What local coffee shops can learn from SEC football

Makes no sense, I know. Bear with me, it’ll clear up shortly.

I want you to read this story about ESPN’s new network for Southeast Conference (SEC) football. Don’t wonder why (too much), just trust that there’s an applicable lesson here and go read it.

Wordsmithing

Now it’s time to do a little wordsmithing while re-reading the story.

As you read the Sports Illustrated story, do this for me:

  • when you read “football”, replace it with *whatever you do*
  • when you read “SEC”, replace it with your community’s name
  • when you read “NCAA” or “college football”, replace it with your national market.
  • when you read “Florida”, “LSU” or any other team name, replace it with your business’ name OR if you really want to turn things on their head – with your biggest competitor’s name.

…and continue along those lines so that it becomes a story about your market, your business and your competition.

All done?

Just in case, a sample

Let me give you a sample since I suspect some of you might have thought one read of a seemingly irrelevant story was enough.

To make things a tad more clear, let’s take that coffee shop I occasionally talk about and use it as an example:

“At the core of our agreement is the fact that every SEC-controlled football game mom and pop coffee shop will be have Starbucks coffee available to SEC Starbucks fans throughout the conference territory state, and indeed the country, via an ESPN our distribution platform or through our partners,” said John Wildhack, ESPN’s Some Executive, Starbucks’ executive vice president for programming coffee shop acquisition and strategy.

At a time when most coffee shops and cafes are slashing budgets due to the poor economy, programs Starbucks stores suddenly have more resources at their disposal. Defending national champion Florida Starbucks stores is are adding $5.9 million to its athletic marketing budget next year and still had enough left over to kick in $6 million to cover overhead the university’s general fund.

Scary? Only if you’re the Big 12 or PAC-10 and you’re still reading the original article.

Snatch the pebble

If you truly are in the same business, your competitor’s strength is the target. Take it away and use it against them.

In Starbucks’ case, their strengths are their consistency (coffee is roasted in centralized warehouse roasting centers under highly-mechanized, controlled conditions), their retail/wholesale distribution systems and their buying power (ok, and their people, mostly).

Notice I didn’t say jack about insanely great, freshly-brewed coffee that was roasted by the owner just before the shop opened this morning.

Starbucks can no longer compete with that, or at least, they’re no longer willing to. Putting roasters in 4000 shops costs huge money (sorry, shareholders!) and takes up valuable retail space in those expensive locations they choose, plus they’d have to hire (or train) someone to do the roasting.

Suddenly, their strength is now their weakness, and you wield the Quality Kryptonite.

Update: Odd how these things travel in groups. What Harvard Business has to say about it, sorta.