I believe the opportunity to learn is everywhere, especially in unexpected places.
Reserve your judgment as you read this, whatever your political bent or feeling about illicit substances and those who purvey them. Sit down, shut up and listen. After all, it’s just supply and demand.
So, what can you learn from a drug dealer about marketing, branding and customer service?
10) Know Your Product
Whether you hock black tar heroin or shiny black Benz’s, you have no business selling a product or service you’re not an expert on. It’s important to know why your product or service is superior and be able to prove it. In the business, we call this your market differentiators. Are you selling on quality? On value? Or maybe just on price? Do you know your product as well as Walter White knows his?
9) Be Bold
Dealers of illicit substances innately possess some combination of fearlessness, irreverence and craziness. The price of getting caught is extremely high. The price of crossing their competitors or suppliers is even higher. They are bold. They are fully dedicated. There is no room for doubt, indecision, or squeamishness. Just like the business world. Are you as fearless and decisive as you should be?
8) Create a Need
See a need, fill a need. That’s how many business concepts begin. Drug dealers follow the same route as Steve Jobs and create a need consumers don’t even know they have. Did you need that iPhone in 1995? Nope. Drug dealers offer products their clients don’t want to live without. Do you keep your clients coming back by innovating? How addictive is your product, service or brand?
7) Be Accessible
A cardinal rule of business: be there when the customer needs you. If a drug dealer can be available, so can you. You don’t even need a burner phone. Sure, it’s unlikely that your customers will suffer a painful withdrawal. If you’re not around when they go looking, they’ll just go elsewhere to get their fix. Are you accessible when and where your clients need you most?
6) Perfect Your Process
One careless move, and Pablo Escobar’s empire was gone. You, the legitimate business person, have much more grace but there’s a lesson here nonetheless. If you are not constantly improving, you are creating cracks that can be exploited. What have you done lately to improve your processes and increase efficiencies?
5) Eliminate The Competition
I’m not condoning rubbing out your competitors in the mortal sense. I am suggesting you own your territory, whether it’s the block, the city or the entire country. Own your search engine results, own your vertical and own your industry. Are you the only provider people think of when they need your offerings?
4) Choose Your Employees Wisely
Your employees are the face of your business, especially those with direct client interaction. You must surround yourself with people you trust. You may not have the charisma of El Chapo, but you can develop his leadership skills. Would your employees take a proverbial bullet for you?
3) Choose Your Customers Wisely
It’s generally true that 10% of your clients cause 90% of your problems. You need to know who to do business with and who to avoid. It is possible to provide excellent customer service to your good clients while simultaneously telling the bad ones “no.” Do you have the moxy to tell a customer to hit the road?
2) Form a Cartel
All businesses need a support network. Strategic alliances with other businesses and partners are crucial to building a proper referral base. You’ll need mentors, ambassadors and industry influencers to create symbiotic, win-win relationships that lead to success. Who’s in your network and why are they not referring you?
1) “First Hit Is Always Free”
This one is not for everyone, as it requires a damn good product or service. If it’s that good, it sells itself. You just gotta let them sample your wares and convert them to raging fans. Then they’ll tell their friends and you’ll get the chance to turn them into raging fans. And so on. How are you letting people sample your wares? How are you giving them a taste of what it’s like to do business with you?
Bonus: Don’t Take a Knife to a Gunfight
You should have a full arsenal of marketing weapons and they should all be the highest caliber you can afford. If you want to outgun your competitors online and in the real world, you’d better be packing the right tools, and have the right team of mercenaries backing you up.
You have at your disposal something that drug dealers don’t: The ability to openly and aggressively market your product or service in the light of day. You can proudly display your sign on your store, put your real name on your business card, publish your own content online and openly tell the world how great you and your gang are. So, are you taking advantage of that or are you operating in the shadows?
Hit me up if you need a dose of reality. And of course, the first hit is free.