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Archive for September, 2010

“5 for 1 Euro,” the vendor remarks, standing under the shade of the Eiffel Tower. Almost immediately, another man follows down the line of people offering “5 for 1 Euro.” Wait, those sought after mini-Eiffel Towers are exactly the same? Why would I have changed my mind just 5 seconds after the last offer? It is almost like an interrogation process, as we wait more than 2 hours to take the elevator to the top of the real Eiffel Tower. Why would I breakdown and buy one now? I’m getting dismayed, but toward the very end of our wait I hear “6 for 1 Euro.” Really? The same quality, but I get 20% more Eiffel Tower for the same price? I’m sold.

What all these vendors had down really well was the operational piece of their business. They stood right at the point where you demanded their product. They were easy to find, their merchandise was easy to browse, each had a clear pricing model, and the purchase process was a cinch. What they all lacked was differentiation. With near flawless operations, their challenge was moving away from pure price competition and favorable shopping environment, to one that had something distinct that would persuade me to choose them. What could that be?

I turned my gaze on two street performers that started to dance to a Michael Jackson song. At first, only one person stopped to watch. Less than 1 minute into the song, they were surrounded by more than 20 people watching. The crowd was into it. An emotional connection had been made. These guys really stood out of the sea of vendors. A brand was built by just copying the King of Pop and coming up with their own unique dance style. After the song ended, another song started up. Those that didn’t like the next song took off; however, one thoughtful person dropped a coin in their hat. I couldn’t see what it was, but I doubt it was more than a Euro at best.

These street dancers did an amazing job creating a brand. Their product was unique, the audience gave them a tremendous amount of unsolicited time, many gained an emotional tie to the moment and would remember the dancers well after their vacation in Paris; yet, they likely made no more money than the commodity-based Eiffel Tower vendors. Why is that?

Creating a brand doesn’t ensure sales, just as brilliantly designed business operations fail to close the deal if there is no brand tied to what is being offered. Having the fortunate experience of working on multiple eCommerce projects in my life, I’ve come to learn that business operations must be choreographed to the unique demands of selling online, while marketing must have an innovative message and clear go-to-market strategy. Without synchronicity between these two components, failure is certain.

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