I went to pick up my daughter from kindergarten yesterday and ran headlong into a master merchandiser who I both respect professional and loathe personally – Scholastic. If you have a child and have ever experienced their traveling book fair, you know exactly what I mean.
I want my child to read, and I want her to love books – especially the kind made from paper. So of course I want to buy her a couple of books to encourage this and support the school. What I didn't want was the tears that come with the “books with enclosed toys” which I decline to purchase.
If you've never seen one of these traveling book fairs, let me take a moment to describe it. In the hallway of the school were about 6 carts, each 4 feet long and 4 feet high, that open up to display the books. The carts are set up by age and are placed outside the appropriate grade-level room. A mobile book shop if you will.
There are lots of great choices for her age – from Curious George to Olivia to other titles I had never seen, but looked entertaining. Unfortunately, there are also a number of poor choices. Princess books with jewelry enclosed. Character books based on TV shows that are thinly disguised scripts that the computer illustrator spit out. And the one that set my daughter to tears – a story book of all the Disney princesses with a mini-slide projector attached so you could project pictures on the wall while you read. Master merchandising and “value-add” from Disney for their pockets. Nothing but a fight and tears for us parents who did not want to spend $19.95 for a 10 page book.
And you know what, 24 hours later, that particular book was sold out. Again, tremendous professional respect for what they do. Just a groan on the personal side.
So what are the take-away lessons here?
1) Consider alternate channels for distribution of your product or service. You may run an online business or a distribution firm, but there are still opportunities to get out in front of your customer directly if you structure it the right way.
2) If you run a services business, think about what else you have to sell that gets you in front of new customers in new ways. An example would be my son desperately trying to get me to put Roco, our content monster, on clothing and selling it; something many different organizations do with their brand image or something related
3) Know and appeal to your prospective customer – whatever you are selling. Scholastic knows that parents are wallet, but that the kids are their target. And they reach their target very well. Shelves at the right height. Good selections and limited inventory to get your child to get you to buy now and not think about it too long.
So take a step back and consider your options. Or hire a consultant from a totally different type of business to help you brainstorm new options. You may just come up with a new way to find revenue.