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Tips for E-Commerce “Small Giants"

How to solve a problem for an important distribution channel.

7 Habits

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Bo Burlingham coined the phrase (and titled his insightful book) ''Small Giants'' to describe maverick companies that choose to be great instead of big, and quietly achieve stellar results. Strong performers, companies like Small Giants, often are unlikely to be able to drive enough traffic to get the attention of major e-tailers; e-tailers have their own problems to solve. But as a smaller business, you may be able to provide a product or service that gives an e-tailer an edge. That is news that will get their attention.

Growing by helping a Giant giant

When Amazon launched Kindle, it wanted to offer a full selection of attractive older titles in e-book format to its customers. This is unlike the film or music industries, which required title-by-title licenses that the major publishers could not provide because they didn’t control the electronic rights.

RosettaBooks provided one way that Kindle could gather previously unreleased e-book titles. Those titles during the early phases of Kindle’s growth had a disproportionate impact and importance, which in turn accelerated the growth of RosettaBooks as a supplier.

Taking it one step further

At the same time, Kindle sought short-term title exclusives in trade for merchandising commitments. Kindle could claim ''only from Kindle,'' which became a driver for its growth and customer loyalty. RosettaBooks quickly built a portfolio of attractive titles and enjoyed marketing commitments that it could never have afforded.

Soon enough, Kindle became a friendly competitor to RosettaBooks, as well as a partner when the content was suitable. But by then, RosettaBooks was sufficiently well-established to fend for itself.

Making it work for your Small Giant

Put yourself in the shoes of the big e-tailers:

  • What might you provide that they can't easily provide for themselves?
  • What price point of merchandising trades can you suggest that serve both their needs and yours?
  • Can you figure out how to get the major e-tailers to work for you because you are delivering something that works for them?
  • And if not, why not?

Pondering this last query might compel you to take one of your services or products in a new direction, broaden an area of expertise, or bring teams within your company together to brainstorm--all positive actions when you are a Small Giant looking to make a bigger impact.

Last updated: Apr 18, 2012

ARTHUR KLEBANOFF | Columnist | CEO of RosettaBooks

Arthur Klebanoff is founder and CEO of RosettaBooks, an e-book publisher and owner of the Scott Meredith Literary Agency which, since it was founded in 1946, has handled 25,000 book deals. Arthur is a member of the Inc. Business Owners Council.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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