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List of people & resources on the importance of distribution/marketing/sales to make your business successful.
In real estate the wisdom says “location, location, location.” In consumer Internet, think “distribution, distribution, distribution.” Thousands of products launch every month on hundreds of thousands of new Web pages. How does a company rise above the noise to attract massive discovery and adoption? YouTube did it through existing channels like MySpace, which already reached millions. Yelp had strong SEO, which found them a mass audience searching for restaurants and nightlife. Facebook’s University-centric approach landed them 80% adoption across a campus within 60 days of launch. Every Net entrepreneur should answer these questions: How do we get to one million users? Then how do we get to 10 million users? Then how will you get deep engagement by your users.
Distribution is something of a catchall term. It essentially refers to how you get a product out to consumers. More generally, it can refer to how you spread the message about your company. Compared to other components that people generally recognize are important, distribution gets the short shift. People understand that team, structure, and culture are important. Much energy is spent thinking about how to improve these pieces. Even things that are less widely understood—such as the idea that avoiding competition is usually better than competing—are discoverable and are often implemented in practice.
But for whatever reason, people do not get distribution. They tend to overlook it. It is the single topic whose importance people understand least. Even if you have an incredibly fantastic product, you still have to get it out to people. The engineering bias blinds people to this simple fact. The conventional thinking is that great products sell themselves; if you have great product, it will inevitably reach consumers. But nothing is further from the truth.
There are two closely related questions that are worth drilling down on. First is the simple question: how does one actually distribute a product? Second is the meta-level question: why is distribution so poorly understood? When you unpack these, you’ll find that the first question is underestimated or overlooked for the same reason that people fail to understand distribution itself.
The first thing to do is to dispel the belief that the best product always wins. There is a rich history of instances where the best product did not, in fact, win. Nikola Tesla invented the alternating current electrical supply system. It was, for a variety of reasons, technologically better than the direct current system that Thomas Edison developed. Tesla was the better scientist. But Edison was the better businessman, and he went on to start GE. Interestingly, Tesla later developed the idea of radio transmission. But Marconi took it from him and then won the Nobel Prize. Inspiration isn’t all that counts. The best product may not win.
“There’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in the Valley who have arrived since 2000, after the dotcom bust. They’re completely fearless.”… “Founders today are very technical, very product centric, and they are building great technology and they just don’t have a clue about sales and marketing…it’s almost like they have an aversion to learning about it.” “Many entrepreneurs who build great products simply don’t have a good distribution strategy. Even worse is when they insist that they don’t need one, or call no distribution strategy a ‘viral marketing strategy’ … a16z is a sucker for people who have sales and marketing figured out.”