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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

Performance improvement through self-talk

(ENTREPRENEUR) Speaking to others can be scary, but speaking to yourself is normal and can actually improve your speech performance overall

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Performance mirror

Do you talk to yourself? Don’t worry, this is a no-judgment zone. I probably talk to myself more than I talk to other people – especially when considering the inner monologue.

I once read that people who talk to themselves are likely to be more intelligent. Whether or not this is factual I don’t know, but I do know that it’s important that you’re smart about the way you talk to yourself.

I’m a fairly self-deprecating person, so when I’m talking to myself about myself, it’s usually some sort of insult. About a year or so ago, I realized how often I was doing this, and made a conscious effort to be a little bit nicer. In that time, my mood has been a bit more positive.

This experience fits well into the research efforts of psychologist Ethan Kross who has examined the differences in life success based off of how people talk to themselves. “Talk to yourself with the pronoun I, for instance, and you’re likely to fluster and perform poorly in stressful circumstances,” said Kross. “Address yourself by your name and your chances of acing a host of tasks, from speech making to self-advocacy, suddenly soar.”

This can be simplified as, talk to yourself the way you would (or maybe, should) talk to someone else, and respond in the way you would want them to respond. Treat with kindness, receive kindness back – as a result, things are more cohesive, copacetic, and successful.

After working with participants in his study, Kross found a number of performance benefits to this self-talk method, including: better performance, higher well-being, and greater wisdom.

With better performance, judges were used to listen to five-minute speeches prepared by participants about why they should be hired for their dream job. Half of the participants used “I” statements, while the other half referred to themselves by their own name. The judges found that the latter half performed better, and were found to have experienced less depression and felt less shame.

With higher well-being, Jason Moser, a neuroscientist and clinical psychologist, measured electrical activity in the brain during participants’ usage of the different types of self-talk. During stressful situations, those who used their names instead of personal pronouns were found to have a significant decrease in anxiety levels, which positively correlated with a major decrease in energy use by the frontal lobe (talk about a win, win!)

With greater wisdom, the research found that people who use their names instead of pronouns are able to think things through more wisely and more rational and balanced way. “The psychologically distanced perspective allowed people to transcend their egocentric viewpoints and take the big picture into account,” Kross said of this piece of the research.

Well, Taylor is now ready to wrap up this article, and she hopes that you’ll give name-first self-talk a try, as The American Genius only wants what is best for their readers! Additionally, encourage people around you and those on your team to give this self-talk, first name idea a try – circle back after a week of trying it and share the results.

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Business Entrepreneur

How freelancers can keep the peace with difficult clients

(ENTREPRENEUR) Freelancers are in a tight spot – keeping customers happy pays the bills, even when they’re impossibly difficult. Let’s discuss how to overcome this tremendous challenge.

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Freelancers have a myriad of benefits, but one distinct drawback is that there isn’t always a team to back you up if you find yourself working with a particularly nasty client. It’s especially important to keep clients — no matter how insufferable they may be — in good moods, so here are a few tips on keeping the peace with your most annoying customers.

It’s worth noting that you can often mitigate a large amount of potential misunderstandings — and thus, nastiness — by being clear with your intentions, terms, and rules up front and over-communicating at all times. A common issue for beginning freelancers is a tendency to settle on less-than-optimal terms for fear of losing a potential customer. A piece of advice – if they’re not willing to pay you what you’re worth now, they never will be.

It also helps to keep in mind that most obstinate clients are simply control-freaks who have found themselves outside of their comfort zones. Knowing that you aren’t dealing with inherently bad people can be the difference between snapping and having more patience.

Once you’ve established that your client is causing you substantial enough discomfort that their behavior is no longer acceptable, your first step should be to communicate to them the specifics of your problem. If possible, do this in writing – promises made via email tend to reinforce accountability better than phone calls.

Freelancers should also avoid using any additional stipulations or rewards for getting clients to cooperate. As long as they’re the one failing to hold up their end of the bargain, they should be the one to pick up the slack — don’t do their work for them (or, if you do, make sure you charge them for it).

Again, the majority of client-freelancer issues can be boiled down to miscommunication and shaky terms, so address all issues as quickly as possible to avoid similar problems in the future. And as previously stated, over-communicate at all times.

Of course, keeping the peace is only viable up to a certain point of abuse.

If your client doesn’t pay you by the agreed-upon due date, continuously disrespects you and/or your team, or keeps changing the terms of your agreement, you reserve the right to set the client straight, threaten to take them to small-claims court, or — if you haven’t initiated the work for your end of the deal — terminate the contract.

Remember, freelancers don’t owe inconsiderate customers the time of day, and for every non-paying customer with whom you waste your time, you’re missing out on a paid, legitimate opportunity.

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Business Entrepreneur

Is the best time to relocate your business before, during, or after the holidays?

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) If your business has outgrown its current space, it may feel like there’s never a good time to relocate. When can you pack everything up without disrupting operations, going offline, and sinking your sales?

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If your business has outgrown its current space, it may feel like there’s never a good time to relocate. When can you pack everything up without disrupting operations, going offline, and sinking your sales? The answer may be during that post-holiday slump.

Though the holiday season is marked by increased shopping and general economic activity during the run-up, once the holiday season actually begins, we tend to see a slowdown that leads to low first quarter profits. Decreased profits during this period don’t mean we’re looking at an overall economic slump, but rather that everyone is recuperating from holiday spending sprees, while companies assess and prepare to launch their start-of-year marketing strategies. It’s a time of renewal and reconsideration, from an economic perspective.

If you’re thinking about staging a move for your business this holiday season, you’re on track for decreased business disruptions, but that doesn’t mean you have an easy road ahead of you. Here’s what you need to know to execute the move smoothly.

Have A loose timeline

One of the most challenging things about planning a business move is that it can be hard to predict how long it will take to properly execute your move. That means, even if you tell your customers you’re relocating, you shouldn’t expect to give them a hard re-opening date. Rather, the length of time it takes to move tends to hinge on a number of factors, including distance, size of your business, infrastructure issues, and regulatory concerns, not all of which are easily predictable.

You’ll also want to leave some buffer time when planning your move because you can’t predict problems that might arise with the moving company. Bad weather or a broken down truck can delay a move, especially if you’re working with a small company. Moving companies may also offer you a lower rate if you’re flexible with your move dates.

Consider your employees

Another question you’ll want to ask before moving is, “Where are my employees in all this?” Some companies firmly believe in giving employees holidays off, even if it means closing a profitable business like a restaurant during an otherwise profitable time. Other companies, however, typically assume employees will be in the office during or immediately after major holidays.

Regardless of your usual philosophy, you need to determine what role your employees will play in your move.

While they shouldn’t be responsible for the physical process of moving, do you expect them to participate in packing and setting up the new location? You should be clear about your expectations while recognizing that moving is outside the scope of typical job duties. You also will need to budget to pay your employees during this downtime while also financing the move, even though you won’t be bringing in a profit.

Mind the locals

If you’re primarily an online business, you may not have to worry about how your move will impact customers – other than some downtime, these individuals will be minimally affected. However, for businesses that run a brick and mortar storefront, changing locations can have implications for your community relationships.

If you move outside your original area, for example, you may lose customer goodwill or even sacrifice some of your customer base altogether. Depending on the service you provide, they may come back, or they may find another option closer to home.

The holidays are a busy time in general, but they’re an unusual time for businesses since economically it’s the pre-holiday period that’s actually the most hectic. Take advantage of this imbalance to move your business with the least fuss during the last few days of the year or at the start of the first quarter. You’ll be pleased to find how smoothly a company move goes when customers are otherwise occupied.

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