1269, Some geneal marketing questions...
Posted by shaft3407, Sat Nov-15-08 08:34 AM
I have spent the past month or so flip-flopping between business ideas dealing with the sale of police equipment. I am a police officer (part time now, three years of full-time previously), an accounting student (graduating in a few weeks), and in a perfect position to start my own business as I'm single (no kids) and 24 years old. I also have a good job that is flexible (I have Tuesdays, Thursdays, and most Saturdays off)
I have been selling tactical equipment to friends and locals and have made a few bucks, but the money simply isn't worth the effort without a brick and mortar store. I am committed to starting this busines with minimal inital investment. I am building my own website (a simple, clean, effective website that is informative - a brochure website, no online sales). I have used my own money to set up a home office, get some basic marketing materials like business cards and brochures. I also have the distributors in place to make any size order I need. I have a person willing to lend me money on a short-term basis for orders that I cannot cover in full with my own money.
I have decided to sell only to local small police departments (maybe within 50-75 miles of my home). I'm in Western NC, so there are TONS of small departments in every direction. I've found that most of them buy online or from large retailers in Charlotte or Raleigh. With almost zero overhead, I am confident that I can undercut just about any other retailer - expecially since most large retailers don't offer significant discounts for small departments who don't place huge orders at once. Though I'm not an authorized dealer for any of my products, I am confident that I can still undercut authorized dealers simply because I don't have a store, sales website, warehouse, or any other large expenses that will factor into costing. Once I can prove that I do $10,000 of business per year, I will be able to become a dealer (though not authorized - can't bid on large contracts) for a huge corporation that makes at least half of the commonly used poice equipment. At that point, I will really be able to offer incredible prices.
I know that I will have to hit the bricks and just work my butt off to make it to every PD I can in my area. By sticking to the smallest departments (less than 50 officers total), I think I have at least 20 departments in my immediate area. Now what? Here are a few questions for anyone with related experience or knowledge:
1) Should my marketing be completely in person? Should I be sending mail and emails to the officers in charge of ordering? What are some other marketing things I could do to get my name out there? I'm only one person, so a significant portion of my marketing efforts might have to happen outside of face-to-face meetings.
2) If I walk into a department and am allowed bid on a job or am given an order on the spot (not likely, but let's assume), what do I need to have in my briefcase? I keep my marketing literature and business cards on hand, but what else? I offer way too many products to have a full list on hand, so should I simply have a standard order form?
3) When filling a small order for a department, should I ask for a deposit up front? Unlike state contacts or large department orders, most small police departments (in NC at least) use credit cards or write checks to pay for small orders. Should I ask for everything up front?
4) I've pretended to be an ordering officer and requested quotes from quite a few large online retailers that I know some small departments use. I can beat the heck out of their prices. I don't know how to find out about the smaller retailers that my target departments may use. How should I set prices since I'm partially blind? Standard percentage markup? Wing it? Go extra-cheap to get my foot in the door?
Any other suggestions, comments, or advice would be much appreciated. I'm pretty close to pulling the trigger on this idea, so I need to get the fine points worked out so I am prepared when I finally get a sit-down with a potential client.