.Y., and the electrical manufacturers representative can play in efficiently bringing a product to market.
There were several key elements to the ideas espoused in the article:
- Someone (in this case an electrical contractor) has a good idea.
- The product that was developed can be manufactured in a cost-effective manner with a sufficient margin - but can still be sold at a competitive selling price.
- Where necessary, the product meets codes and standards.
This all may very well be the easy part. The next step is more difficult - taking the product to market. Let's say that you have made working models, shown them to electrical distributors and contractors, and they assure you that the product can save time and money, and that there appears to be a demand for it. Perhaps additional interest has developed because it's appeared in the new product pages of Electrical Wholesaling and EC&M. Maybe the product has even had an appearance at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) show.
In marketing a product, one of the very first steps is building a field sales force. To do this, you can joint venture with a manufacturer, as described in the article; hire your own sales force, which is very expensive; or go to the "field sales store" - NEMRA headquarters.
Let me concentrate on the latter, because the service NEMRA can provide in this area is one of the great strengths of the organization and its members. NEMRA teaches companies how to work with electrical manufacturers' representatives. We can teach them how to use or motivate reps and guide them on how to take that product to market. The next piece to the puzzle that NEMRA can provide is finding the right rep to represent the product in the market. In this selection process, we can help new product developers get answers to the following questions:
- How do I motivate and compensate the rep?
- How does the rep's other product lines complement my product to ensure the synergistic sales that are so important to the success of any product?
- Since I probably won't be the rep's largest source of income, how do I become his emotional favorite?
One small manufacturer with a new product it wanted to introduce to the electrical market recently took the rep route with great success. Bending Technologies, Inc. (BTI), Waterville, Maine, is a designer and manufacturer of tools that aid in the bending of electrical conduit of all types and sizes. They got involved with NEMRA and in their words, "Came out with an appreciation for the importance of the partnership between the manufacturer, the manufacturers' representative and the customer. We believe that the most successful way to pursue this process (marketing) is through quality representation and partnering with the independent manufacturers representative."
Others would do well to follow their example.