1/3rd way recap

Alrighty, where are we? We’re close to 1 month into this 3-month time together.

We’ve talked about buy-in. I probably haven’t proved it to you yet, but I believe that offering your market something to buy into is central to how indie consultants build a brand.

This suggests, and I will go on to affirm, that the following are not how indies build a brand:

  • Making it directly about us via personal branding.
  • Using the large-scale brand marketing tools that commodity[1] companies use to build mental availability among millions of people.

We’ve talked about efficiency and direct response marketing. Direct response marketing is, at its most fundamental level, an efficiency-seeking way of facilitating sales. It does this by working to eliminate the costly parts of selling while seeking buyers who are very ready to buy.

The more commodity-like something is, the easier it is to sell at scale. This is the idea underlying productized services which is a solid idea but somewhat incompatible with delivering custom services that, when combined with value pricing, can deliver the most attractive profit margins. This suggests that we be very mindful about when, where, and how we make use of tools that are driven by efficiency, and we don’t use those tools universally across our entire business.

All of this is why the metaphor of a colosseum makes sense to me. It unifies the ideas of efficiently sellin’ profitable commodities with the idea of extending an invitation to buy into something that has no price.

I use the word colosseum for aesthetic reasons; I just like how it sounds. You see the same pattern in a stadium or arena: a central area for the event/performance, and an outer ring that contains the commerce — the ticket sales, food and drink, t-shirts, hats, jerseys, and other swag.

The ring of commerce sells commodities, the inner event area hosts something that is not a commodity.

Plenty of indie consultants sell only custom services, and this works great for them. But I see other indie consultants blending the efficiency of direct response marketing, the scalability of commodity products/services, the intangible business value of brand-ey things, and the bonkers profit potential of certain custom services.

I think the metaphor of a colosseum is a useful way to think about those blended business models.

Coming up this week: some examinations (aka teardowns) of businesses that, even if they didn’t intend to, seem to have built themselves into this colosseum model.



1: People often think that fungibility is what makes something a commodity. That’s true, but almost all fungible products or services are sold by companies that can produce highly consistent, quality products, and these companies have significant scaling latitude in their production model. Apple products are highly differentiated from PCs, but (component constraints aside) Apple could scale up production to ship twice the number of iPhones they do now. They’ve already done so several times over. If Apple wants to increase dollars of profit, it might be easier to sell more phones than to sell phones more profitably (though they’ll certainly work to do both, as would many companies). Companies that sell commodities can grow profit by scaling up production. Therefore, Apple sells commodities. Indie consultants have a hard cap on how much we can scale up production, so we can’t grow profit using the tools that commodity companies use to increase sales volume. Therefore the marketing used by commodity companies doesn’t always fit the indie consultant context.

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