My recent reading/listening list has been almost entirely:
*Biographies of successful businessmen
*Biographies of military leaders and statesmen
*Practical business reading with case studies mixed in
...and that's about it.
Following those three topics exclusively, I've come to a conclusion.
You're almost required to have the distribution and marketing to make money.
Or rather, the distribution/marketing mix will usually capture most of the economic value in the transaction, if there's any substitutes at all for your product.
Distribution+Marketing without the product is okay and you can do well. Product without distribution/marketing is in a really vulnerable position.
The most thriving companies frequently have all three: Coca-Cola, Toyota, Nike, Starbucks... solid marketing base, control their product, and control enough of their distribution to get it their own way.
Take a hypothetical industry with five major product suppliers, and 3 major distribution channels. I'd rather own one of the distribution channels than one of the product suppliers.
But that's not sexy! Nobody lionizes distributors. There's a mythical quality to people who innovate and make great products. Really edgy and interesting marketing gets a nod too. But plain ol' fashioned "get it seen everywhere" marketing plus owning or controlling the distribution channel? No lionizing. No celebration.
It's the same in military campaigns and statesmanship. They don't build statues of consolidators... even though intelligently consolidating is crucial to having a lasting impact on the world.
Anyways. By all means, build great products. Totally unique products with no substitution, if you can. But some industries, that's not quite possible. In those industries, make damn sure you've got a good grasp on marketing and distribution channels. Great product + you don't have the marketing and distribution = vulnerable to getting your clock cleaned at any given time.
Owning the marketing and distribution?
Not sexy. But very profitable. Study, understand, and own or otherwise influence/control the marketing and distribution. That's where the economic value is at.
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