by Sam Walton
What if I told you the greatest businessperson that ever lived wrote a book on their deathbed that contained all of their marketing secrets? Would you read it? I thought so.
This month I'm reviewing Sam Walton's Made in America which Mr. Walton wrote late in his life, and only for his grandchildren.
You see, the thick barrier of Sam's humility revealing itself is the only thing faster than Walmart's expansion.
Sam learned early in the game of retail that price and selection were the most critical factors in any retail store's success.
As a result, he built his stores as lean as possible, using all sorts of innovations to cut costs, such as:
- When Sam got his start in retail, customers were dependent on clerks for finding items. So, Sam greatly scaled down the customer-to-clerk ratio by allowing customers to browse through his stores and select whatever they wanted.
- Sam has claimed numerous times that he stole his best ideas from the competition. He freely admits to diving into dumpsters to learn more about what his competition was doing, as well as spending his days off grilling Kmart employees about their operational mechanisms.
- He began calling all employees "Associates" so they would feel like a more valued part of the organization. He also offered them stock, although, his paying them as little as possible has made him a little unpopular at the start of Walmart, and even today.
But when it came to moving merchandise, nobody did it better.
- Sam would take the most ordinary products, and dramatically promote them as if they were extraordinary. He would display them on the ends of aisles, and make the display look like he was selling a luxury car. This was apparently very effective, and he, and his early store managers, were amazed how effective this was.
- Sam would only markup products by 30%, and no more. These low prices quickly went viral in local areas, and sometimes the cash registers at Walmart would get so busy, that managers would have to use tackle boxes as additional registers.
- Sam would always win pricing wars by NEVER conceding at increasing the price, even to a company like Kmart that had much more money than Walmart at the time. This dedication to always having the lowest priced goods echoed throughout the culture of Walmart. For example, to keep the cost of travel down, traveling executives would often have to sleep on the floors of the home of another local executive whose store they were visiting.
- Sam would surround big cities with Walmarts like an Army surrounding a city for a siege. As a result, people in big cities and outlying boroughs could always easily access a Walmart.
The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has been studying this book for decades, and I'm told he often carried it around with him. As a result, Amazon is probably the only formidable opponent Walmart has.
I highly recommend this book as an integral part of your marketing library.
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