I recently watched a re-run of CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch which featured Gary Vaynerchuk. Anyone who has ever heard of Gary Vaynerchuk knows that he has a very magnetic personality. I wanted to watch this interview because, let’s face it, I love success stories. Gary Vaynerchuk is the man who founded WineLibraryTV.com and he has built his success into riches and fame that extends beyond the world of wine sellers. Now I have a drink every now and then but I wouldn’t classify myself as a wine connoisseur and quite frankly I would most likely never watch a show about wine – that is if it weren’t for Gary Vaynerchuk. I pay attention to this man because he is smart and it is always interesting to hear what he has to say.
On this particular show one thing really hit me between the eyes. Gary Vaynerchuk, though he has worked in the wine industry since he was a teenager, said that he doesn’t go to wine trade shows and industry functions to put his message out. He goes to technology shows and other conventions that have nothing to do with wine. Later on the same show and during the same interview another young business phenomenon, Scott Vincent Borba, founder and owner of Borba Skin Care, who used a very similar tactic in his product placement – by not placing his products in stores next to his competitors.
Now how is it that a man who sells wine by marketing wine advice skips a wine trade show to appear at a technology conference and a man who sells skin care but doesn’t put his products in the skin care sections of stores make a dime? They have differentiated themselves, their products and their services by not competing directly against their competitors but by instead creating a whole new category for themselves – one in which they automatically hold their own high ground. Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military sage would have agreed to this tactic. Sun Tzu counseled “attack him [the enemy] where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”
This interview reminded me of earlier advice I’d read from a writer, Peter Bowerman, famous for his book ‘The Well Fed Writer’. Peter held that sometimes the worst place to sell books is in, of all places, a bookstore! Why? Because in a book store there are hundreds and thousands of other books there to compete against. It is often better to sell your book online or in specialty shops that sell wares that might be related to your book. For instance if you have written a book about staying healthy, find out if you can sell these books in a gym. Most likely you will not compete against other health related books there because gyms aren’t noted for selling books in the first place. The competition will simply not exist.
Now I not saying that if you are selling women’s underwear that you should go to a fast food chain to see whether they will carry them. The outlet has to work for your product. What I am saying is that Gary Vayerchuk’s advice is quite solid. You should go to the undiscovered locations where your market is. People at technology conventions are fans of Gary Vayerchuk’s social media efforts and they tend to be wine drinkers. Is he reaching his wine consumption market at a wine trade show? Perhaps he only reaches his suppliers and competitors there but not many buyers. At the technology show he is going direct.
I even have my own examples. I run some business-to-business international logistics networks and quite often I find that I get more attention when I am at functions where I am the only one there in my field than when I go to some of the large industry specific trade shows. My pool of potential clients are a bit smaller but at the same time I am the only game in town and the return on investment can be greater. On the other hand I can definitely say that when I attend port shows I rarely if ever meet my competitors whereas when I attend the large logistics fairs often my competitors will have a booth right across the aisle from me.
If the marketing that you are doing right now is meeting all of your expectation, well, perhaps you are just fine sticking around where you are. But if you think you could do a bit better than you are then I would like to prod you a bit. Ask yourself this question: Where are some places you might be able to market yourself more directly to your customers with less competition?
You’ll probably surprise yourself with the answers you come up with!
Gary Dale Cearley is the managing director of Advanced International Networks Ltd and is also a columnist and writer. Promotion Points is a monthly column in the magazine Management Systems Asia, where Gary Dale is a regular contributor. You can follow Gary Dale on Twitter by clicking here.