Yelling at the Radio

My children continue to remind me that the commentator on the radio can't hear me. Yet I persist in my rant at bad advice. I just can't stand it when the broadcast guru steps outside the things he knows and gives really bad advice.

"I want to start a book store," the caller says to the financial guru host. "My little town doesn't have one. Should I rely on a line of credit, use my savings, or what?"

"Rather than tie up a lot of capital in inventory and rent," he responds, "why don't you start it up on the internet and see how it goes, then use the profits to build the brick and mortar version."

This is the point when I start yelling. Has this guy not heard of Amazon. Even powerhouse corporations like Barnes and Noble and Borders have trouble competing in the web space. He actually told this woman who doesn't even know how best to finance a small-town shop to try marketing a commodity on the internet against the biggest names in the business.

I couldn't believe it. I wanted to call in and tell the woman how the internet version of her business would go. It would go into the toilet. Unless she was actually writing the books or publishing the books or had access to books that no one else could get, she would get zero results on her attempt and never have the profits to build the book and mortar version. The brick and mortar version however, just might work because it has one big advantage - location.

Location is a key component to business traffic. In brick and mortar businesses, this means you need to be accessible and you need to be seen. In the online world, it means you need a piece of search result real estate. Type in any popular book title, and you get Amazon. Type in "cookware" and you get Williams-Sonoma. Type in "bicycles" and you get Trek. You don't get Betty's Books, Katy's Kitchen Boutique, or Uncle Bill's Bicycle Emporium. The web is a national playing field with real estate dominated by national brands.

Marketing in any business needs to take into account who will really be your customers and how you will really reach them. A web presence is essential for almost every business these days, but how you use it in your business has a lot to do with who your customers are and how you gain customer loyalty. If you have a book that you exclusively own, go ahead and market it nationally on the internet. If you want to be a book dealer, a website is an information tool you use as a destination link in e-mails to your customers. You, of course, obtained their e-mail addresses because you asked for them when your loyal customers were in the store.

In short, if you have a niche product find your niche customers out on the web. If you have commodities, location, service, and promotion are you best options.