Category Archives: Manufacturing

Price “fixing”

 By Jeff Bowman

This past weekend, I ventured out and attended several “amateur” sales events close to my home.  Better known as garage sales, these mini one day retail ventures offer some great insights into how prices are set and negotiated in the business world. Similar products at different locations varied greatly in price and other products displayed prices that seemed to have no rhyme or reason to them. A good example was paperback books, 4 for a $1.00 at one house, $1.00 each at another on the same street! I don’t need to tell you where the dollars were going.

Translated to the business world, that equates to two different stores setting their price using 2 divergent formulas for sales. “Entrepreneurs tend to keep prices too low,” according to business author Reed K. Holden.  In experience, sometimes we don’t see ourselves as a contributor to the value proposition, or take fully into account the real value the product or service brings to the customer. Larger companies may have a tendency to utilize the “mark up on cost” tactic which incorporates a variety of costs involved in bringing the product or service to market, then simply adding on a viable profit margin, sometimes with little regard to the competitive environment.

Setting your price is a critical part of the marketing mix and all things need to be considered such as your total costs including time, marketing, sales expenditures and transportion to name a few, the competition, the aggregate need, the decision making process of the buyer, the elasticity of demand (which in simple terms means the change in demand at various price points) and the position that it will be delivered to the market in, those positions being: is it new and “revolutionary”, is it an improvement or “evolutionary” or is it a similar product or service to many in the market already or ”an also ran”

In considering all of the above, the most important factor has to be the overall value that your product or service provides to the buyer. As a sales coach I constantly reinforce the value proposition in the sales process, and it is no different in the pricing approach. Businesses need to put dollar figures to the benefits the features provide. By monetizing the value to the customer the pricing consideration can be more clearly evaluated. A real quick example would be, if I introduce a product similar to others in the market, with improvements that are proven to save maintenance, shut downs and costly delays, is it wise to price it only a few dollars above the current market value, or is it worth much more in dollar savings over time for the customer?

Garage sale economics may dictate put the “stuff” out, price it to sell and close at noon to enjoy the Saturday, but if your price is too high it may need some fixing to avoid a long day standing on the driveway and a future trip to the dump.

Jeff Bowman, the “Attitude” in The Marketing PAD, provides workshops and sales consultations for businesses looking to grow.

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Filed under B2B, Innovation, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, Marketing, Sales, Strategic Planning

I was The Gar-repairman!

 By Jeff Bowman

For the past 10 years or so, at dusk on a Tuesday evening I would assume a different identity and travel the streets of my neighborhood in search of repairable items that people had discarded at the end of their driveways, to be hauled away by garbage trucks the next day. Several people knew my secret identity, and have kept it very quiet over the years, however, I will now reveal myself as “The Gar-repairman”

I didn’t do it for profit, quite the opposite; I did it for community service. I am somewhat handy, and electrically inclined.  I enjoy taking things apart to see how they work. Several years ago it occurred to me that those who aren’t good with their hands, or had no knowledge of the inner workings of gears and motors, would simply discard an item and purchase new rather than attempting what was often an easy fix.  The “throw-away” consumer. Those who fully believe in the theory of manufacturing’s planned obsolescence policy. If it breaks it is cheaper and easier to repurchase than to fix. For many years I fought that notion.

I would travel the streets in my unmarked vehicle (so as not to give away my identity), and peruse the piles on the curb. If I saw an item that I thought I could fix, I would casually stop, jump out of the car, grab it and stuff it back in the car and make a quick getaway. Sometimes my son would join me to make it quicker.  We called them “the drive bys”.  Lamps, fans and shop vacs were my specialties, but occasionally I would snag whipper snippers or leaf blowers and other small appliances. A tangled nylon string in the base of the cutter, a cut or worn electrical cord, a fan blade that simply needed cleaning and a drop of oil, a faulty switch or a cracked cover, were common problems and easily fixed at little or no cost using parts from items I couldn’t safely fix.

Now what do I need with all this repaired stuff you might be asking yourself?  I didn’t have a need for it, so every few weeks I would load the car up again with fixed items and drop them off at local charitable organizations, who could sell them and use the money for their very worthy community programs. It was like an in kind donation. (I often received odd looks when I would drop off   3 of the same item)

Times have changed. I don’t have as much time now as I used to, I am purging stuff in my house (donating) and stepping back from my Gar-repairman persona. Today, I believe some products are being made to expire a week after the warranty runs out, cheap plastic has replaced harder, sturdier materials in housings and gears and items that used to be an easy fix are truly not worth repairing now. I will continue to support local charities in other ways because they need the support in this economy, however my days of lurking in the dark for items of interest are over. To those who kept my identity a secret thanks!  To those who yelled at me from their windows on “garbage eve”, your discards went to a worthy cause.

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Filed under Environmental, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, No-for-Profit, Sustainability

When Convenient Becomes Inconvenient?

By Jeff Bowman

Product innovation began when someone chipped off the corners of blocks to make them round, making the transport of items a little easier. I am proud of my cavemen ancestors for being so creative because the wheel has led to cars, petrochemical refining, industrialization and the marketing of millions of convenience items to make ones life so much more simplistic.

I remember the Jetsons from when I was a kid. Meals came in pills, everyone lived and worked in skyscrapers, flew to work, and had machines that cleaned their house, made the meals, disposed of the dishes and even got them showered and dressed in the morning. Wow, what a life.  Think of the manufacturing innovation that has to happen to make all that great stuff a reality.

One of my first jobs out of school was working for a division of a large pulp and paper mill.  We were warned back in the 80’s that our industry was in decline and that the paperless society was a scant few years away. Well, here we are 30 years later, and paper is still here, mountains of it everywhere you look. I look around at the innovations that were supposed to make our lives so much easier and I really start to ask myself “is this really product innovation or marketing spin?’

From frozen dinners back in the 50’s to fast food and high caloric, high cholesterol delights in a box today. We all lead busy lives what with cell phones enabling us to communicate anywhere, anytime with anyone, blackberries notifying us of every e-mail or sports score, computers that allow us the pleasure of working 60 + hours a week from the comfort of our home office (which used to be referred to as a family dwelling) and drive through coffee to keep the caffeine pulsing through our veins.  Home chores are now a snap.  I can quickly wipe my floors with waste site filling disposable rags, far easier than a standard mop.  I no longer need to rake, I can just blow my leaves and grass clippings onto the road or my neighbor’s yard with smoke spewing or electrical blowers, and hope nature doesn’t decide to blow them back on my lawn a day later. No worries, I can just get into my car and just a mile or two to one of several branded coffee shops where my desire for any flavour of coffee imaginable might be satisfied for a few bucks, and I don’t even have to wash the cup, I can throw it away. Now if I can just remember what size a Grande is. Ah, the convenience!

Cavemen never envisioned how society might morph from simple innovations.  Dr. Suess nailed it with “The Lorax”!

I ponder as I drink my fresh-bought tea, why it needs to be so damn hot that it burns my lips, so hot that they need two paper cups to hold it.  Wouldn’t it be more earth friendly to lower the temp a couple of degrees and use a single cup like coffee? A small start to a massive innovation aimed at environmental and sociological changes. Maybe there was a reason the cartoon men in the Jetsons were a little paunchy and out of shape, right Mr. Spacely?

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Environmental, Innovation, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, Marketing

The Consumer Responsibility Act

By Jeff Bowman

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog called “I’m Mad as Hell”, and I had some strong feedback about what marketing is, and what an educated consumer needs to be aware of today.

I did some research over the weekend, and found that there are more government regulations in place today for product labeling, safety testing, contents of instructions and material listings than you can shake a stick at.  Caveat emptor has no meaning to today’s society.  We have become so permissive in this day and age that we  let everybody off the hook for any type of event that transpires due to their neglect of responsibility.

Today, I am calling on Governments of the world to draft and pass into law “The Consumer Responsibility Act”.  This act shall hold innocent all those companies, who clearly label products according to other stringent regulations set out by regulatory agencies, and protects them from the lunacy that transpires when consumers fail to take responsibility for reading, researching and otherwise using the product according to specified instructions. For those troglodytes, who make claims of “I didn’t know”, “but I thought I could”, and the “advertising contained hidden demonic messages”, there will no longer be any leniency by the courts. “Case dismissed on the grounds that this person is a fool!”

Today we have CSA and UL standard testing for all electronics, Canadian Agricultural Products Act, Food inspection agencies and a myriad of other regulatory bodies to ensure that advertising is not misleading, food is safe and all ingredients are fully disclosed, that products are tested again and again for safety, and appropriate warning labels are displayed prominently.

The additional cost to the manufacturers for compliance is enormous. But as they say, if you make something idiot proof, someone will make a better idiot.

I have grown weary of the complaints and frivolous law suits.  When we need to put warning labels on hair dryers not to use in the bathtub, the loogans have taken over the asylum!

I’m the first to admit, I have put an IKEA cabinet together incorrectly because I didn’t follow instructions. Am I to sue them for me not understanding the Pictionary like drawings? Do I have a case against ‘No Frills’ because I forgot to take a bag of frozen groceries from my car one night last summer and they had all become mush by morning.  Where was the label “Warning, contents may thaw if left in summer heat”?

The time has come to take a stand.  Consumers decide what they purchase, advertisements are responsible for making them aware of products available. Parents choose and pay for groceries and can make educated choices about nutrition today. If you want to stand in the bathtub and dry your hair, it’s your choice.  The Consumer Responsibility Act will ensure that people need to be responsible for their decisions and the actions that result.

News flash, “Poverty hits record levels in North America while man awarded $5 million dollars for spilling hot coffee while driving”. By the way, Nutella is a chocolaty treat, electricity and water don’t mix well, and wrestling is, well I’ll just leave that one for your own informed opinion.

Join me in this crusade, send this blog to every politician you know everywhere in the world!

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Filed under advertising, blogging, Communications, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, Marketing, Media

Where Were You When the Lights Were Out?

By Jeff Bowman

It happens every so often, that something strikes me as a little odd. Okay, it happens a lot.

The other night, I awoke to nature’s beckoning.  I stumbled to the bathroom and answered the call. It took a minute or two, but as my eyes became accustomed to the surroundings, it struck me that everywhere I looked, there were lights. The GFI switch in the bathroom has an LED, as I walked to the hall I could see the lights in the kitchen to the left of me and lights coming from the bedroom to my right.

It occurred to me then, that we have become accustomed to the many light emitting appliances, switches and electrical devices that permeate our every night life. I thought to myself that when I was a child, I grew quite accustomed to counting the steps to the bedroom door, and down the hall to the bathroom.  I had to, it was always pitch black.  I had no night lights, lighted switches, radio or cable box LED lights to guide my passage.

I decided to go to the kitchen, where of course, the microwave lights and the stove lights provided a dim hue. The smoke detector was glowing faintly in the hall. Despite it being very late at night, there was a border of light framing the front window blind from outside. I walked over and opened the blind and looked down the street. Aside from the street lights, the lawns and houses were lit up like, well, Christmas trees.

It reminded me of Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  There were lights as far as I could see. Not just lights, thousands of lights, inflatable snowmen, reindeer and Santas, a globe with blowing snow and a penguin inside. The lights and the fans and the mechanical lazy susans, which drive the movements spinning the wheels on the hydro meters.

In my day, downtown Flowertown was nicely decorated with sparse strings of lights over storefronts with tinsel and decorative balls adorning doors, as were the majority of homes. A nighttime drive on Christmas Eve to see the lights in other parts of the town was a tradition. 8 or 9 strings of lights together was a real show, and if they blinked, well that was something.

Fast forward to today, holiday decorations are a booming industry. The bigger the better and you have to have more lights than your neighbors! I thought that we were all supposed to conserve electricity? The old 7 watt screw in bulbs have all but been replaced by LEDs, and because they are energy efficient we can use hundreds of them to create light displays that can be seen in space.

I love Christmas, the lights are spectacular, the decorations are amazing, and I guess maybe I’m a little jealous of what we have today compared to when I was younger.

As I walked back to my bedroom, I noticed the clock on the radio flashing brightly at me. I had been up almost 20 minutes staring into the lighted neighborhood.  It was a beautiful sight to behold. I climbed back into bed and drew the blankets up around me. I closed my eyes and realized that darkness is hard to come by these days. I guess that illumination is progress!

Did Edison ever imagine this?

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Filed under Innovation, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing