Business as a platform: When your sales funnel is part of another business’ sales funnel

My wife and I are avid NASCAR fans. Not to the point of tattoos and flags on our car but we make time to watch each race on TV.

While most sports find a way to incorporate advertising into the game, no one does it quite like NASCAR. Viewers are bombarded by marketing throughout the game — both on the track and during the broadcast.

Watching what is basically a 4 hour multibrand commercial got me thinking about the idea of businesses as platforms. The teams and the racetrack and the NASCAR organization itself makes money by displaying advertisements and working phrases like “he’s topping up with Sunoco fuel” into their conversations.

There’s an intersect between two sales funnels: The teams/track/NASCAR are delivering a service (a televised NASCAR race to viewer-customers) while the advertisers themselves are using ads to capture build awareness and capture those viewers into their sales funnel.

This connected with a conversation I had with a friend about Robert Kiyosaki — the much-beloved “Rich Dad Poor Dad” guy (who used to annoy me but now I’ve come to appreciate). In my conversation, we talked about how Kiyosaki was brilliant, not only because of his concepts, but also because he makes it possible for other people (through licensing and co-branding) to become very successful. His business is a platform, too; his sales funnel intersects with other businesses’ sales funnels.

And McDonald’s is a good example as well. The owners of individual franchises are companies that own the building and staff the restaurant and deliver the hamburgers, and those franchisees pay the McDonald’s corporation to use the logo and their systems.

What’s interesting about these three examples is the way the money flows. It flows in the direction of the platform. Advertisers pay the teams to display their logos; licensees pay Kiyosaki to be affiliated with him; franchisees pay McDonald’s to use their logo. (For that reason, we shouldn’t confuse this type of business with other scenarios like when a vendor sells something to a business that then goes on to sell it to a customer… the money flows TO the initiating company not away from it).

The biggest lesson is that it pays to be a platform. When you have a strong, recognizable brand, as well as a large and loyal audience, as well as a proven system (which NASCAR and Kiysaki and McDonald’s do), you have a platform. From there, you can make your sales funnel an integral part of another business’ sales funnel and go from serving customers to serving businesses that serve customers.

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