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  February 21, 2014
Brewing Up a Storm...


"In China, if you are lucky to be just one-in-a-million...there are only 1300 people just like you"

~Thomas Friedman

About 15 years ago, I had the opportunity to meet a man named Peter Slosberg.  

We were both at an entrepreneur conference at MIT near Boston when we happened to sit next to one another at lunch. 

Pete and I had a chance to talk about the speakers that we had heard that morning and discussed some of the central points our speakers had hoped to leave with us.

One of the speakers we had just heard, talked about why it was good to market to middle-America.  By marketing to middle-America, you simply tap into the largest sectors of the market. 

The speaker referenced the infamous bank robber, Willie Sutton, who was once asked by the press as to why he robbed banks.  Mr. Sutton simply replied, "because that’s where the money is". 

In the eyes of our speaker, catering to the center was indeed the best way to reach the largest group of potential customers.

I asked Pete about his business, and he explained that he was in the hospitality business, specializing in beverage distribution.

I asked him if his company sold their products mainly to middle-America and he replied that his products were sold to customers across the spectrum.  At first our customers were on the fringes... but today what was the fringe is now becoming the center.

After lunch we both went our own ways to return phone calls before the afternoon session began.  

We wished each other well with our future endeavors and went our own ways.

When I returned to the auditorium, the next speaker was just being introduced. 

To my surprise, the next speaker was none other than Pete Slosberg.  As it turns out, my lunch table mate was actually the founder of the second largest microbrewery in America, Pete’s Wicked Ale (the largest being Samuel Adams).

For the next hour or so, Pete entertained the audience with his stories of successfully starting and operating a microbrewery, competing head-to-head with the behemoths beer brands, many of whom might spend more money on one 30-second Super Bowl commercial than his company spent in its entire existence.

Pete’s Wicked Ale didn’t mass market anything.  

They didn’t operate in the middle of the curve... they lived in the fringes producing a quality product that they knew some people would buy if they only were given the opportunity to sell it.

Their strategy was simple, instead of spending valuable company resources in buying expensive advertising, they instead concentrated on having their company sales reps spend time educating food and beverage servers in bars and restaurants about how beer is brewed and what elements can differentiate the different types of brews.

Once educated these servers and bar tenders then became Pete’s de facto sales force interacting with the beer drinking public. 

These servers weren’t paid any commissions for the sales, but rather it allowed them to become experts in their field in the eyes of their customers.

Pete Wicked Ale also built its customer base by educating the general beer-drinking public about the finer points of beer by creating educational place mats that graphically showed where their favorite beers were on two distinct axes...  

Beer Landscape

Click Image to Enlarge

On the horizontal axis was the color and type of beer - color comes from roasting the barley used in brewing and type coming from how it is brewed and carbonation added.

On the vertical axis was the sweetness (or bitterness) - Sweetness comes from the addition of hops.

The most popular beers in America were plotted and labeled on the graph.

In the very center of the graph (the place where beer had no real distinction between beers), we find the mega-brands, Budweiser, Coors, Miller, and Corona.  

As we travel outward from the center, we find beers like Sam Adams Boston Lager, Anchor Steam, Bass Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  In the extremities of the graph, we see beers such as Guinness Stout and Sapporo Black.

Of course, there was plenty of mention of Pete’s various varietals throughout the chart... causing plenty of patrons to specifically request one of their fine beers or ales.

Today, the microbrewery industry is flourishing with literally thousands of different brands providing the market with an almost endless assortment of colors, flavorings, and carbonation.

No longer are we satisfied with bland beers from the center but rather we have the ability to expand our horizons and explore new beer frontiers.

The idea of micro-brewing is a relatively new phenomenon... well in America that is.

The ideas that completely changed the landscape in brewing has also changed other well-heeled industries... such as publishing, music, and broadcasting industries.

No longer is the public forced to subjugate to the ivory towers of decision makers who dictate what songs we hear on the radio, what books will sit out on display at books stores, and what entertainment we will receive during prime time each evening.

The gatekeepers in these industries are history...

Marketers, for years, have lived by the notion that they can simply build a brand with gobs of money buying more and more ad space... their world is now upside down as choices for consumers are now becoming endless.

Consider for a moment that you have devised a new product or service that is a perfect solution to a problem suffered by only one person in a million.  This may seem like a VERY small population.  However, considering that there is now over 7 billion inhabitants on this earth, there are still over 7,000 people who want and need your product..!!

With the enhanced communication and delivery tools that we have available to us today, there is a very good chance many of those 7,000 potential clients will find a way to our door step to purchase the very product or service that they need.

That example above was based on a one-in-a-million need... imagine the possibilities if you can find a product or service that helps one person in 10,000 rather than 1,000,000... now the client pool exceeds 700,000 people worldwide!...

The idea of big companies providing goods and services to the center of the graph is quickly fading as more and more people demand a customized solution to their wants and needs.

The success stories of tomorrow won’t be written about mass-marketed - mediocre and unimaginative products - but rather small companies with big ideas that solve niche problems for a small community of customers.

Our potential customers are already there... willing and waiting... thirsty for something new... now it’s our job to create something special that will offer a select group of people something that they yearn for and are willing to purchase...

There are riches to be found in niches...

Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we will continue to develop new products and services in order to help you solve your unique problems...


Jim Kalb

Email - jimk@optifuse.com
Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com

Twitter - @OptiFuse

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