New products are being developed all the time and being aware of what is coming onto the market can be a positive competitive advantage. There are a number of ways you can keep abreast of product developments and new products on offer.
If you make a point of going to trade shows, and of reading the articles about the shows you can't attend, you'll quickly find out the latest trends in your industry. Whether it's the technology of solar swimming pool heaters or the latest fashions in children's clothing, it's on show at a trade event somewhere before it's released to consumers. And if it's newsworthy, it gets written up in the trade magazines that cover the world's major industry shows.
At these events you'll also get to meet the manufacturers and local distributors who often cooperate in putting their products in front of prospective resellers. Networking is big at trade shows and when something's new it's going to be talked about by everyone at the affiliated gatherings. It's where you spot what's new and who's got it, and can start the negotiating process to obtain supplies for yourself.
Trade magazines that report on the shows are also good sources of information about trends and product developments. All you have to do to keep up to date is subscribe - no airfares or accommodation to worry about. If editors of trade publications get excited about new products, they're definitely worth investigating.
Often affiliated with industry trade shows are the industry organisations whose income depends on keeping their members up to date and competitive. Through these organisations you can meet others in your industry from both your domestic and overseas markets, and share information that can be useful about everything from sourcing products to selecting software for your business
Government bodies too can be helpful. Most countries have export oriented public or semi-public organisations who have the task of marketing their own country's products to buyers in other regions. They often have trade missions in other countries where they showcase their domestic manufactures or produce.
Begin your search for knowledge by subscribing to the most popular industry trade magazines from your own country and from overseas. Some may be available at your local public library, but it's not a wise idea to depend on them being there just when you might need them, so pay for your subscriptions and deduct the cost from your income when tax time comes around.
Use a search engine like Google to do a thorough search on the Internet, by your industry, by the product types you're interested in, and any other relevant aspects. This is the cheapest information you'll get and it won't take long to build up a picture of what's happening in the marketplace.
See how it's sold and marketed
When you do find a product you're interested in, see who's selling it and check out their website to see how they're marketing it. You may find a package solution that includes not just a new product but also ideas on how to market it. You'll also have a guide as to pricing it.
Contact the selling organisation and ask who their source of supply is. Get in touch with them and see if there's a distributor in your area. If not, you might want to take on the distributorship yourself if the price is right. Otherwise you can arrange a supply of the product directly with the manufacturer in most cases as it won't infringe on the rights of any existing distributor.
Obtain samples of the product and be sure it's right for your market. Do some limited market research with discussion groups to judge the level of consumer interest. When you're ready to go ahead, place your order; preferably this can be done with more than one supplier to be certain of future supplies, although if a product is really new and there's no local distributor you may have to take a gamble here.
Setting up and maintaining a website isn't cheap. If your company has a website that's even slightly above the brochureware level it's probably costing you a fair sum of money each month. The good news is that a website can earn income to offset its costs, and can even become a profit spinner for your business in its own right.
There are a number of ways your website can make money, some more suitable than others depending on your particular situation. For instance, unless you have millions of 'hits' each week it's hard to justify charging high rates for providing advertising or sponsorships on your site, but if you experiment with the variety of income earners that are possible you'll find you're able to cover some, if not all, of your costs.