Apparently content is King. Well, hopefully I can present some evidence which might help you open your mind to who the real king is, and I’m saying it is distribution. I’ve had this contention for some time, and while amazing content can ride the sharing train and be crowned in the online kingdom, the big D of Distribution still determines who wins and loses when it comes to the commercial market.
Let’s take this current day example: The Youtube Rewind 2015 video. Which a few years ago was a fun and creative piece of content. This years version was marginal at best. If it didn’t have the front page on Youtube and a bazillion emails to distribute it to do you really think it would have 65 million views? You be the judge.
It simply would not make the cut. It wouldn’t be seen. It wouldn’t be shared. A few thousands views at best I reckon. And you can add to this to any number of average articles you read on Buzzfeed, Business Insider or any other powerful channel that have many views and shares. Invariably we’ll see that the key driver wasn’t the content itself, but the distribution engine behind it. The irony is that the great hope of the web was that the best stuff will bubble up to the top – no matter where it came from. Occasionally it still does, but mostly this new ‘great stuff’ resides in obscurity. How many blogs do you read, or podcasts do you listen to which you totally love and think should be ‘bigger’, but they never seem to hit the big time? I’m guessing your feed is full of great unknown content. Now that everyone is here and we all have something to say, powerful distribution matters more than it ever did. And if you can’t be heard, well it’s back to the future … you need to paying for attention. Except now it’s done on social forums and search. Who said history never repeats?
The one difference is that now we have access to the same tools and we can at least prove ourselves in micro channels. Even better, we can now make a living in niche land by talking to those who really care about what we have to say.
You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.
Most Seinfeld fans are in raptures about the new series by Jerry Seinfeld – Comedians in cars getting coffee.
It’s so good on so many levels. But it’s not the just humour that is worth commenting on, it’s the way the series has been presented to the market place. It has been launched on it’s own website comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com and hosted by video sharing website Crackle.com (which is owned by Sony). It’s a classic example of the strength of personal branding (admittedly there is possibly non bigger than Jerry) and the hacker approach the web brings to those with a brand strong enough to self publish. Going direct to fans not only enables one maintain creative integrity and control, but invents all sorts of monetization possibilities.
At this stage I can’t see where the financial win is for Jerry or Crackle (Crackle is free with little evidence of advertising?), while the deal between the 2 parties is also unclear. One thing for sure, is that this model is one we are going to see far more often – big stars and micro entrepreneurs going direct to market – to create the art and projects they want to create. Another comedian who did a great job of this approach was Louis CK who also decided to sell tickets to his fans direct from his website. This all reminds me of one of the great visionary talks from Garry V who predicted this a few years ago.
Smart brands and people are now going straight the web. It’s not about asking how we can ‘also use the web’ but it is a simple web first or maybe even web only mentality. Controlling our own distribution channels matters more than ever. The fact is it works better for most people to do business directly and it allows fans and content creators (or sellers) to have the direct relationship they’ve always wanted.
Once upon a time I used to think that entrepreneurs had to be smart enough to develop a niche strategy. A nice smart strategy which will keep them hidden from the big ugly and powerful incumbents and other startups. A strategy to extract sneaky revenue.
I learned how wrong I was the hard way. I was way to clever with my first startup 1-bil (an anti stress drink). We developed an incredibly clever niche distribution strategy aiming for 5 star hotels, business class travelers on airlines and airports. What we called a ‘sneezer strategy’ of niche distribution to grow from. The category influencers.
Turns out niche strategies limit the number of doors we can knock on. It limits the number of people we can sell to. It limits the angles of success we can have. It limits the number of rejections we can have (and we’ll get plenty) When we get a rejected from our core strategic market, we lose confidence, we count how many points of distribution we have left and start to struggle and lose faith. We invent our own failure.
The niche market is great for well resourced companeis doing innovative stuff. Not so for startups. It’s very counter intuitive. Entrepreneurs need to learn the truth about niche marketing. And the truth is this:
Gaining traction with any new product or company is inherently difficult. We ought sell to anyone who’ll buy our stuff. Get the message out to as many people as possible. Take all the revenue we can get and what will transpire is a niche strategy anyway due to natural startup dynamics. We’ll get rejected 9 out of 10 times on average. We’ll end up in a market niche, from which we’ll have to grow and expand from anyway. Starting with a niche in mind, really just limits our probability of success.
The startup lesson is this: Find your niche through market dynamics, don’t target it.
One of my favourite marketing strategies is this:
A new distribution point.
The thing that is cool about this is that we don’t need to worry about whether there is demand for the product or service (the idea is to pick a category which is hot) Rather just to ensure expanded availability creates value.
Been Squeeze are on the coffee wagon.
When I first read about Coffee Drive in’s via Springwise I was a bit skeptical. But I’ve found it to be just the ticket while I’m driving down the coast for a surf. And every time I go there it’s quite busy.
Here’s what’s exactly the same with Been Squeeze and any other espresso coffee retailers:
– the coffee taste
– the price points
– the packaging
– The promotion (based on high traffic location )
Here’s whats different – the way & where you buy the coffee. So what this does for a startup is reduce strategic complexity because the ‘coffee model’ is proven. Demand for coffee exists – they are just leveraging it further. Ther are no prizes for originality in business – just making for making cool stuff and making profits.
The real kicker for me is their service which is very friendly – more like a cafe than a McDonalds. In fact on my last visit on Saturday than even asked for my other coffee cup from the previous day to put in the trash for me. And now I am talking about it.
What does great packaging look like?
Chances are you will have to package your widget for your start up. Or at least something in your new business. I often ask people the best packaging they have ever seen. Coming from a consumer goods background I get a lot of varied answers, but never do I get the answer I propose the be the ultimate.
Easy opening, but only when it’s ripe
Consume straight from packaging
Changes color from green to yellow as it nears its zenith
Quality of each unit verified by packaging
Built in ‘used by date’ indicator – packaging changes color – so awesome.
Gives off product fragrance
Uber Ergonomic design & handling
Ship in packaging with mutlipack nesting design
Oh, I nearly forgot, good for slipping enemies in a car chase.
What can you learn from Nature?
How would nature package your product?
When we think about innovation, our minds get lost in big ideas and large investment. The Space shuttle, Electric cars, desalination plants, the Airbus A380. We’ve been influenced by mainstream business media, and the military industrial complex. As entrepreneurs we’d be much better placed to think as micro as possible when considering how to innovate. Because unless we are ‘inventers’ or ‘engineers’, the only innovations we need to care about are those which get to market.
Take this simple innovation from the publishing industry.
Magazine subscriptions which have been repacked to be sold in a new / yet existing distribution channel.
Before this shift in mindset, magazine subscriptions were only sold as in magazine leaflets, through call centers and via door knocking. Enter new packaging format, and all of sudden a magazine subscription is being retailed in newsagents and bookstores (This photo was taken in Borders). It becomes a simple ‘gift’ which provides us something we can hand ‘hand over’ to the recipient to touch and hold – we can even gift wrap it. It opens new revenue possibilities.
It’s clear that there is little capital expenditure with this innovation, which is simply a widening of distribution. In fact – new forms of distribution are often the most profitable innovations.
Start ups – When innovating, think micro.
Steve – founder rentoid.com