One Man’s Marketing

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One Man’s Marketing

A friend we know started a business a number of years ago with a single product — an album of Christmas carols played on acoustic guitar, overdubbed to sound like an ensemble. He and a friend recorded the entire album in his living room, called it “A Collection of Favorite Christmas Carols,” and sold over 300,000 copies… without ever approaching a traditional music store to carry the album. How did he do that?

First, he thought about the market. He knew that in a record store (this was pre-internet), the album would sit quietly in the ‘Christmas’ section gathering dust while ‘White Christmas’ and other well-known favorites would be selling out, so putting his product in that competitive environment wasn’t the best solution. Besides, the only way someone would buy the album was if they could hear it — it needed to be played. Since it was an instrumental album, he realized it could be perfect background music that could create a pleasant holiday atmosphere in a shop as well as be a perfect item for sale.

He began giving away free albums for businesses to play during the holiday season, focussing on gift shops, book stores, and craft galleries with a label carrying an 800 number on the back. He also gave them a small stand to hold the empty cassette (yes, very pre-internet) with a sign that said, “Now Playing.” Customers in the store asked if they could buy that nice Christmas music they were hearing, and the orders started pouring in. He discovered his customers went to trade shows to seek out new products for their shelves, so he began attending them as well, setting up a booth and offering free cassettes to passers-by. He talked to the store owners as they stopped in to listen to the music, and learned about their fears, objections, and desires. He crafted his sales approach to counter their fears, made ordering easy, and in an age of automated phone response, had live people answering the lines. Within two years, he had 1200 customers and eight employees… within 6 years, the company had over 6,000 accounts nationwide, 600 album titles, and 33 employees.

What’s the takeaway here? This business succeeded because of several things — first, the owner imagined his product being used in a new way, forgoing the traditional setting by breaking new ground, creating a new market. Second, he researched his market in depth to learn what his customers’ points of resistance were and structured his sales approach to overcome objections. Lastly, he made it easy to reorder by providing an 800 line, and having phones quickly answered by friendly people. Other, larger companies have also broken ground by seeing products and markets differently — Steve Jobs at Apple, Bill Gates with Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook. Each looked at the world and said, “What if we did things differently?” Asking that question about your business might open doors to growth not previously opened. What if… you did?

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