The B&N Lesson

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| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

The B&N Lesson

Reading this blog post this morning from author and former Green Beret, Bob Mayer (who also teaches writers and publishes writers) about the troubles of B&N got me thinking - and writing this post.

It is interesting to me that music learned the lesson of digital disruption first but no one else even considered that it could happen to them. Next came movies, newspapers and the book industry.

The book publishing industry has been in a war with Amazon for the last three years. Amazon is just the poster child for digital disruption.

Newspapers blame Google for their ills. Well, that industry has no one to blame but themselves. Craigslist made classifieds obsolete. And the newspapers did NOTHING.

Actually most industries have not changed - even in the face of UBER!

After Borders/Waldenbooks closed, Barnes & Noble have not exactly tried much. According to analysts, the Nook is sinking B&N. B&N spent $800M on developing the Nook, an Android based e-reader tablet to compete with the Kindle. They could have just gone to Asus or Lenovo to shave about $600M off that spend.

I am an avid reader with piles of hardcover books to read. I like reading actual books. I spend a fair amount of time and money on my kindle too. When ebooks cost almost the same as the hardcover, I buy hardcover -- and build up a disgust for the publishing industry.

We are in the Digital Age. We are in the Disruption Age. We are also in the age of declining disposable income. That will affect every industry.

B&N didn't learn anything from the closing of Borders. And my independent book sellers haven't done anything different either. Same business model as before. I don't see how that can work out in the long run. Even libraries realize that they are a resource factory now, not a book depository. The Hillsborough County library

has a Hackerspace, computers, free wi-fi, work spaces, ebooks and regular books.

How is it the county library figured it out but not a multi-billion dollar business that had 4 CEO's in the last 5 years?

Instead of trying to mimic something you can't duplicate - like say becoming Amazon - remember the basics of the business: books, repeat visitors, loyalty programs, shopping experience.

Seth Godin explains, "Shopping is an entertaining act, distinct from buying. Shopping is looking around, spending time in search of choosing how to spend money. Shopping is buying something you've never purchased before." If that is true, that changes the dynamic of a brick-and-mortar store.

Best Buy was facing becoming the showroom for online stores. They faced that problem without really considering what the customers wanted - or why they visited the store. A little technology coupled with analytics helped. Market research or surveys also probably aided them.

I am teaching a Marketing Workshop. I keep repeating a couple of things: Know Your Value Proposition and Tell a Really Good Story.

What is your business really? Are you a VoIP provider? Or ISP? Or are you really the means to which people can communicate with friend, family and customers?

We get tunnel vision of our company and technology and products. It is good to look at other industries for ideas that will work for us. It is good to examine failures to learn lessons that others paid for.

CB Insights has a database of Startup Failure Post-Mortems. BI looks at 7 startup failures from 2015.

To paraphrase Bob Mayer: "2016 is going to bring some changes, both good and bad. Are you ready?"

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