An option or a choice?

Just getting a presence in most markets can be hard work. One of my friends is finding that in the beverages game – a longer runway than he and his partners expected, and a lot more patience required as well. Long days, he says, having to justify every metre of shelf space you’re allocated.

Same with being a speaker or a consultant. But doing all the work to get on the map just elevates you to the status of another option.

That’s not the same as being a choice.

Options form part of the line-up for how customers decide. Choices are a conscious decision in themselves. Option means you’re available, you’re on the list, in the books. You’re a speculation. Choice makes you an active decision, one part of yes/no, either/or. You’re known, you’re quantified, you’re considered.

Now if you’re in the business of selling variety – like supermarkets, book stores, speakers’ bureaux, search engines – options fill out the stock book. They reflect well on you because they prove that you can tap the market. They give you a long tail. And they give your clients the sense that they have the full pick of what’s available. Chances are, for that reason, if you’re in the business of selling variety, you welcome options (or at least the best options) with open arms.

Being the option isn’t quite so glamorous. It may have boosted your ego to have made it past reception, but if you just stay an option, frankly, you’re making up the numbers. And it’s easy to forget that, in order for the market to continue to work efficiently, for every brand that becomes a choice, so many more must either become or stay options.

Today’s marketing environment has tricked many brands into believing they are contenders. They post a website, they get traffic, they’re making their metrics. To them, they’re a choice.

But until that traffic monetises or that shelf placement improves, or the call volumes really lift, they’re more likely to be an option.

The thing is, most times you don’t get to decide your status. Customers decide – based to some degree on what distributors decide, agents decide, the media believe you will be worth to them. Fundamentally, the shift from option to choice isn’t based on attention, luck or talent alone. It’s based on consciously shifting influencers’ perceptions – of your value and your potential value.


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  1. Love this post Mark – so insightful.

    Interesting to cross check it with this guest post from @Kathy-Sierra (sigh… only a guest post, when will she back illuminating our thinking full-time) following her ongoing theme of its all about the user – and making them kickass:

    I think her post added to yours, gives some idea on how to become a choice not just an option.

    Thanks for the thinking.


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