Something New

March 8, 2009

Here are my results the assignment I gave myself in my last post. To recap, the tasks I assigned myself were: Find three industries I am unfamiliar with, find three problems in each industry that can be solved by software, and find businesses that are fulfilling those needs.

I started by dividing my research according to the three sector hypothesis. The three sector hypothesis separates an economy into three sectors of production, that are increasingly farther away from a raw material based industry: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Primary Sector

The primary sector can be loosely defined as “agriculture, agribusiness, fishing, forestry and all mining and quarrying industries.”1

I chose agriculture for my primary sector research. Lots of agricultural problems are being solved by using RFID, GIS data, as well as Pocket PC/PDA delivery systems. There are a few accounting systems tailored for agriculture, but most of the technology products have hardware components.

Agricultural problems

  • Tracking animals’ statistics, such as health, pregnancy, last time fed or milked.
  • Soil analysis: Knowing soil composition and status can be vital to a farmer
  • GPS: A lot of farmers rely on GPS data to track their crop locations and the information about particular sections of land.

Example agricultural software vendors

Secondary Sector

“The secondary sector of the economy includes those economic sectors that create a finished, usable product: manufacturing and construction.”2

I’ve chosen woodworking for my secondary sector to research. The growth rate is slower than other occupations, about 3%, but the amount of software out there for wood working looks slim and low quality. 3

Woodworking Problems

  • Planning: There is a lot of CAD software out there, however much of it is up to and over a thousand dollars.
  • Optimization: Making the most of the resources you have can be tricky. Having a computer decide the best forms to use for cutting your materials and producing as little was as possible would saves time and money.
  • Material selection: Selecting the wrong material for a woodworking project could mean scrapping later down the line; software and data for this would allow you to put your time and energy into design and craftsmanship.

Example woodworking software vendors

Tertiary Sector

The tertiary sector is described “in conventional economic literature as ‘intangible goods’.”4

For the tertiary sector, I am focusing on the sales industry. I am focusing on sales because I’ve never sold anything, ever. As a wannabe entrepreneur, this is an egregious hole in my experience. Once I tried working for a non-profit to get people to register to vote, and that was hard enough. I can barely imagine having to sell something everyday and as a livelihood; but clearly this is something I will have to overcome.

Sales Problems

  • Tracking: Like many other industries, there is a need for good tracking software to account for calls, messages, contact information, people that declined the service.
  • Information: Having quality information about your products and inventory will help win over your your sales prospects. Having software to make information accessible, consistent, and up-to-date across your sales staff will make it easier to get new customers.
  • Motivation: Staying motivated and focused as a salesman can be difficult. Software that can maximize incentives at the right time means more sales.

Example sales software vendors

Lessons learned

Producers of physical goods require physical solutions

Primary and secondary sector industries will probably require both hardware and software to address their needs. Every industry can benefit from using software to enforce consistency, improve processes, organize information, and relieve manual administrative tasks, but the industries that can benefit the most from software solutions are not overwhelmingly producers of raw materials. They may be consumers of raw materials, but software (obviously) doesn’t do much for raw goods without a physical component.

Web forums and blogs are a great source of market research

For example, I found agricultural information at Agriculture talk that was able to give me an insight into farming needs. Even a simple search for your topic and forum yields useful results.

Build off of the experience of others

Jumping right into an activity is fun if you’re not too invested in the outcome, but building off of others’ experience is invaluable. For example, this article gave me some good insight into common selling mistakes. I’ve never sold anything before, so any and all tips are welcome. If you can’t get a good mentor, good research is a worthwhile (and sometimes better) second best. Also, checking out the competitors can give you much quicker insight into the existing market and what you can improve upon.

Sales are going to make or break you, no matter how good your product is

Obvious though it may be, probably the most important component for success is being able to sell your product. As I try to put myself into a sales-oriented mindset I imagine jumping into sales will likely be a humbling and frustrating experience.

Footnotes

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_sector_of_industry
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secondary_sector_of_industry
  3. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos285.htm
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tertiary_sector_of_industry
Resources

Wikipedia page on industries
Bureau of Labor Statistics description of Agricultural Workers
Bureau of Labor Statistics description of Woodworkers
Bureau of Labor Statistics on Advertising, Marketing, Promotions, Public Relations, and Sales Managers