I find it fascinating that somehow we’ve all been trained to ask the same questions, “What’s your velocity?”, What’s your margin?”, What’s your channel strategy?” Sometimes I feel as if we are merely lemmings. I know that is not quite true but I do worry that our paradigms narrow what we see. Let’s spend a bit of time on the last of those questions. What if we adjusted our approach?
I am suggesting a different view of channel strategy, a different way of thinking. I feel that seeing them as distinct verticals is a limiting belief. They are not independent. Just the opposite, they are interdependent. Each “channel” interacts with the other along what I will call the consumer continuum.
Consumers shop up and down a continuum. Along its axis are various waypoints. These are points of interaction and they include the places consumers work, play, socialize and of course, shop. Each of those waypoints is a potential point of contact between the consumer and your brand. And, each has a distinct role.
I know, I am getting weird here, but stick with me. I am going to argue that there are three primary roles that a given waypoint can play for a brand; discovery, social proof, and replenishment. Let’s examine each.
Before I jump in, let me offer that a waypoint may be able to play multiple roles. If you look deeply at its characteristics, your consumer, and your brand, you’ll find one primary role that it plays better than the others. For the purpose of sound strategy, that is how it should be labeled.
Discovery and trial are most likely to occur where the problem being solved is most pronounced or the need being filled is most acute. Given that, what type of outlets are likely to yield the best results for your brand? For example, imagine you have a product that is focused on sleep. Under normal circumstances, travel outlets such as airports and hotels could be ideal points of discovery.
Okay, how about social proof. This time, we have a wellness shot. I go to my local yoga studio where the owner is someone I consider a bit of a wellness guru. I find your shot available for purchase. I make the connection that it is legit, the real deal. Why? Because, a person of authority, that guru in my mind, is offering it in her studio and is thereby passively endorsing the product. Now, I don’t have to do the research. I trust it will work.
Replenishment is pretty straightforward. Once I have discovered your product and have validated it through social proof or my own use, I just need to find it where I shop. This could be my local retail grocery store, my favorite online platform, or even your website. What is going to be the easiest and most comfortable for me? Likely, I shop in multiple places, so ideally it will be available in them all.
I am going to leave it here. I hope this encourages you to think differently about your strategy. Focus less on independent channels and more on the interdependent waypoints along the consumer journey or continuum. If you are committed to being capital-efficient you’ll recognize that specific outlets play certain roles. Some play those roles better or more effectively than others. Your job is to determine what outlets playing which roles provide the best opportunity for you to build your tribe and grow your business.
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Elliot Begoun is the Founder of TIG, a 1:1 customized alternative accelerator focused on helping emerging natural product brands grow. TIG works with its entrepreneurs to build nimble, capital-efficient, resilient brands that become tardigrades, not unicorns. Catch him at FoodBytes, the Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute, the Natural Products Business School, and find his articles in publications such as the Huffington Post, SmartBrief, and New Hope.