New is a relative term. For example, I just bought a "new" copy machine for the office–it's about 10 years old. I bought this particular "new" copy machine because our "old" copy machine died. Our "old" copy machine was about 10 years old.
The new copy machine is an excellent piece of equipment that its old owners maintained carefully. I bought this machine instead of a new "new" one because it cost me about half as much as a new "new" copy machine would. And also because the old owners of our new copy machine owed us money.
I bring this up because as we think about selling new products, we shouldn't limit ourselves to new "new" products.
I'm not suggesting that we all start selling 10-year-old "new" plywood or repossessed "new" tools. But I do feel we should embrace a broader definition of the word.
We recently had a kitchen client ask us if we could design, supply, and install cabinets and trim for a home theatre. This has been a hot category for a while, so you couldn't call it "new," as in, "Hey! That is a brand new idea: sell a theatre for a HOME...home theater! Get it?" But for us, it was like our copier: 10-years-old "new."
The company that our client had planned to use for the home theatre had closed. For us, the opportunity to quote that project was not just another sale to help a soft quarter; it was an opportunity to develop a product line that is new to us.
Along those same lines, we recently sent out a mailer to our customer list, reminding them of products and services that we have always sold but didn't market to them when the economy was stronger. Instead, we focused on our core business: large cabinet-related projects. Our mailer talked about closets, interior trim, garage storage units, flooring, window replacements, exterior trim, and other smaller products and projects.
In the past, we would gladly sell and install these things in conjunction with a larger project, but now we are dedicating advertising to these services that will certainly be new to many of our clients, in that they probably didn't know we handle these things.
So the climate is teaching us to look for "new" products and services. It's also teaching us to adapt new policies.
For example, we recently wrote new payment guidelines. These new guidelines look remarkably like the old ones. They both talk about the percentage required to order products, payment upon delivery of material-only projects, payment schedules relating to installed sales, and the importance to the business of following these guidelines strictly.
In fact, the new guidelines are identical to the old guidelines, except that the new guidelines are printed on fresh paper, and the old guidelines are on paper that's a little frayed on the edges. But you know, when business is strong, it's easy to overlook a guideline or two. It's hard not to say yes to a request to order the product today without a deposit, or to go ahead and finish something up for a contractor so he can get a draw. In those days, it was easy to bend the old guidelines.
The new version is unbendable. We don't need another "new" copy machine.
Tad Troilo is a manager for Cranmer's Kitchens by Design in Yardley, Pa. 215.493.8600