Searching vs. Distribution

Philip Morgan

This is the Whole Foods checkout line sometime last year in Santa Fe, NM.

Some things are discovered when people search for them, and some are encountered because of how they're distributed. Some observations on distribution.

Almost nobody -- and not Seth Godin's "almost nobody cares about your thing; and that's plenty" but really almost nobody -- would search for that "The Power of Learning" magazine. I'd bet they sell 10x to 100x more because of the distribution leverage that Whole Foods offers them.

The distributor "owns" the reason people are there. In this way, Whole Foods and social media have a fair bit in common.

Some distribution accommodates a range of "reasons for being there". No one goes to the DMV to become an organ donor, but some people become organ donors when they happen to be at the DMV. When someone goes to see a movie they know won't be that great, are they there for the movie, are they there to overeat overpriced junk food without judgment, or both?

This is not a "distribution better than search" thing, BTW, it's a "horses for courses" thing.

Not many insights into the world of commodities are portable to the world of non-commodities. (More on this:

It is worth thinking, though, about how tapping into existing distribution might be a useful way to earn more visibility and/or trust for your services. If you take this idea literally, you will think "WTF Philip, I'm not calling a Whole Foods buyer to talk about distributing my consulting services." But if you take it metaphorically….

  • You might start thinking of speaking opportunities as "distribution".
  • You might look into making your self-published book available in multiple storefronts beyond Amazon.
  • You might get curious about who is already connected to the vertical you're focused on and whether they might have opportunities to refer you.

Food for thought!