Blockbuster's Failure: 7 Lessons from the End of an Era

7 things you can learn from Blockbuster's #epicfailure

In case you’ve missed the headlines, Blockbuster (which is, to my surprise, still in business) is officially closing down their last 300 stores, and shutting down their rent by mail service. Their stock is worth $0.01 on the NYSE the last time I checked (which is up from $0.00!), and the company itself has little chance of ever recovering.

They are simply a shell of a brand, offering some online streaming services that hardly anyone uses.


In addition to the Twitterverse buzzing with comments such as “They still had 300 stores?” and “I’m kind of sad, I have good memories from when they were… You know, relevant.”, everyone and their dog is currently trying to analyze just what went wrong. How could a company almost 30 years old with billions in revenue just fade into obscurity? How could a company that practically invented its own industry just slowly dissolve?

Being the ever-optimistic strategist I am, I wanted to offer a different perspective: 7 things we can learn from the failure of Blockbuster.

1. Don’t get complacent.

Industries change. Customers change. Economies change. You could be a small player today and a giant tomorrow, or your enormous multi-national corporation could come crashing down in a matter of months. The more complacent you are, the less you’re striving to grow. The less you strive to grow, the slower you adapt to market changes, and the faster you die. 

2. Know what you’re actually selling. Err, renting.

A crucial mistake that Blockbuster made was assuming they were in the video rental business to begin with. They weren’t. They were in the entertainment business. You didn’t go to Blockbuster to rent a DVD (or a VHS tape if we go *way* back…) You went to bring home some entertainment. To bond with your family or friends over a great new flick, or sit alone in a darkened room and lose yourself in a romantic comedy (large vat of ice cream optional.) 

They were the highlight of slumber party planning, the delivery mechanism for something that would make you laugh, cry, smile, or jump in your seat. And, quite simply, they forgot that – if they ever even knew. So when other options existed to get the same kind of entertainment from people who understood what they were selling, consumers jumped ship faster than an Italian cruise ship captain. Remember what you’re actually selling, and always strive to improve the way it is delivered. 

3. Technology is your friend.

The 21st century has been market by amazing technological advances. Things like “personalized recommendations”, live chat helpdesks and related content are commonplace. If you own a bookstore and try to fight Amazon by opening more bookstores and lowering your prices, you’re going to LOSE. Technology allows them to win. Never be afraid to bring new technology into your business if it can help create the experience your customers crave. 

4. Know thy customer.

Did you know that my tiny little podunk town actually still has a couple of video stores? And they’re not going under, either. They’re flourishing because the big-box, corporate giants have moved out and left customers behind. Who are they? True movie buffs! The people who want indie films from Paris, or the latest Bollywood hit. 

They don’t care what Michael Bay just directed, they want to know what the film festival crowd is buzzing about. Bonus points to the video store downtown who, knowing that most of their clients have always been hipster-types, added in a cafe about 10 years ago. Now their bearded iCustomers can park their hybrids out front and sip a latte while deciding whether or not to rent “Dancing in Jaffa”, because you just can’t pirate or stream a movie nobody knows about. 

5. Know when to cut your losses and get *out*.

Blockbuster was not the first company in this space to get out of renting physical DVD’s. In fact, they were close to the last. They were also one of the last to get into online streaming, renting DVD’s by mail, and pretty much every other innovation ever to hit the industry. If they had closed all of their stores when, say, Rogers Video (big Canadian chain) did, and moved exclusively to streaming, they may have had a chance at succeeding.

At the very least, they would be cutting out an entire unprofitable arm of their business. But they stuck with what *had* worked. They didn’t know when to say enough was enough. It resulted in the Chapter 11 and subsequent multiple sales of the company.

6. Look to the past to anticipate the future.

If Blockbuster had taken a look back to record stores when cassettes, then CDs, then MP3s came out, they would have been able to anticipate the next steps for their industry as well. Digital media would reign supreme for the mass market, and physical media like DVD, VHS and Blu-Ray would own market share in a small, obscure corner of the world. 

Purists would claim that DVD is the only true medium, others would miss the warmth in sound of a VHS tape, and their stores would operate like a museum – with the exhibits for sale. The lesson is clear. Nothing is new – not market trends, not industries, not ideas. The past can be used to anticipate the future, so make sure it is always in your view. 

7. You’re never too big to fail.

Billions of dollars. An industry cornered with fast-food-style service. Get a mediocre movie for a mediocre price, and get back to your happy suburban life. It seemed like Blockbuster was so big, so powerful, that no matter what happened they would have to stay on top. Kind of like Enron, Kodak, Polaroid, Pan Am, Blackberry, Washington Mutual… You know where I’m going with this.You are never, ever too big to fail. Even GM, famously bailed out by the government, was one misstep away from complete destruction.

Even if your company is just you today, you’re not too big to fail. If you’re 300,000 employees worldwide and $100 quadrillion dollars in valuation tomorrow, you’re not too big to fail. Always be reaching for bigger, better, higher, and keep an exit strategy in your back pocket. You’ll never know when you need it.

What else have you learned from Blockbuster’s failure? Share in the comments! And if you haven’t grabbed your free copy of Start Something, your guide to starting a successful, scalable business (and avoiding these very pitfalls, I might add), just click here my awesome friend and access will be yours!

What We Can Learn from Boners BBQ…

… aside from not naming your business something to do with the word “Boner”.

Thanks to Twitter, the biggest social media fail of 2012 was brought to my attention today. What happened was this:

  1. A BBQ joint who has barely stayed afloat since opening posts a coupon online to entice people in.
  2. A customer chooses to use that coupon, bringing in their husband for his birthday dinner (who promptly cleaned both his plate and hers!)
  3. Finding the restaurant okay, but not great, the patron leaves a 25% tip for the service she received as the only customer in the restaurant.
  4. She then goes home to write a review on Yelp, detailing what she liked and disliked about the restaurant, the food, and the service.
  5. The owner proceeds to post the customer’s photo on their Facebook page, insulting her, warning other restaurants about her “not tipping” and telling that she “cleaned her plate… every last drop!” Also added in were detailed instructions on a game similar to hide and seek (but with more profanity) and likening the woman to a female dog.

Now, I’m not sure what to say in this situation. I wouldn’t even really call this the worst use of social media in 2012, I would call this “the reason they’re going out of business in the first place.”

Social media did not do this. Boners BBQ did this as a natural act, something they likely would have done through another avenue had social media not been available. This would have caused a problem for them no matter what.

Why? To quote my friends over at Unmarketing…

Social media doesn’t make a business bad or good, it amplifies what they already are.

If you’re great at customer service, social media will amplify this. If you’re innovators, social media will amplify this. And if your business name includes the word “Boner” primarily because that is the owner’s nickname… Well, social media will amplify that too.

The lesson we can all learn from Boners BBQ is this:

Whether you’re a genius or a Boner, social media will show the world.

My advice? As long as you’re not a Boner, just be yourself. Your customers will love you for it.

New Logo!

For the record, the new logo is up – number 2 was the best by an (almost) unanimous vote!

To all who commented, you’re now entered in the giveaway… But be sure to come back soon for more entries!

Here it is, one more time…

new logo helping moms in business

What's coming…

So we’re taking a bit of time today to let you know what is coming down the pipeline from us at BCWebMedia.

First, we’re going to be running a 30 day blogging challenge soon. For FREE, we’ll challenge you to blog every day for 30 days. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, your blog, and your business in the process – and maybe even blog more regularly by the end! We’ll also be offering tips on getting your blog into shape (and services to help you do it) before the challenge starts, so watch out if you’re interested in improving your blogging!

Second, we’ll be launching a free ecourse and several free reports via email in the coming weeks. Make sure you subscribe to our email list for updates if you’d like to receive them!

We’ll also be launching a series of inexpensive (and more detailed) ebooks, as well as setting up the framework for our future teleseminars and web conferences.

As an added bonus, when we launch our 30 day blogging challenge, we’ll also be launching our coaching structure. So make sure you watch this blog if you’d like to see what that is all about!

In short, we have a bunch of resources headed your way – from freebies to paid resources, emails to ebooks, challenges to coaching, we’ve got so much information coming out in the next two months it will make your head spin.

So we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – watch this space for more!

Canadian Leaders in High-Tech #UBB

Back in the day (well, you could pick any day pre-2008ish, really) Canadians were leaders in technology. We developed technology that would change the world, time and time again.

The original telephone? Canadian.

Decades later, the Blackberry – the first *real* smartphone – was developed by a Canadian company called Research In Motion.

On the list of Canadian technological inventions that changed the world are things like Penicillin, Bone Marrow Compatibility Testing, Anti-Gravity suits for pilots at high-altitudes, the electric stove, the REAL first light bulb (with a patent later sold to Thomas Edison. Really – look it up. It was originally patented by Henry Woodward in Canada), the pacemaker, television cameras, walkie talkies, and even the zipper.

For centuries, Canadians have been technological leaders.
Now, thanks to things like usage-based-billing, our country is taking a major step back.

The ridiculous expense of media devices and services in our country compared to that abroad, mixed with the over-regulation of the telecommunications and broadcast industries, will eventually lead to under-utilization (and eventually lack of innvoation) in our technology sector.

Where we once stood, triumphantly sharing our technolgical innovations with the world, we will now stand – data-disabled smartphone in hand – wondering what happened.

We, as Canadian business leaders, need to stand up and speak for what is right for our country.

All industry sectors will be hurt if technology is abandoned, as will international trade.

Everyone from small businesses who send large files via email to major corporations who use 100GB of bandwidth per day in one department will now be forced to pay even thousands of dollars for their internet connection.

The billions of dollars invested in high-tech marketing over the last decades will go to waste as Canadian consumers abandon the internet.

And why?

Because the head of the CRTC is attempting to find an economical way to “discipline use of the internet.”

And no, those quotes weren’t added for emphasis – he really said that.

Why is a man who believes consumers should be disciplined for utilizing technology in charge of our technology regulation? This is likely the same director who lead these landmark decisions, destroying consumer choice and competitive markets:

– Requiring NetFlix to meet Canadian Content regulations (which brick-and-mortar video stores do not have to abide by) thereby killing the service in Canada. No titles worth watching are even available.

– Permitting dozens of VOIP providers to move into Canada, but not Skype – (to this day, Skype In numbers (a service that allows you to receive calls from a landline on Skype) are available in DOZENS of countries – but not ours…)

– Over-regulating services like PayPal, Hulu, Skype, and others, not allowing them to provide services in Canada.

We do not need to find a way to discipline use of the internet. Disciplining Canadians for continuing the Canadian tradition of being at the forefront of technology is not only narrow-minded and unethical, it is downright unpatriotic.

We need to stand up and speak not only for the citizens of this great country, but the businesses as well.

And let’s stay on top of our technology – because at this point, it is a matter of national pride.

Henry Woodward

New FREE Product!

We’ve just put up a brand new FREE video!

To check out “Using Social Media and Cloud Computing
to Create New Lead Generation Streams” on video, click here!

We’ll be creating a free ecourse for our RSS subscribers in the next few days, as well as uploading a new free report “10 Biggest Social Media Mistakes” exclusively for subscribers!

Sign up now to receive them when they are released!

Our store is up and running!

Well, sort of. The infrastructure is there, and we’re ready to upload products any day now.

You’ll soon be able the check out everything we have to offer on our “Tools” page.

Do you have any product ideas? Is there anything you’d like to learn or discover? Let us know in the comments!

A small victory…

… for high tech!

We were just about to recycle the newspaper (who reads those things anymore, anyway?) when we noticed something really cool.

The Real Estate Weekly is now using QR codes.

And not just one linking to their own website, like most magazines do… We’re talking one for almost every realtor in the paper, linking to THEIR website. And I’m willing to bet that having a QR code costs a little bit extra, too.

So not only does REW get to step into high-tech, but they get a revenue boost, too!

And of course, we couldn’t be more proud!

Thanks for your Patience!

We at BCWebMedia are in the middle of revamping our website, our brand, our public image, and yes – our website content. We appreciate your patience while we are in development, and have some amazing things coming your way.

You see, we believe that high-tech and social media marketing should be accessible to all – not just corporations with billion dollar budgets and entire departments dedicated to online branding.

So we’re in the process of revamping our company to focus more on what you have told us you need – more grass-roots, down to earth education on how to use high-tech marketing and social media in real business.

We’re going to be creating things like :

  • Free reports for you to download
  • Courses delivered by email
  • Inexpensive ebooks that you can share with your staff
  • Afternoon, 1 day, and 3 day workshops
  • Ongoing coaching, mentoring, and support.

By the time we’re done revamping, this truly will be a resource for real businesses to be empowered in high-tech marketing in all ways – from smartphones and apps to social media, blogging, and online branding.

You just have to be a little bit patient with us until we get there!

My Top 2 Business Tips…

… are also my top 2 favorite quotes.

They aren’t really “quotes” in the sense that someone famous once wrote them, or said them during an interview. They are simply things that I say, because they make sense both in business and in life.

I was reminded of the first one today while surfing a well-known internet marketing forum, where I have been a member since 2005.

In that forum, particularly in the copywriting section, there is an elitist mentality.

Any potential client who comes in seeking a copywriter but doesn’t offer $1500+ per sales letter is instantly flamed, scoffed at, and asked never to return. And may God have mercy on your soul if you enter the Copywriting forum, and ask for a content writer (this is among the greatest faux pas one can commit, apparently. Despite myself and other high level copywriters also working in content.)

And on this particular day, I noticed a thread started by fellow long-time forum member, Harlan Kilstein.

Like me, he only visits the forum periodically, because we’re both simply too busy running our business to be bothered with posting 15+ times each day on a forum. But he started a thread offering an excellent opportunity for newer copywriters, offering to recommend them to some of his own private internet marketing students.

In exchange for what? Absolutely nothing.

He just wanted some reliable people he could recommend to his students. No commission required, no freebie work had to be given up, nothing. And to have your name recommended by Harlan Kilstein? That’s like a sainthood in some circles.

But then he made “the ultimate mistake” – and said that the work would probably be low pay.

While a couple of individuals saw this for what it was – really, a potentially career making opportunity – others did not. Others followed the herd, did as monkeys do, and publicly scoffed at the idea of low pay.

I’m not sure why copywriters do this.

Sure, I talk about cheap content and cheap copywriters sometimes – but it is usually brought about when I see a client come to me, after having been burnt by a “cheap” writer, and genuinely wanting to help others avoid the same fate.

But these writers almost seem to believe that publicly denouncing low paying projects is a way to *prove* that they command higher fees.

It isn’t.

All it *proves* is that they have far too much time on their hands to surf internet marketing forums looking for copywriting work, and far too little client work to actually keep them busy.

And it reminded me of this saying…

“If you don’t do anything different, you can’t do anything better.”

What would have been wrong with looking down your nose at the project, and simply moving on? Nothing. Why was it necessary to publicly state your displeasure with a project you had absolutely no interest in taking?

Because everyone else does, that’s why. The problem with that, is that if you don’t do anything different, you can’t do anything BETTER.

You don’t want to be the same as everyone else, because then you’ll get the same results as everyone else.

Do you see high end copywriters who command six-figure salaries sitting on internet marketing forums, whining about $100 copywriting projects? No, because they’re too busy MAKING MONEY.

So instead of following the herd, branch out. Do something different. Get attention for being unique for a change, instead of just voicing the same opinion that everyone else has.

Be different. Be better.

My other favorite quote? “Everyone makes a choice between greatness and mediocrity. Greatness is only rare because mediocrity is easier.”

Why do I love that saying?

Because to me, in a nut shell, it says “HEY. YOU. The one on the couch, eating cheetos in your underwear. I know it is easy to be lazy, but you’re never going to achieve anything at that rate. Get up and do something outside of your comfort zone, and amazing things can happen!”

Which is true. It falls along the same lines as the above quote. If you do the same thing as everyone else, and always take the path of least resistance, you’re going to get the same results as everyone else. And everyone else? Well, they’re not seeing massive success. At least not most of them.

There is a reason only a small percentage of the population falls into the category of “super rich” – because creating wealth takes work, dedication, and a willingness to be DIFFERENT.

Nobody ever made a billion dollars by selling the same junk widget as everyone else.

Try it today. Go out, be different. Try something outside of your comfort zone. Put on some pants, put down the cheetos, and get off the couch.

You could be amazed at what happens next…