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Perry Marshall on “Arbitrage vs. Alchemy”

Filed Under (PPC Marketing) by PPC Master on

** Just received this from Perry Marshall – interesting read.

Subscriber Nick Neilson defines the two fundamental approaches to business as:

Arbitrage vs. Alchemy

Arbitrage means: Making the transaction happen a little more efficiently, a little more effectively. Shaving a few or a lot of pennies out of the deal. Getting more traffic for less money, sourcing the product at lower cost. Beating the competition in the apples vs. apples comparison.

Alchemy means: Creating value where none existed before.
Converting low-value commodities into high-value assets.
Turning lead into gold. Transforming desert sand into Pentium chips. Winning by creating an apples vs. oranges comparison.

Arbitrage has its place in the world, but victory ultimately belongs to the alchemists. Arbitragers are ALWAYS watching their back. Alchemists are always looking ahead.

The highest aspiration you can have in business is to be an alchemist.

My experience is that alchemy is something you master by being in the company of other alchemists. It’s an apprenticeship, not a college course or textbook.

Forgive me if this sounds mystical, but it’s almost more like a vibe that permeates a room full of alchemists and catches fire deep within, than some procedure that someone sits down and explains to you.

One of the most interesting things I’ve seen in reading history is the impact of personality behind even things as seemingly impersonal as “science.” You can read about the theories and accomplishments of people like Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr and Mr. Schroedinger and his poor indecisive cat. And if you’re a geek like me, their ideas really are interesting.

But if you read the stories what comes through more powerfully than anything is the FORCE of their personalities. I am convinced that the ideas themselves flowed from their personality and their very will to re-shape the world.

Last month I had a four man intensive and one company in attendance was a company who’s decidedly in the arbitrage business. They buy and sell transportation. A tough, hyper-competitive business.

They came because they knew we do some kind of magic over here, and they figured I would sprinkle some fairy dust on their Google campaigns or something like that.

What actually happened was surprising, unexpected.

Before we sat down to re-write the first Google ad I spent
2 1/2 hours grilling him about the inner workings of his business, his margins, the kinds of customers he has, the kinds of transactions he conducts. We tore it apart and put it back together.

In that time I completely re-oriented the way that he sees his business and identified some previously invisible profit pockets.

We re-examined what he delivers to his customers and developed a way that he could truly “sell results, not procedures.”

It was a completely head-twisting experience, and it was a blast. At lunch time he was shaking his head in disbelief, and marveling at how much there was to see that he had never seen before.

I am firmly convinced that this kind of alchemy ability cannot be fully transferred from one person to another without us physically being together in the same room.

Again, call me mystical but some things are more caught than taught. It’s as though there’s a vibration in the air that you begin to resonate with. I think almost everyone has had that experience at one time or another.

It’s one thing to watch the playoffs on TV. It’s another thing entirely to experience the game IN the stadium.

Now of course the first step towards being an alchemist instead of merely an arbitrager is recognizing the difference. And there is much you can learn by reading or listening from wherever you are. But I have always made it a habit to be a member of an alchemist’s club and to be catching that vibe in-person from other people.

I create just such an environment for my Roundtable members.

Next Roundtable meeting is mid-October in Chicago and the on-ramp to Roundtable is the 2-day, 4-man intensive which is held in my home office. The next Intensive is August
26-27 and I have 2 seats left. In a span of 2 days we WILL perform alchemy on your business and it will have improved before you even go home.

Get details and apply here:


Perry Marshall

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