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“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
-- John Wooden

Seth Godin’s Right — Ubiquitous Distribution is Overrated

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In a recent post on his marketing blog, Seth Godin said that ubiquitous distribution is overrated.  He said, “some industries (like book publishers and analgesic makers) believe that they best serve their audience when the product is available everywhere…The thing is, scarcity creates value. You can’t get a Pepsi at McDonald’s. You can’t buy Hermes at Target. By limiting choice, you can create value.”  I agree.  Not only is ubiquitous distribution overrated, but often, limited distribution is better for building a brand.  Let me explain.

First, let’s talk about what ubiquitous distribution is.  Ubiquitous distribution is the thought that the best way to sell a product is to get it into every store possible.  It’s when a product manager thinks, “If I can only get this product into Wal-Mart, I’ll be set.  After that I can get into Target.  And then maybe every grocery store in America.  Then I can…”  You probably get the point.  The goal of ubiquitous distribution is to make a product available everywhere that it can be.  It is to make a product ubiquitous.

In many cases, this is obviously a good thing.  Getting a product onto Wal-Mart’s shelves is like winning American Idol—you’re guaranteed to be noticed by millions.  Most of the time, this is a good thing.  But there are times when it’s not.  Let me give you an example that includes a family recipe.

My mom, who happens to be a very amazing woman, has the best coffee cake recipe ever.  It’s called Kuchen—which means “cake” in German—and it’s a recipe that has been passed down for several generations.  It also happens to take an insane amount of time to make—like 10 hours.  Recently, I had the thought, “I wonder if we could sell Kuchen.  It’s delicious, and coffee shops sell all kinds of desserts.  Maybe we could sell Kuchen in coffee shops.”  I don’t have an answer yet, but if we did sell it, what would the best way be?

The best way to start this kind of niche business would be to sell to family and friends.  They could then tell more family and friends, who would tell their family and friends, and a bakery would be born.  Eventually, we could sell Kuchen in coffee shops, bakeries, etc.  Once we reached this point, which shops would be the best?  According to the ubiquitous distribution thought, any store that would sell Kuchen would be the right store.  Small stores and big stores.  Short stores and tall stores.  Any store and every store.  If they want to sell Kuchen, they can sell it.  That’s one way.

Another way would be to find exclusive distributors.  The beginning of any business is a slow, growing process, and exclusive distributors give a business time to grow.  The best distributors would be ones that make Kuchen special, not every shop on the corner.  This is called limited distribution.

The benefit of limited distribution is that it makes a product scarce, and in marketing, scarcity is good.  Apple products are good examples of this.  Whenever Apple releases new products, they never fail to mention that they’ll run out of stock.  They always send out a press release that says, “Hey everyone, if you want the latest iPhone, you need to buy it now.  Of course we’ll have more later, but that’s not the point.  If you want to be the first with this iPhone, we’re going to run out, so buy it now.”  It may be a little bit shady, but it works for Apple because scarcity in marketing is a good thing.

Diamonds and Rolexes are other examples of scarcity.  Diamonds are pretty and also happen to be rare.  Rolexes are opulent and are only sold at exclusive dealers.  Rarity and exclusivity creates value.  Why does it create value?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it’s because people always want what they can’t have.  Or maybe it’s because people want things that other people can’t have.  Whatever the reason, scarce products are special, and specialness is good for a brand.

The lesson is this: ubiquitous distribution is not always the best answer.  Instead, there are times when limited distribution is better for a brand.  This is especially true for luxury goods and rare products.  It’s also true for small businesses serving niche markets.  By creating scarcity through exclusivity, companies can increase brand value.  So if your goal is to sell an incredibly high volume to every imaginable customer on every continent (think Coca-Cola), then ubiquitous distribution is for you.  But if you’re trying to build a niche company with high value, creating scarcity is the way to go.

What’s your take on this?  Can you think of any other examples?  Do you agree or disagree?  I’d love to hear your comments below.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for email updates by clicking the “sign me up” button on the top right of this page.  By signing up, you’ll get my latest posts delivered to your inbox.  That’s what you want, right?

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An Incredibly Funny Video About How to Get Ready for a Job Interview (You Won’t Want to Miss It)

This video was produced for Youth Leadership America which according to its website is a “non-profit organization that fosters leadership and networking among high school students.”  The tall guy in the orange suit (yes, I know you’re jealous)  is the president and co-founder of YLA.  He’s also a friend of mine.  The video is hilarious and happens to be incredibly informative about how to get ready for a job interview.  Watch it and let me know what you think.  Bam!  Onomatopoeia!

If you like this video, make sure you give it a shout out by clicking the share buttons below.

7 Priceless Business Quotes from Warren Buffett

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Recently, Forbes held the first Forbes 400 summit, which was a meeting between legendary investor Warren Buffett and rap business mogul Jay-Z.  The main event was an hour-long talk with Steve Forbes interviewing Mr. Buffett and Jay-Z.

You can read the full interview by visiting the Forbes website.  I’ve also included some of Mr. Buffett’s salient advice from the interview below.  His quote about how to beat Bobby Fischer is my favorite,  what’s yours?

Quote #1
“There’s a whole bunch of things I don’t know a thing about. I just stay away from those. I stay within what I call my circle of competence. Tom Watson [IBM founder] said it best. He said, ‘I’m no genius, but I’m smart in spots, and I stay around those spots.'”

Quote #2
“That’s a little bit like these rules I have. The first rule is don’t lose, and the second rule is never forget the first rule. It isn’t so much having a lot of brilliant decisions, it’s just not having some terrible ones.”

Quote #3
“[Ben Graham] also taught me to see a stock not as something with a ticker symbol that wiggles around but to think about it as part of a business. Don’t get elated because something had gone up or depressed because it went down. If I knew the facts, and it went down, I bought more of it. He also taught me that famous lesson about a margin of safety, that you don’t drive a truck that weighs 9,900 pounds across a bridge that says “Limit 10,000 pounds” because you can’t be that sure. If you see something like that, go a little further down the road and find one that says, “Limit 20,000 pounds.” That’s one you drive across.”

Quote #4
“I had the luck of getting turned down by Harvard, which meant I got to study under Ben Graham at Columbia, which changed my life. All kinds of things have worked out. So I just hope I stay lucky. I’ve been lucky for 80 years.”

Quote #5
“But if you’ve got the principles, if you know what makes a good business, if you know what makes a good manager, if you know what makes a good product, and you learn that in one business, there is some transference to other businesses. As you go along, you learn what things you’re not going to understand. Knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to focus on. Somebody said how to beat Bobby Fischer; you play him any game except chess. And so I don’t play Bobby Fischer at chess.”

Quote #6
“When my wife was pregnant, I didn’t think I was going to deliver a baby. If I get a toothache or something, I don’t take out my own tooth. I turn it over. I follow Adam Smith‘s advice; turn it over to a specialist.”

Quote #7
“Part of making good decisions in business is recognizing the poor decisions you’ve made and why they were poor. I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’m going to make more. It’s the name of the game. You don’t want to expect perfection in yourself. You want to strive to do your best. It’s too demanding to expect perfection in yourself.”

 

If you like this post, you may be interested in another post about 15 Inspiring Entrepreneur Quotes.  It has quotes from Henry Ford, Larry Page, Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney.

Also, if you’d like to receive future posts in your inbox, you can sign up for email updates in the top right corner of each post.  Just press the “Click Here” button, enter your email address, and future posts will be delivered directly to your inbox.

Sales Lesson #1: Benefits Are More Important Than Features

 

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One of the oldest tricks in the marketing book is that benefits are more important than features.  It’s also one of the things that most businesses get wrong.

The reason many people get it wrong is that most people are enamored with their own product.  They love everything about their offering, especially the features.  They love that their computer has a 15.6″ screen, 250 GB of hard-drive space, and 2 GB of memory.  Sure, this information is important; it’s just not the most important.

In selling, what’s most important is benefits, not features.  Benefits illustrate to customers what the product can do for them.  Instead of saying that a computer has “x” amount of hard-drive space, you can say the hard-drive is so big it holds up to 10,000 pictures.  Instead of talking about “x” amount of memory, you can say that a computer runs up to five applications at a time without slowing down.  At some point, feature information stops having any meaning.  The average person doesn’t know the difference between 100 GB and 200 GB.  They know one is bigger than the other, but they don’t know how much they need.

I’m not saying not to talk about the features of your product.  Features have to be included in the product description because during the buying process, people always compare features between products.  What I’m saying is that in the beginning of the selling process, benefits are much more powerful than features.  Benefits help you to stand out from the crowd.  Benefits make your product sizzle.  So next time your trying to sell something, remember that features are good, but benefits make the difference.

Facebook Ads Are Awesome — Here’s Why

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If you use Facebook, you know that Facebook ads are different than ads on other websites.  On Facebook, users can get rid of ads that they don’t like; on other websites, users are stuck with whatever ad loads first.

The difference is that Facebook includes an “x” button in the top right corner of each ad.  If you don’t like an ad for any reason, you can click the x.  After you click it, a menu takes the ads place and asks why you didn’t like the ad.   You can choose that the ad is uninteresting, misleading, offensive, repetitive, or other.  Regardless of the reason, you can always get rid of ads you don’t like.

The first reason this is a good idea is that inevitably some ads will be offensive to users.  If an ad is offensive enough, it will cause users to leave the page.  This actually happened to me today.  I was on a site with an ad that I didn’t like, so I refreshed the page.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go away, so I refreshed again.  And then again and again and again, literally refreshing the page fifteen times before I decided to leave the site.  This isn’t good for websites, for advertisers, or for users.

The second reason this is a good idea is that it allows users to get rid of uninteresting and repetitive ads.  Users know which ads they want to look at and which ones they don’t.  By giving them the ability to edit their ad selection, Facebook increases the likelihood of getting an interesting ad in front of users.  Without giving people this option, websites depend on magically determining what ads people want to see.  Sometimes they get it right, but more often they don’t.  By doing it the Facebook way, websites could easily increase the number of times they get it right.

For some reason, Facebook is the only site that gives users the option of editing the ads they see (at least that I know of).  If an ad is offensive or annoying, users should be able to delete it.  If an ad is uninteresting, then it’s just taking up space and not doing anyone any good.  By allowing users to get rid of ads they don’t like, websites win, users win, and advertisers win.  It’s really time for other companies to catch up.

8 Great Calvin Coolidge Quotes

 

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Here are eight awesome Calvin Coolidge quotes.  Which is your favorite

1. “I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.”

2. “No man ever listened himself out of a job.”

3. “Nothing in the world can take place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost priceless.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”

4. “All growth depends upon activity.  There is no developement physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”

5. “No person was ever honored for what he received.  Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”

6. “Those who trust to chance must abide by the rules of chance.”

7. “I have found it advisable not to give too much heed to what people say when I am trying to accomplish something of consequence.  Invariably they proclaim it can’t be done.  I deem that the very best time to make the effort.”

8. “Advertising is the most potent influence in adapting and changing the habits and modes of life affecting what we eat, what we wear, and the work and play of a whole nation.”

Read more quotes here:

http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Calvin_Coolidge/

http://www.quotationspage.com/search.php3?Author=Calvin+Coolidge&file=other

15 Helpful Online Writing Resources

 

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Here are a few useful online resources that you may or may not already know about.  Check them out and let me know what you think.

ONLINE ENCYCLOPEDIAS:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

http://www.britannica.com/

http://www.encyclopedia.com/

ONLINE DICTIONARIES:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/

http://dictionary.reference.com

http://www.wordwebonline.com

http://www.yourdictionary.com/

http://www.thefreedictionary.com

ONLINE THESAURI:

http://www.visualthesaurus.com/

http://thesaurus.reference.com

http://encarta.msn.com/thesaurus_/thesaurus.html

http://www.wordnik.com/words/thesaurus

TRANSLATION TOOLS:

http://babelfish.altavista.com

http://www.wordreference.com

http://translate.google.com

Why Your Company Needs a Unique Selling Proposition

 

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Something you’ll hear a lot in marketing circles is that companies need to have a unique selling proposition — a USP.  So what is a unique selling propostion?

A unique selling proposition is something that sets your company apart from the competition.  It’s something that makes your product or service unique and stand out in a crowded marketplace.  Without a USP, your product is just like every other product.  Your product is simply a commodity.  And when customers buy commodities, all they care about is price.

If a person is buying a bushel of corn and is choosing between two corn companies, he’s going to buy whichever corn is the cheapest.  Corn is corn.  One barrel of corn can’t be that different from another.  But what if one of the companies has a USP?  What if one of the companies sells organic corn grown without pesticides?  Now that’s unique.  Organic corn grown without pesticides stands out from the crowd.

At this point, the company selling organic corn has differentiated itself from the competition.  It has given customers a reason besides price to choose its product over its competition’s product.  Without this kind of differentiation, every transaction becomes a price war.  The customer begins a bidding process between the corn growers and chooses the one with the lowest price.  This is good for customers but not so good for companies.

In short, creating a USP for your product or service gives you an opportunity to charge more for your product and make more money per transaction.  If you want to compete in a bidding war and survive by selling a high volume at a low price, then go for it.  But if you can’t survive in a high volume bidding war, then you need to figure out what your USP is or come up with one for your product.  Once you have a USP, you can charge more for your product and make more per transaction.  The more unique your selling proposition and the more it resonates with your customers, the better.

Have you had any experience creating a USP?  Would you like any help figuring out a USP for your company?  If yes, feel free to leave a message to discuss your product or service in the comments for this post.

Why You Should Do What Your Customer Wants

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In business, it’s important to find out what your customers want and then to do that.  If they want frappuccinos, you need to make frappuccinos.  It doesn’t matter if you like lattes.

Quite often, however,  it’s not that simple.  Many times business owners are biased and think that all of their customers think like them and want what they want.  Other times, companies have done business a certain way for a long time and are reluctant to change.    Both scenarios are bad.  Companies must give customers what they want, even if that requires a change.

One example of giving your customer what they want and changing with your customer is the music industry.  Some time around the late 1990s and early 2000s, music MP3s started to be a big deal.  People didn’t want to buy CDs anymore; they wanted download MP3s.   But music companies couldn’t control MP3 sales as much as they wanted to.  Besides that, switching to a download format was a huge change that undermined the way music companies knew how to do business.  They knew how to make CDs; they didn’t know how to sell music downloads.  They were scared.

Since they were scared, they resisted the change to MP3s for music.  They fought.  They clawed.  They refused to switch to selling MP3s.  But there was a problem.  People wanted to download music.  They didn’t care what the music companies wanted to do.  They wanted to download music.  Since the music companies fought, people downloaded illegally.  They used Napster and Limewire, and they downloaded music their way.  This cost music companies a lot of money.

The problem was that music companies were not willing to change.  They wanted people to do business their way.  Consumers weren’t listening.  They had a better way.  Eventually, the consumer won, and record companies started to provide what consumers wanted — music for download.  Now, music companies get to make their money, and music listeners get their music.  Everyone is happy.

The lesson to be learned is that companies need to do what customers want, not force customers to do what the company wants.  You can arm wrestle your customers if you really want to, but be warned — customers always win.  Instead, keep your customers happy by doing business their way.  You’ll make more money that way.

The Number One Rule of Marketing — Know Your Customer

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If you want to understand marketing you have to know the number one rule — know your customer.  Marketers must know their customers because, no matter what kind of product or service you’re selling, money comes from the customer.  It doesn’t come from you, your mom, your friends, or your friend’s friends.  Well, it might come from your friend’s friends if they end up buying stuff from you, but the point is that the most important person to a marketer is the customer because a marketer’s job is to make money.

You might think, “uh, yah, of course!”  Well, you say that now, but will you still be saying that when you are designing a product or creating an ad campaign?

Here’s what I mean: whenever a marketer is doing  his work, it’s very easy to sell to himself.  In other words, it’s very easy for a marketer to think “this product is awesome, of course people will buy it” or “I love this ad.  It’s awesome.”  Ok, so that’s what you think, but what does the customer think?  Really, the number one rule of marketing is that a marketer has to  get out of his head and into his customer’s head.  You may think that a product is great, but what does your customer think?  You may think an ad is clever, but will it convince someone else to buy your product.

Actually, selling to yourself is the number one enemy of a marketer.  Why?  Because it’s so easy to do.  We think something is great; we think that everyone else thinks like us; therefore, everyone else will think that it’s great and buy.  Wrong.  Not everyone thinks like you.  Or me.  Or any single person for that matter.  Kids think differently than adults.  And married people think differently than single people.  You get the point.  Every sub-group thinks differently than another sub-group, and there are even sub-groups within sub-groups that think differently.  Thus, a marketer’s job is to first figure out who he is trying to sell to and then he figure out how to sell to the who.  This who is the target market.

I could talk more about the target market, which happens to be a very scary word for a lot of people, but I’ll leave that for another post.  For now, it’s important to remember that a marketer’s job is to know his target market so he can sell to his target market.  He has to know their fears and doubts, what makes them happy, how they talk, the words they use, etc.  Once he knows this, he can find out if they want his product and how to best sell to them.  This is the marketer’s number one job.  It also happens to be marketing’s number one rule.

If you’re currently selling a product, use this post to reconsider your strategy.  Are you selling to yourself too much?  Have you spent enough time to understand your customer?  Do you even know who you are trying to sell to?  If you can answer these questions, you’re well on your way to successfully marketing your product or service.  Good luck!