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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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breaking bad distribution

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

4 easy ways to keep track of inventory this holiday season

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Feeling overwhelmed by your inventory this year? Use these three simple tips to keep your stock managed for the end of the year.

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Man scanning inventory with tablet in one hand and a scanner in the other.

2021’s retail holiday season is in full swing. With it comes waves of purchases and shipments, both in stores and online. Holiday inventory management is essential to get the best handle on the continuous rushes. Organization, strategy, and automation are the 3 main steps to stay on top of inventory this year. Deliberate use of these will create a better setup for the coming months.

1. Organize

Organization takes many forms. In the stockroom, a messy workspace will slow down sales and shipments, making the entire store inefficient. However, with the right classifications, labeling, and management, the stockroom can become the leanest place in the store.

First, stores must have a point-of-sale system that can cleanly organize everything into actionable data, according to Software Advice. When a transaction occurs, the system logs it and, from there, employees can get a better understanding of what inventory is selling fastest.

In the back, employees can change the inventory layout to prioritize items that are selling well. Keeping that area fully staffed at all times may be the best move during the retail holiday season rush. For instance, employees can categorize clothing by material, size, and color.

The store will need to use a full-featured inventory management system. With it, employees can accurately track what goes in and out of the store through scanning barcodes and logging shipments. With a better handle on what consumers need, its location in the stockroom and better tracking, backorders, and sellouts can decrease.

2. Strategize

Retailers must have a clear strategy for holiday inventory. Otherwise, the rushes and high demands and orders can easily overwhelm employees and result in lost revenue. We are already seeing orders falling behind due to multiple shortages, including chips and even, employees themselves. Combined with organization, a plan should involve prioritizing customers’ needs and interests and increasing item accessibility.

Just as employees can organize the stockroom based on what consumers will be buying the most, they can also rearrange the store to put those items toward the front. That way, people can get what they’re looking for right away. This strategy will work online as well — where the site advertises the popular items on the main page.

Then, based on what POS and inventory management systems report, managers can order more sought-after items ahead of time. At home or in person, consumers get what they want without frustration, while retailers know the exact numbers in their inventory.

Another crucial area to focus on is in-store pickup. Some consumers don’t want to pay for shipping. Instead, in-store pickup ships their order to the nearest retail location, where they can quickly claim it. Especially during the holiday rush, designating a separate section for these items will be essential for a strategic inventory.

3. Automate

Automation is a broad topic when it comes to holiday inventory. With this wide scope, though, retailers can integrate countless systems to conquer the rushes more effectively. Helpful gadgets and organization equipment include Internet of Things sensors and big data. They will go a long way in monitoring inventory at all times.

IoT sensors are small and practical. While they can attach to any items in the stockroom, they’ll be invaluable for everyone along the supply chain to use. The sensors show merchandise’s exact location and specifications, which an inventory management system will automatically present in actionable ways.

When retailers use the information from sales and inventory, it falls under the category of big data. With the right analytics and prediction software, employees can use this data to understand coming trends and better understand what they’ll need to order and when.

If businesses — retail and warehouses alike — are looking for an efficient way to find stock without wasting time, they can use robots to retrieve it. These autonomous robots cut down on search times when they know the exact location based on IoT sensors or barcode scanning.

4. Make Post-Holiday Changes

The work continues even after the retail holiday season ends. However, businesses can take steps to optimize their setups for months afterward to keep drawing people in through next year’s holiday season.

The first step is to declutter. Get rid of things that will no longer be a priority to most consumers. A sale or clearance section is an efficient way to profit from obsolete inventory.

Then, it’s time to step back and reevaluate the landscape. What has changed for consumers? What new trends are emerging? Social media will be invaluable to track how customers want to spend their money in the coming year. It’s also a critical place to build an e-commerce presence for the future.

A Lasting Central Inventory

Year-round, but especially during the holiday season, inventory must be a critical factor for any retailer or warehouse. With better organization, strategy, and automation, the workplace can run more smoothly. These factors will also improve communication across the supply chain, making the holidays a profitable breeze for all retailers.

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Business Entrepreneur

Maintenance costs add up: How to decrease expenses to increase revenue

(ENTREPRENEUR) When it comes to managing your business cost-effectively, you have to be mindful of your balance sheet. It’s not all about revenue!

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Women writing in balance sheet workbook of maintenance costs.

When it comes to managing your business in a cost-effective way, you have to be mindful of your balance sheet. It’s not all about revenue. Sometimes, it’s the expense side of the ledger that needs a little attention. More specifically, you have to think through maintenance costs in order to maintain a lean operation.

6 Ways to Lower Maintenance Costs

Maintenance costs add up quickly. Whether it’s the minor kind (a few hundred dollars here and a couple thousand there) or the major kind (massive five- and six-figure incidents), maintenance is not cheap. Thus, anything you can do to lower these costs will be a huge help. Here are several tips:

  1. Simplify Procedures

We make maintenance way more complicated than necessary. The first step is to just simplify your procedures. You do this by reviewing all procedures and looking for redundancies and/or tasks that aren’t necessary to the objective. When there are too many steps in a process, people are likely to be overwhelmed or confused (which obviously leads to poor outcomes). In this case, simple is best.

  1. Invest in the Right Software

Consider what percentage of your maintenance processes are performed manually versus automatically. While there are certain tasks that require manual input from a skilled technician, there are countless tasks that can be offloaded and streamlined.

The key to automating is to pick the right software. These programs integrate with your equipment and use data analytics and machine learning to predict when certain parts or systems will need repairs. This allows maintenance teams to move quickly.

  1. Choose Quality Equipment

You can reduce many maintenance issues by simply investing in quality equipment on the front end. It might cost you more initially, but it’ll save you money over the long haul.

Consider, for example, two pieces of equipment: Machine A ($10,000) and Machine B ($15,000). Machine A costs significantly less, but it requires $1,000 in maintenance costs per year. Machine B costs more upfront, but only requires $300 in maintenance costs per year. That means Machine B costs $700 less per year to maintain. Over a 10-year span, that results in $7,000 in savings (which obviously outpaces the $5,000 more that was spent upfront). On top of that, there’s less downtime and greater reliability. It’s just an example, but you get the idea! 

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  1. Emphasize Preventive Maintenance

Most businesses have a reactionary approach to maintenance. They wait until there’s an issue and then they address it. And though this can work, it’s usually more expensive. Not only does it lead to more serious issues, but there’s typically downtime associated with the repair. Preventative maintenance is the better approach.

The key to a good preventative maintenance program is to structure it appropriately. This means basing your preventative maintenance on operating hours rather than the calendar.

“The problem with servicing a machine every so many months is that the amount of time you use it can vary,” Onsite Installer explains. “Servicing an item every 30 days, for example, may mean you’re over-or-under-servicing it based on actual hours.”

The best way to stay on track with your preventative maintenance is to use a SaaS-based maintenance system that collects and analyzes data in real-time so that you know precisely when to address something.

  1. Hire the Right People

It’s easy to get so focused on equipment, software, and processes that we forget about the importance of people. However, at the end of the day, your business is built on the backs of people. As they go, so the company goes. The best piece of advice is to hire people who are meticulous, diligent, and proactive.

  1. Train People Well

Hiring good people is just the start. You also need to train these people so they embrace your goals and processes. Help them understand the importance of maintenance and give them the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to carry out their responsibilities in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Talking in a meeting

Putting it All Together

There’s nothing easy about maintenance. It’s gritty, expensive work that doesn’t always look good on paper. But do you know what does look good on paper? Being able to point to thousands of dollars in savings because of smart, proactive decision-making. Use these tips to get ahead!

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs and freelancers are ditching Calendly for the all new zcal

(ENTREPRENEUR) Sure, Calendly can be efficient and organized, but it can sometimes feel cold and transactional. For a more personal experience, try zcal.

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Woman using welcome video of herself on zcal.

Have you ever been emailing back and forth with someone trying to set up a time for a call or a coffee and they send you a link to their Calendly? Sure, it’s efficient and organized, but it can sometimes feel cold and transactional. This is why Saurabh Chandarana and, co-founder, Eric Yieh designed zcal, a scheduling alternative that makes the process more personal and human.

First, the creators have designed a booking page that provides a delightful, on-brand experience for anyone booking a meeting with you. Self-expression has been put front and center, letting organizers showcase themselves with a cover photo, welcome video, and personal intro.

These elements both inform and entertain guests, helping them answer the two most important questions before every meeting: “Who exactly am I meeting?” and “Why should I be excited to meet them?”

Second, they’ve made it easy to create personalized links so you never have to worry about insulting anyone with a generic booking link. Simply select from your contact list to instantly personalize a link in seconds with your recipient’s name, email, and profile picture.

Best of all? This tool is free forever.

The creators believe that calendar scheduling, like email, is an essential utility that should be accessible to absolutely everyone. So, we’ve decided to make zcal completely free (forever!) for personal use. The free plan includes many of the premium features you pay for elsewhere including unlimited links and calendar accounts, and we have plenty more in the pipeline.

Now, for the unique features.

You can get instant context on the people you meet with a personal intro and brand your page with a cover photo – upload your own or select from 1M+ Unsplash photos.

The platform also allows you to showcase yourself with a welcome video that gets people excited to meet you. You can even share your link as an animated gif or formatted email text. Finally, you can coordinate large group meetings with meeting polls (see ya, Doodle!)

Want to fit zcal into your schedule? Check it out here.

Group meeting using zcal for polls.

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