Posted February 25, 2012 12:20 am by with 5 comments

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Here’s an amazing story of a guy that discovered how to basically make money out of thin air, or fresh soil that is. You see I used to know this guy. Lets call him Tom. Tom sold dirt. That’s right, he sold dirt fresh out of the ground. It all started when he began leasing a vacant lot not far from my house. While passing by I saw his beat up truck sitting there with Tom beside it, drawing lines in the ground. I couldn’t figure out what he was up to but he certainly had a plan. A few days later I couldn’t believe it when I saw a huge pile of dirt now sitting in the middle of the lot. Now, when I say huge, I am not talking about a few feet tall. No, this heap was at least the size of a small house, just sitting there.

Then the next day Tom put up his sign. “Top Soil For Sale”. For all the dirt laymen reading this, top soil is the outer most layer of soil. The vast majority of top soil is concentrated at the top 2 inches of the Earth’s crust. Top soil is extremely important, with out it, most plants will not grow, and pretty much all trees won’t sprout new saplings. Top soil sounds pretty valuable right? I mean if it truly is the birthplace of most of the world’s vegetation it must be a pretty hot commodity right? Well yes, except for the fact that:


Seriously people, this guy was selling something that any sap can walk out of their house and collect in a matter of minutes for free! I couldn’t believe it! And, you know I honestly started to feel bad for the guy, thinking that his new venture was going to be a certain flop. Boy was I wrong.

First pickup trucks started pulling up to Tom’s dirt mound and buying a few wheelbarrows full. Then larger trucks then dump trucks and soon huge tractor trailers were lining up! Construction companies, landscapers, golf courses, home owners, and more were all buying their dirt from Tom. Soon Tom started diversifying with sand and gravel as well. Now he not only sells the dirt, he also has a fleet of trucks that will deliver the dirt as well.

For a long time I couldn’t figure out why the “dirt industry” even existed. But today it dawned on me. You see last week I thought of a product that I want to develop. I told a few folks about it this morning and they all said, “there’s already tons of free ones online”. I looked and sure enough the web is swimming with free versions of a product that I want to develop and sell. But then I noticed something interesting. There might be a lot of free options available, but no one is selling it! BAM! It hit me like a ton of bricks.

If you need really good dirt you don’t go out and dig it up, you buy it from Tom. Because Tom is the only one in this town that sells dirt. His dirt has value because he says it does.

As a business owner or marketer you have the power to set your own value. No one can argue with you because no one can do what you do, you and your company are unique and can sell anything if you put a sign up and believe in yourself.

[photo credit]

  • We have a client who also sells dirt! He buys land, amends the soil into this beautiful black dirt that clients just love to pay for, then sells the land – makes out like a bandit. He owns a landscaping company & has an “I Love Dirt!” sticker on his pickup. I remind clients that pretty much everything in the world is being paid for somewhere by somebody & it’s up to them to figure out their niche. My dirt-selling friend has it down pat.

  • Joe,

    Great post – very thought-provoking – thanks.

    The reason that “Tom” is making money isn’t just because he’s selling dirt. The real reason he’s making money is that he’s collecting and hauling dirt so that contractors and landscapers don’t have to. For example, he might be hauling dirt from a place that has a lot of rich topsoil such as the bottom of a valley at the other end of the state. Or he might be bringing it in from his farm. He might also be remove rocks and other debris from the dirt. Whether hauling or combing the dirt, he’s providing a valuable service. If not for Tom, contractors and landscapers would have to do it themselves.

    So regardless of where the dirt comes from, he’s wrapping a value-added service around this commodity to make a complete solution. And people are willing to pay for it because they see value (the difference between the benefit they derive and their total cost to acquire the solution).

    Thanks again!

  • I used to sell dirt . . . in bags . . . 50 pounds at a time. Your post is spot on. I’ll just add a different take on your point. You don’t need an innovative product or a lack of competition to be successful, you just need to be incrementally better at what you do than the next guy. For a business, that’s not just sales, or just marketing, or just having the best dirt around . . . it’s having the best average score for all the different aspects combined. Tom likely did well because of a combination of factors, and that’s what having a successful business is all about.

  • Nice

  • I would rather pay for a product and buy rather than getting it free. Its worth that much more…..most of the times at least !!