Could You Compete In the Straw Market

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I had an interesting experience at an island straw market recently. The market was set-up with rows and rows of stalls of vendors under an outdoor tent. Each vendor was selling their wares inside of a 10 x 10 booth space.

The remarkable thing was that most all of the several hundred vendors were selling the same things. I don’t mean kind of the same things. I mean the exact same merchandise, from the same manufacturers, likely off the same boat. And you think you’ve got competition. In this market, shoppers went from stall to stall, found something they were interested in, and started talking price. If they didn’t get the price they liked, they simply moved on to the next stall and asked for a better price. A t-shirt one of my daughters bought was priced firmly at $18 from several stalls, but was acquired moments later for $8. I remind you same Hanes t-shirt, same imprint. (As far as we know.)

Now, you don’t compete in the straw market environment, at least I hope you don’t, but in some ways you probably put yourself there unintentionally. Do you have competitors willing to make the 2 for $10 deal just to get the order? Do you find yourself constantly competing on price?

On this same trip there were two vendors who had lines at their stalls. One was a wood carver displaying hand crafted original works. In addition, he sat in front of his stall carving away on a block of wood. The other was a women knitting brightly colored hats. Again, unique offerings and the added bonus of the entertainment of experiencing the product as it was being made.

Get out of the price game by coming up with a unique way to package, promote, offer, partner your business. Find a way to add value to your offerings, communicate that value and raise your prices. Owning your own business is the greatest thing on the planet, but only if you earn what you deserve.

I gave a marketing tip for an article in the January issue of Entrepreneur magazine titled Better Than Ever – Resolve to take these experts tips to heart in the new year. My tip, and in my opinion, the most important marketing strategy for the small business goes like this – “Find a way you can stick a flag in the sand and say ‘This is how we’re different,’” says John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing.

That whole island and flag in the sand thing was just a coincidence, but take it to heart for 2007.


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