What To Do When Everyone is Selling Shovels

Surviving in a Crowded Marketplace:  What to do when everyone is selling shovels.

Gold miners weren’t the only ones who got rich during the gold rush of 1848.  People who realized there was an opportunity in selling shovels and other things the miners needed were able to make a lot of money at first.  It didn’t take long before competitors showed up.  Next thing you know, everyone was selling shovels to the miners.  Heck, even the saloon had specials offering a free shovel with a shot of premium whiskey.

When the market gets crowded with everyone selling shovels to the gold miner it’s a great time to be a gold miner.  You can buy a lot of shovels dirt cheap.  Not that long-ago Internet marketing materials sold for as much as $997.  Don’t misunderstand, you can still buy marketing materials for that kind of money.  However, most of those same material can be had for pennies on the dollar or even free.  Yes, it is truly a shovel buyer’s market.

Sell More Shovels By Diversifying

One thing that some of those old-time shovel sellers did when the market became crowded was to diversify.  One way to diversify is to sell more than just shovels.  But, another way to sell shovels is to find a different market for shovels.  Miners aren’t the only people who use shovels.  Farmers use shovels and so do ditch diggers.   Who else besides Internet marketers could use the product or service you want to provide?  Another name for this is niche marketing.

Gold Nugget:  many internet marketers today strongly suggest that you actively seek out these alternate users of shovels.  They call it niche marketing.   Find a need, fill the need, supply the niche.

Internet Marketing frequently revolves around building a large email list.  By now there are lots of programs being sold to Internet marketers that teach them how to build an email list.  But, who else needs an email list?

Doesn’t a person who teaches people how to create ceramics need a mailing list?   If you market a product that teaches how to build and stay in touch with an email list could that ceramics teacher use that system?  How would you go about reaching the ceramics teachers?  How about joining a ceramics forum on line and participating in the discussions?  When people ask about how to market the ceramics business you could teach about building email lists.  You don’t have to stop with ceramics.  There are forums for just about every hobby or business you can think of.

Gold Nugget:  Don’t join these forums solely with the intent to advertise or plaster your ad’s all over the place.  Become a member of the community and participate.  The idea is to become a net worker and to make a list of friends.  These friends can help you build your list and market your product to their friends.

When Everyone Else Sells Shovels; Sell Something Else

Another approach that was highly successful was to find something that no one else was selling or to bundle tools together in order to create more value.  Miners needed shovels. They also need picks, sluice boxes, wheel barrows, and maps pointing out potential gold mining sites.  Mercantile owners quickly capitalized on these various needs to supply the miners. Miners could shop at their store and buy everything from food to shovels to maps.  And a lot of them became very wealthy by doing so.

One example of supplying something that no one else was selling was pants. Miners discovered that the standard pants sold at that time could not stand up to the rigors of prospecting for gold. An enterprising merchant named Levi Strauss began making a sturdy rugged type of pants that became the well-known brand of Levi “blue jeans”.  While everyone else was selling shovels, Levi Strauss sold pants.

Simplify or Make the Process Easier

If you want to really stand out in a crowded marketplace you have to convince the miners you sell shovels to that your shovels are superior and/or have more value than all your competitors’ shovels.  There are a number of ways to do that.

You can create bundles of products that complement each other.  One example of how this bundling approach helps the consumer is the current way most web sites are built.  When the internet first started you usually had to go to one place to purchase your domain name. Then you had to find someone who provided dedicated hosting for your domain. Then you had to purchase or acquire the software to build your website. You also had to learn how to code or write the instructions for your website. You would have to do business with as many as 4-5 different companies to create your website.  All the steps combined to be very daunting.  It was not easy for the average person to develop and create their own website.

Today, you can purchase a domain name, dedicated hosting, and every tool you need to create a website all in one location.  Website building software and applications have become as easy to use as your word processor.  The software allows you to create websites without knowing any programming or coding languages at all.

One of the most popular applications today being used to create blogs and websites is WordPress.  Virtually every hosting company in the world includes the ability to install WordPress and use it to create your web page, blog, or business website.

Because WordPress makes creating a site online so easy and inexpensive they have done the digital equivalent of giving away free shovels. When everyone else is selling shovels at a premium price you can corner the shovel market by giving away shovels.

Gold Nugget:  Bundling tools together can create real value. Creating tools that simplify the work or that make the work easier is also a way to differentiate yourself from a crowded market.  And when everyone else is selling shovels giving them away is one way to stand out from the crowd.


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