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All entrepreneurs need distribution channels to grow their business

Distribution channels are not the same thing as distribution networks, and misunderstanding either can hold back any business. Using AMC’s Breaking Bad series as a fascinating example, distribution is applied to traditional business to help even out supply and demand.

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How do you increase product awareness?

You have created something brilliant.

You did your market research so you know people want it.

But you’re not some marketing specialist – you specialize is making something amazing.

Without customers, you’re shot though. So, there’s the age old problem again – how do you increase awareness of your product, thereby increasing sales?

To me, problem solving is an art. And as Picasso said, great artists steal. So when I have a problem, I like to find other similar problems, and analyze how they were solved, with what consequences and/or triumphs.

Walter White has the same problem

And it just so happens that Walter White has a similar problem, one that despite his success, he keeps running into. Due to the rapid growth of his organization, it’s kind of a good problem to have – how to pinpoint the area of demand with which he can then insert his very profitable product as the supply.

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that Walter White is not a fictional character on the hit series, Breaking Bad. We’ll imagine that he’s not a chemistry teacher who, upon contracting cancer, and learning that the cost of his illness would wipe out his family financially, decided to deal methamphetamine.

Yes, we’ll take those details out of the equation and look at the problem he has in common with start-ups and business owners.

The problem: focusing on what you do best

Walter’s problem, in essence, is that while he is a fantastic drug maker, he doesn’t want to be a drug dealer. He wants to concentrate on what he does best, and find someone else to handle the rest. It’s a wise decision – it’s hard to be truly spectacular at a variety of unrelated skill sets.

What he realized he needed is a distribution channel. He has a high quality product, knows there is demand, but not the details on how to fill the demand.

If you are in that situation, the best thing to do is to find (or create) a distribution channel.

Creating a distribution channel

A distribution channel is a pre-assembled audience of people who already have demonstrated a desire for something similiar to your product or service. If you were a recording artist, a music label could be a distribution channel, or it could be iTunes.

If you created a consumer product, your distribution channel might be Amazon, Walmart, your own store, a mail order catalog, or all of these.

And if you want to distribute content as a means to lead generation, your distribution channels could range from your own blog, to Slideshare, speaking engagements, guest blog posts, or having your articles published in reputable publications (like AGBEAT! ).

Don’t confuse distribution networks with distribution channels

It’s pretty easy to confuse distribution networks with distribution channels.

Distribution networks are the places where people in a distribution channel gather- examples would be YouTube, Google, Slideshare, Twitter, a blog or podcast.

A distribution channel, however, is more closely represented by the subset of people connected to your accounts on those networks. To be more exact, it’s the people within that subset who are most willing to sharing with others what you’ve shared with them.

It’s not just the people who have the biggest audiences, the best networkers or the most influential. Sometimes the momentum you want to spark is started by an average user, then continued by the curators of the world.

Back to Walter reaching his users

Now that we know what a distribution channel is, let’s go back to Walter White. His issues clarify why businesses need distribution channels – besides the obvious fact that it’s hard to do two things exceptionally.

When Mr. White initially decides that the answer to his problem is to produce mass quantities of a popular drug, he recruits a dealer to help him get his product to the end user.

He could have figured out how to do this on his own. But then he’d have to take on the risk of moving the product, as well as start from scratch with a network of contacts, rather than rely on the people who users of the product are already going to in order to buy the product.

The dealers have the customers, but not the product. If you ignore the illegality and lack of morals in the situation, it’s a match made in… well, hell. But in their case, let’s face it – if hell exists, they’re already going.

Walter’s issue is that each time his company grows, he needs a more powerful distribution channel.

When he needs more money, he makes more products. When he makes more products, he needs more dealers.

When supply and demand don’t match up

Eventually he gets to the top of the organization and finds that he can make more product, but that the supply will exceed the demand. Which of course means he has to expand into a new market. But to access that market, he again needs an intermediary to facilitate distribution, this time on a more massive level.

How does this relate to your business?

Well, there’s someone out there who already has access to the audience you need. You could do this the expensive way and advertise traditionally. It’s a good solution if you have the budget and can find other ways to earn and keep the trust of your audience.

Of course most of us don’t have the budget to both overcome the cynicism of today’s buyer and to pay per head for each lead.

You could also use social media to draw attention to your business. But like most other people who can’t stay on social networks, constantly building their reach, lack of growth can stagnate your accounts. Once the initial buzz wears off, if you don’t have a distribution channel set up, social networks become another place to update the audience you already have, rather than reach new people.

Then there’s always search. The obvious problem there is that the rules of search rankings are constantly changing.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use these methods to market, brand or otherwise increase exposure to your business. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to do as much as is appropriate to what you sell to market your product.

The key…

The key is to find the most effective suppliers of distribution channels – places where your content, product or service is already in high demand. Then identify who among those leads are sending you more leads, and find a way to encourage them to continue to do so.

Tinu Abayomi-Paul is the CEO of Leveraged Promotion and a member of Network Solutions Social web Advisory Board. Her website promotion company specializes in reputation management, and engineering demand generation system for businesses, integrating search, expertise marketing and social media.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. alexanderbrown

    September 30, 2012 at 11:33 am

    @Tinu @AGBeat facebook open graph is hands down the best and cheapest distribution channel in the world!

    • Tinu

      September 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      @alexanderbrown @agbeat That’s a distribution Network. The channel is the vessel Within that.

      • alexanderbrown

        September 30, 2012 at 3:45 pm

        @Tinu @AGBeat that true. You have specific channels in open graph like notifications, timeline, real-time updates, etc.

        • Tinu

          September 30, 2012 at 6:03 pm

          @alexanderbrown Not at all what I mean. Hard to explain out of context of the article. @agbeat

  2. Tinu

    September 30, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks @jenniferwindrum – great pic of you Mom today! @agbeat

    • jenniferwindrum

      September 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      @Tinu thanks a bunch. She does look good. Yay.

  3. Tinu

    September 30, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    @AustinBusiness 🙂 On not down? lol Thanks for the retweet. @agbeat

    • AustinBusiness

      September 30, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      @Tinu how about sideways 😉

      • Tinu

        September 30, 2012 at 8:12 pm

        @AustinBusiness If it should please the court…

        • AustinBusiness

          September 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm

          @Tinu it should 🙂

  4. Tinu

    October 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks @AmyVernon @AGBeat

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Business Entrepreneur

Why many entrepreneurs facing mental health issues don’t get help [part two]

(BUSINESS NEWS) It isn’t a financial issue or a refusal to admit a problem – here’s why many entrepreneurs struggle with mental health challenges and never seek help.

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Nearly 44 million adults experience an episode of mental illness in any given year according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Of these, the experience of 10 million adults in the United States with mental illness was so serious that it substantially interfered with a major life activity.

A significantly higher percentage of entrepreneurs studied showed signs of mental illness than did the general population according to research conducted at the University of California in 2015.

Only 41 percent of adults who needed them received mental health services in the past year. What prevents us from getting the assistance that we so desperately need?

>>Click here to catch Part One of this series<<

Although a common problem among us, mental illness in America, in all its forms, is still marked by stigma and shame. This spurious perception of a shameless disorder has been partly responsible for individuals not getting the help they need.

“It’s much more difficult to think about an anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder helping a person excel in business,” said Claudia Kalb, author of Andy Warhol was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities, speaking to the Harvard Business Journal.

“Stigma stems from not understanding what mental health conditions are all about, and not realizing that we all have at least some of these characteristics, “ said Kalb. “Part of the reason to learn more about these conditions is not to label people, but to better understand where people are coming from — and how, in a business setting, some of these attributes can be positive.”

While it’s very tempting to stay afraid of the stigma of a diagnosis, understand that you’re not alone, and that we all share similar problems from time to time.

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Americans hoped access to personal healthcare insurance would be both easier to obtain and less costly. The U.S. Small Business Administration reported in 2014 that over 75 percent of businesses are known as “non-employer” firms. These firms create a single job — typically the business owner — and have no one else on the payroll.

Because of the changes in insurance laws, many of these individuals were faced with having to leave health care options that they many have had under prior insurers and face higher rates on the new healthcare exchanges for insurance plans that were less comprehensive.

Premiums for some insured have risen nearly 10 percent in the past two years, and depending upon the state in which they live and income targets, many individuals are bracing for steep increases in insurance prices this year, with estimates ranging from 16 percent to 65 percent increases.

As the publisher of the Washington Post, Newsweek, and owner of multiple television and radio stations, Phil Graham was a man with money and power. Yet, despite his wealth and privilege, he was not immune to mental illness. His journey with severe mental illness began in 1957 and continued for years thereafter.

Katherine Graham never forgot her husband’s tears, even decades later. “He was in real tears and desperation,” she told The Baltimore Sun, “he was…powerless, immobilized.”

In an era in which the stigma was profound and the treatment options severely limited, there was little help that could be found, and Phil’s rapid descent into illness included hospitalization and invasive electroshock therapy, all to no avail. Throughout it all, Katherine carried out the doctor’s orders, trying to talk Phil out of manic depressive episodes, speaking for hours on end to try to bolster his spirits.

We know that we ask our loved ones to carry large burdens for us an entrepreneurs, and try to ease their load. Yet, by not looking for help in an attempt to not be a bother to them, we don’t help them.

A study by Rogers, Stafford, and Garland at Baylor University found that for family members of those with mental illness, there were high levels of both subjective and objective burdens reported, with many family members struggling to process through their own feelings about the mental illness and their loved one.

We do not ease the path for our loved ones by refusing to seek and get the help we need, but instead damn them with a heavier burden, despite our well-meaning intentions.

In her powerful work, The Dangers of Willful Blindness, Margaret Heffernan, discusses the all-too-familiar concept of people not wanting to allow themselves to think about things that end in conflict or that rock the boat, personally or professionally.

“We can’t notice and know everything: the cognitive limits of our brain simply won’t let us. That means we have to filter or edit what we take in. So what we choose to let through and to leave out is crucial,” writes Heffernan. “We mostly admit the information that makes us feel great about ourselves, while conveniently filtering whatever unsettles our fragile egos and most vital beliefs.”

For many of us, it’s not that we don’t want to admit that we need help, but rather that we simply cannot allow ourselves to see it — even in the best of times! If you’re struggling to see life clearly through the lens of a mental illness, it is even more difficult.

Being open with one’s self about things that are real and things that are not, and acknowledging that things might not be okay, is the first step to finding assistance.

You don’t have to find help all alone. Reaching out to someone for help can often be uncomfortable, especially about a topic that is as personal as your own health, but doing so is the critical step towards recovery. Find a trustworthy partner for your recovery who you trust to help you find someone who can provide the level of assistance you need.

While your healthcare provider is the best first stop to discuss things that are going on with you physically or emotionally, it’s important to have a support network who can be there for you in between doctor visits.

There are other, more immediate resources for those who need them:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 either by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by going to their website and engaging in an online chat.

For those who prefer texting options with qualified crisis counselors, the Crisis Text Line is available 24/7 by texting “Go” to 741741. Both options are confidential and are immediate supports for you and your family.

Once you’ve begun treatment or counseling, stay educated and informed about the challenges that you face. You share control of your pathway to recovery with your doctor or counselor; find out all that you can from reputable sources about the specific challenge you face, and stay involved in making informed treatment decisions about your care.

You’re the most important thing in the world to your family, not your business, not your perceived notions of success — you. If you take away nothing else from this article, know that. You are not alone, and professional help is available.

>>Click here to catch Part One of this series<<

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs face higher rates of mental illness [part one]

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) For many entrepreneurs, carrying out the work that they feel that they were meant to do comes with the cost of psychological turmoil, a cost often left unchecked.

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From the outside looking in, the entrepreneur’s calling is charming and magical. Being one’s own boss, making the decisions, and doing what one loves makes many people who work for someone other than themselves a tad jealous. For all your neighbor’s reveries about how the entrepreneurial life is a series of unbridled successes, you well know the price you pay, including those that no one else ever sees or hears about.

For many entrepreneurs, carrying out the work that they feel that they were meant to do comes with the cost of psychological turmoil, a cost often left unchecked.

As an entrepreneur, you balance the responsibility for the health and welfare of your company with the need to preserve your own health. There are pressures to maintain a public façade for the perceived benefit of your brand that may well be at odds with what’s going on in the inside.

Being artificially strong and denying yourself the help that you need isn’t only harmful physically, but fiscally as well. Businesses in America lose $193.2 billion in lost earnings annually due to the effects of serious mental illness on employee production and associated costs.

A significantly higher percentage of entrepreneurs studied showed signs of mental illness than the general population, according to research conducted at the University of California in 2015. The authors contended that there may be a link between mental illness and creativity.

The expanded creativity of many entrepreneurs is a fantastic attribute, but also one of a host of characteristics that affect their mental well-being. One of the authors of the study, Michael A. Freeman, identified the link and called for further research. “People who are on the energetic, motivated, and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states,” stated Freeman, speaking to Google.

Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, identified four common mental health issues that many entrepreneurs face based on the nature of their work: depression, anxiety, self-worth issues, and addiction.

Working long hours, alone for many of them, can drive entrepreneurs to be less mindful of their health. That isolation can lead some towards increased risks for depression, as well as the mindset that “time is money.”

We’re written before about the dangers of such a mindset, and maintaining it costs the entrepreneur much needed leisure and decompression time.

The pressure you feel can be healthy, a motivator to continue your efforts and network with others who can help you succeed. However, it can also be linked to extreme anxiety, which can manifest itself in multiple ways, including being so afraid to make a business decision that it leads to mental paralysis.

This incapacitating anxiousness can also lead to burnout. “It’s much more difficult to think about an anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder helping a person excel in business,” said Claudia Kalb, author of Andy Warhol was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities, speaking to the Harvard Business Journal.

She notes, “Howard Hughes… was a successful entrepreneur, but in the latter part of his life, as his OCD characteristics became worse, he became totally isolated. He couldn’t interact with people in business or in society.”

Anxiety’s effects can be compounded by how you judge your own self-worth.

For many, your job is your identity, and your bank account a quick barometer of your importance.

In an era in which it’s no longer uncommon to have startups fail to launch or succeed for awhile before not pivoting in a market shift, failure to make your business thrive shouldn’t have the stigma that it once did.

Some of us are feedback junkies, seeking engagement with and feedback from our internal and external customers. For others, it’s the excitement of the design and launch that gets us motivated. Whatever your particular cue might be, for the serial entrepreneur, the rush that you get is palpable and you wouldn’t trade it for anything. Maybe you should, though.

There’s a fine line between persistence and obsession, and a finer line still between obsession and addiction. Morin cites a 2014 study, published in The Journal of Business Venturing, that found that the actions of serial entrepreneurs shared similar characteristics with behavioral addictions.

These characteristics included having obsessive thoughts, negative emotional outcomes, and withdrawal-engagement cycles, in which the entrepreneur withdraws and yet feels pressured by the need to reengage with his business or partners, which he does, only leading to increased frustration and resentment. The inability for the entrepreneur to understand when their behavior was potentially damaging to themselves was also noted, with a “pursue at all costs” mentality being common, despite the harm done.

The need for mental health supports knows no class boundaries, no race or gender, or age limitations. Nor does it differentiate between those with the entrepreneurial spirit and those without.

Having an issue with your mental health or maintaining your emotional equilibrium doesn’t make you weak. The work that you’ve chosen sometimes comes with hidden pitfalls that can cause a human cost; as your most important asset, be proactive in maintaining it.

You’re the most important thing in the world to your family – not your business, not your perceived notions of success — you.

If this is a fight that you currently face, or fight on the behalf of someone close to you who suffers from a mental illness, know that you are not alone.

If you take away nothing else from this article, know that. You are not alone, and professional help is available.

You don’t have to find help all alone. Reaching out to someone for help can often be uncomfortable, especially about a topic that is as personal as your own health, but doing so is the critical step towards recovery. Find a trustworthy partner for your recovery who you trust to help you find someone who can provide the level of assistance you need.

While your healthcare provider is the best first stop to discuss things that are going on with you physically or emotionally, it’s important to have a support network who can be there for you in between doctor visits.

There are other, more immediate resources for those who need them:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 either by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by going to their website at http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ and engaging in an online chat.

For those who prefer texting options with qualified crisis counselors, the Crisis Text Line is available 24/7 by texting “Go” to 741741.

Both options are confidential and are immediate supports for you and your family.

Once you’ve begun treatment or counseling, stay educated and informed about the challenges that you face. You share control of your pathway to recovery with your doctor or counselor; find out all that you can from reputable sources about the specific challenge you face, and stay involved in making informed treatment decisions about your care.

You’re the most important thing in the world to your family, not your business, not your perceived notions of success — you. If you take away nothing else from this article, know that. You are not alone, and professional help is available.

>>Keep reading as Part 2 digs in even deeper…<<

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Business Entrepreneur

Startups love pondering inclusion, yet half have no women in leadership

(STARTUPS) Tech startups are a huge part of discussing diversity and inclusion, but something as simple as hiring women in management somehow remains elusive.

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According to the Silicon Valley Bank’s annual report, over half of startups have no women on their leadership team. None.

As hard as this fact is to believe, it is also hardly breaking news. Organizations who have surveyed startups and technology companies for the past several years have seen that long-standing trends that disadvantage women and other genders in the tech space are still at play.

Like many other gendered debates about the treatment of women and other minority workers, this problem is seemingly a Catch 22 or a chicken and egg situation. Critics will continue to argue that the reason ladies aren’t in leadership roles is because they don’t have innate leadership qualities or that once their non-male employees have proven themselves, then they will start getting the resources and promotions that they say that they desire.

Like many other myths about women in the workforce, these beliefs only serve to reinforce the status quo by transferring the responsibility for these frustrating conditions onto the marginalized party.

These beliefs are busted not only because they’re tired gender clichés, but because we have hard data that proves the financial and cultural benefit in long-term effects of women leadership in tech.

However, for all the discussion of diversity initiatives, the likelihood of traditional funding going to women-led startups is still small.

For now, startups with women in leadership roles were more likely to get their funding from investing teams that were also led by females. Wouldn’t it be great if other investors began to not only understand that in 2019 it’s imperative that a company’s leadership reflect the diversity of the employees that comprise it? That workers will be more motivated, feel more understood, and have greater buy-in when they identify with their management?

Empowering women is how more get involved in tech. Diversity of leadership helps organizations thrive. And if something as simple as binary gender diversity is such a tremendous challenge, all other diversity issues are still (unfortunately) a large mountain to climb.

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