Sunday, August 29, 2010

SNB on MSNBC, Your Business Lesson for Today

Here's a pic of footage not used in the segment (Stuart at his desk at the SNB showroom):

For those of us who watched the MSNBC "Your Business" telecast live (that was 7:30 am east coast, and 4:30 AM Pacific coast)... we got to see a follow-up Q&A feature titled "Open Dialogue" after the clip.

Since I haven't been able to find the Q&A on the "Your Business" website, I will summarize it here..

The Q&A featured show host JJ Ramburg (JJ), with guest panelists Mike Michalowicz (MM), founder of Obsidian Launch and author of "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur", along with Michael Port (MP), creator of Book Yourself Solid and author of "The Think Big Manifesto".

The following is my paraphrased re-construction of the conversation, based on my notes from the telecast...

JJ: The segment brings up a question we deal with a lot on this show... How can a small retail business compete with big chains?

MM: One strategy is the look for the "Not Market". Find the customer base that is not being served by the current market.

JJ: But isn't it risky to be a small company not doing what the big companies are doing? Amazon
is a big fish to be in the same pond with.

MP: Yes, there are risks, but let's look at what "Target Market" and "Niche Market" really mean. These are two distinct terms. Target Market is the demographics of the market. Niche is the area of speciality that you bring to the target market. In this case (Stuart Ng Books), he has identified both really well. He's ID'd his target market of collectors and high end artists. He's bringing them what they can't find at current mainstream sources.

JJ: It seems that in this case, he's "The Guy" in this market. Can there be more than one "guy" even in a small market?

MM: You can sell the same stuff in any market, but you have to set yourself apart as the seller. You can do that with "tonality." How do you present your message and your merchandise in a unique way? He talks about weeding out the "chaff" and offering the good stuff. You need a tone that resonates with your customers.

MP: When it comes to having a successful niche business, you can't have the mentality that you sell to "anyone with a pulse and checkbook." The truth is, there are certain people you are meant to serve if you are going to be successful in a niche. What do you bring to the niche? What do you stand for? How do you develop that personal brand identity? Those are the elements that will give you access to a small area, even if there are other players.


Amy here again... so there you have it folks. Talking heads expert analysis of Stuart Ng Books as an example of a "Super Niche".... when SNB is really just what it's always been.... one guy who for over 30 years has collected, studied, and shared his passion for a certain type of art.

One (of many) questions Stuart was asked during the taping was:

Could someone else do what you're doing?

In my humble assessment, the answer is this: Stuart Ng Books offers value to our patrons because of the unique benefits and services we provide. SNB works because there is only one Stuart Ng. His niche is his abilities and experience. He selects the books and art that inspire other artists. He is able to talk with the artists about the art, and help them find solutions to problems they are working on.

As many of you know, we started out as book collectors who patronized dealers such as Anne Hutchison, Margaret Mannatt, Scott Emerson, Cliff and Barb Erickson, Don Cannon, Bud Plant, Jim Vadeboncoeur and Robin Greer. These were the days before the internet, when we all enjoyed browsing used bookstores and attending large book fairs held several times a year. When Stuart decided to pursue bookselling full time, these were the people who encouraged him. As friends and colleagues we all work together to continue the cherished traditions of hands-on, old school bookseller in the internet age. Maybe its because we're all book lovers and art geeks, but its a pleasure to be part of this business community. We each have our own specialities, so we are each others best resources. Everyone in business should be so lucky. All of our patrons benefit and so do each of us.

Of course, none of us would be here without people like you, dear reader, who value books and booksellers. Thanks for your interest and support.

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