Market research turns up the strangest things

Can of WD-40

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Odell Coleman, partner at ColemanWick, a Northeast Ohio research and analytics firm)

You probably know that many of the world’s most famous and widely used brands became successful by accident. Slinky, Silly Putty, potato chips, penicillin, microwave ovens — the list goes on and on. These items were all either by-products of efforts to make something else, or were simply attempts to solve one problem, yet turned out to solve everyday problems around the world.

WD-40 was supposed to just be a solvent for the aerospace industry. It’s now in about four out of five American households. The most amazing thing is its multitude of uses — making bird feeder poles too slippery for squirrels, for example.

Which proves that you never know all the ways a product might be useful beyond its intended purpose.

As a research firm, ColemanWick is in a unique position to observe and become learned across a variety of businesses and industries. Over the years, one of the most interesting things we’ve learned is that there are re-uses for machines and parts beyond sending them to scrap. You might be surprised at how often pieces of equipment, large and small, can be valued by other operations within and without a particular industry.

For instance, we were hired by a nuts and bolts manufacturer to survey its customers and markets in order to help the company gain a better understanding of its B2B buyers. Lo and behold, our work revealed a B2C market that the manufacturer had no idea existed. I don’t have to tell you how thrilled they were to find a new revenue stream.

This case represents good news for anyone with the problem of outdated or irrelevant equipment and the challenge of asset recovery: invest some research bucks to find out who else might put it to good use.

The lesson learned by the nuts and bolts company was that it benefitted from a perspective outside of its own. Companies tend to focus so much on their own operation that they’re blind to opportunities all around them.

In truth, there are many successful companies that recognize that adhering to best practices includes having a dedicated budget for annual research. They know that research experts are bound to uncover surprising data that benefits their enterprise.

A few examples include:

  • Spotting budding industry trends
  • Making informed decisions on markets
  • Understanding your competition

Unlike WD-40, this blog has only one use – to help you understand how, with market research, you can take advantage of other markets, implement new product lines, understand your competition or use existing resources in different ways. These are just some of the many ways research uncovers data that pays for itself many times over.

For more information, contact Odell at [email protected] or 216.991.4504.


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