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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Book Business: Externally Constrained? -- The TOC approach to dealing with an external constraint, that is, one in which the capacity of a business is more than the perceived demand for its product or service, is largely based on the understanding that the offer surrounding the product is as much, if not a more important factor, than the product itself. Breaking through (or just breaking) the mindset that allowed a business - or an industry - to survive and thrive in the past is necessary to overcome shifts in the landscape that threaten that older way of presenting products to the market.

One path to doing this is to segment the market into smaller pieces that have different thresholds of value depending on ancillary aspects of the product - either slight differences in feature sets or in supporting service (What's the real difference between a Toyota Camry and a Lexus ES than accounts for thousands of dollars? Or between an airline seat bought a month ahead of time or the day before the flight that accounts for hundreds of dollars?)

In today's nascent internet age (and we are still in the birthing process), not many industries need a major shift in how their products are offered more than book publishing. Jeff Jarvis, at Buzzmachine, offers up a range of possibilities for the book business, that could help it tap into the long tail of their market. Ranging from simple different pricing for different delivery times, to ways of taking advantage of online technology and to ways of working with the new middle-men that old-line publishers have seen as threats rather than shifting their view to see them as opportunities.
"It doesn't have to be that way anymore. The internet is not the enemy of books, authors, publishers, and ideas. The internet is your friend, damnit. As with other media, these guys think shrinkage when they see these new challenges because it affects their old business. They should be thinking expansion: what opportunities are created for new business...

"...Publishers don't need to decide to be all digital overnight...yet. They can still print books, especially beloved blockbusters. But they do need to realize that they are long-tail companies, that the more content and the more demand they can create and satisfy for it in for more niches with longer life and greater efficiency, the better off they will be. Is the business the same as the one they have now? No, of course not. It's not the same business it was 25 years ago, either. So stop trying to just protect the old and figure out how to invent the new."
An external constraint is often really just a symptom of internally constrained imaginations. Check out the strategies that Jeff suggests to get an idea of how market segmentation might work in this example.

(And speaking of books, one that lays out, in novelized form, a few examples of addressing such external constraints (including one similar to the small batch vs long print run dilemma that publishers might feel they're caught on), is Goldratt's sequel to The Goal, It's Not Luck.)

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