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You Can Have Any Color As Long As It Is Black

Mar 27, 2008
Henry Ford in 1922 was quoted as saying about his Model T Ford "the customer can have any color as long as it is black". Today we smile at this, and say of course this doesn't happen today ... but it does!

Smart businesses know that often their product may be substantially the same as in previous years, but they still need to create some sort of difference to encourage buyers to purchase their product. Often this difference is in packaging or colors.

Take a look at the car industry, where the body shape and engine may not change from year to year - but what does change are little things like the paint color or the interior trim shading.

Mindless consumerism maybe ... but what about businesses that don't change their product from year to year? Those who don't look at the markets they may be missing out on by rigidly and doggedly staying with what they know.

One of the classic cases I use as an example was the mobility industry - wheelchairs, hoppers, walkers and walking sticks. Until approximately 2 years ago you could only by these things in hospital silver. If you were lucky you could find a wooden walking stick, but that was it.

Why? Because it was always done that way. Did the customers want it - no! Just because they have a mobility issue doesn't mean they have suddenly become blind to color or lost their personality. But they were stuck with those choices.

Now you can buy wheelchairs in all sorts of great colors, hoppers with jelly bean prints or rose patterns and even walking sticks in any hue. But I have still to see any business really maximise this trend.

Could you imagine being the only mobility store in a city that ONLY stocked colored or printed equipment (no silver in sight) - I suspect the sales results would be stellar.

Or a mobility boutique that stocked a brilliantly colored children's range for children with disabilities - a niche that is not well served at present.

Could you imagine marketing walking sticks as a fashion accessory in ladies fashion boutiques that target the older generation? None of these are currently happening - all are wasted opportunities for enterprising small businesses.

Now I have you thinking - what else could benefit from thinking beyond the "any color as long as it is black" approach.

Take a look around your office and you will see your office littered with black or silver equipment. Printers, computer boxes, faxes and keyboards - all black and silver. Until 18 months ago laptops were only silver or black until some enterprising businesses realised there was money to be made in purple, blue, pink, green and other great colors. These are still the minority - but they are rapidly moving in on the technology market.

Laptop bags are still generally black - although you can find the rare on-line boutique that sells fashion laptop bags that are both stylish and functional. These have not yet become mainstream - you have to search for them.

Try and buy a mobile phone these days and you are still only met with lots of black and silver (with the odd bit of pink thrown in). You can find some red mobiles aimed at teens, but very little at the stylish end of the market.

With the changes to manufacturing techniques smaller runs with a wider range of colors are now becoming viable. But big companies are slow on the uptake. This is where small business can come into its own.

If you are looking for a great small business idea or niche market - start by looking around you. What presently is only available in a small range of colors? Why? Are there different colors available? What can you do to either dominate the color market or at least make color a feature.

For computers and office equipment, could you set up a "color your world" part of the store where all of your colored laptops, phones, printers, laptop bags were on display in one place?

What product lines could be added to your current range that logically could produce add-on sales? If you currently design business clothes - could you design a laptop bag in the colors of the season to match?

Color is an important part of life. It is also a business niche - what are you doing to maximise your color niche?
About the Author
Ingrid Cliff is a Freelance Copywriter, Business Development and Human Resources Consultant to Small Businesses with her business Heart Harmony. Ingrid writes a free weekly small business newsletter and Small Business Ideas blog for small businesses.www.heartharmony.com.au
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