Let’s be honest. I learned more from holding a garage sale in one weekend than getting my MBA.

The Chief Marketing Outsider was wondering if it was possible to take MBA institutional marketing speak and strategy and apply it to the simplest business, the Garage Sale

My favorite and simplest note on marketing strategy comes from Professor Robert Dolan’s “Note on Marketing Strategy”. I am going to use the concepts from this note and apply it to the garage sale that took place just a few weeks ago. Can you apply “Marketing Strategy” to a garage sale? You be the judge.

First, let’s set a baseline. Our street just held a garage sale less than 5 weeks ago. The results were terrible. The neighbors advertised a “generic” garage sale in the major city’s newspaper the day before and put up signs around the neighborhood the night before. If we apply our marketing strategy to our garage sale, will the results be any different?

Marketing strategy involves two major activities:

  • Selecting a target market and determining the desired positioning of the product/service in the target customer’s minds and…
  • Specifying the plan for the marketing activities to achieve the desired positioning.

PART I: Okay, do we really need to select a target market and blah blah blah? Well, the answer is well, let’s try it anyway. I think that we assumed that there is a target market and that we positioned our products to sell in that market.

Marketing strategy begins with the customer. The CMO asks himself (in retrospect of course since entrepreneurs usually take the Ready Fire Aim approach and then look behind at the damage later) the following questions:

  • What Customer Needs do we seek to satisfy? (We are offering CHEAP crap that others may find to be worth more than us, which is $0).
  • What Company Skills do we possess to meet those needs? (We have a bunch of crap to offload to someone else, that is our skill. We have goods. We also live in a suburban neighborhood that has built in traffic. One very important point. We had an abundance of children’s clothes. More on this later.)
  • Who Competes with us in meeting those needs? (Well, do we compete against the GAP, yes, more like Old Navy. Better yet,Goodwill. Most specifically, we compete against the other garage sales going on during the same weekend.)
  • What other help, Collaborators, should we enlist to help us and how do we motivate them? (We invited our neighbors and friends who live in the boonies to throw a street wide sale, more stuff, more people, more $$$ for us, at least that is/was the goal. We also invited a children’s clothing business to come and sell their old inventory). Did we invite too many “competitors” to join us? Why do car dealers like to locate in the same area?

“Theologian John Drescher tells the story about a corn farmer who won blue ribbons for his corn year after year. Yet each year, he shared his best seed corn with all of his neighbors. ‘How do you expect to continue to win blue ribbons,’ someone questioned him, ‘if you give your best seed corn to others?’ ‘You don’t understand said the farmer. ‘If the wind carries the pollen from field to field. If I am to have the best corn, I must see to it that all my neighbors also have the best corn. If they produce poor corn, it will pollinate mine and pull my quality down.” – Dan Miller.

  • What Context: cultural, technological and legal factors limit what is possible? (Good news is that we are having a garage sale, not launching the space shuttle.)

Now that we have picked a market to be in, what next?

Check back tomorrow for Part Deux: Determining the Garage Sale’s Target Market

Written by kirkcoburn

Founder & Managing Director @SURGEVentures, Founder @SiriusXMPGATOUR, Founder @ChiefOutsiders, @LTRaceSeries Buckle Holder, Blessed Husband & Father

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