Talking to your clients is what your website is all about. How you talk to your clients is becoming more and more challenging. Part of the challenge is finding the right level to base the conversation.
Posts Tagged ‘small business’
American’s are patriotic. All things being equal they will ‘Buy American’. One of the challenges to international business selling in the United States is to over come the ‘Buy American’ instinct.
There are three distinct strategies a company can employ. The first is deliver a product that is either a unique, superior or cheaper, second be seen to be American, and third pretend to be American.
Public events can be a great way to bring traffic to your website. News worthy event, such as the Olympic Torch Relay, generate a lot of search engine traffic. To take advantage of these events you need to do two things. First be fast and second have a tie-in to your business.
In the age of digital cameras on cell phones being fast is becoming easier. The problem, of course, is everyone has the same advantage. The good news it – not everyone is taking advantage of it.
While attending a meeting of programmers and other web geeks, I got to talking with a woman who clearly was non-geek. She told me she was there to learn about blogging and her ambition was to be the next “Dooce”. I did a quick double take – having mentally misspelt the word.
Turns our “Dooce” is a leading “Mommy Blogger”.
A few days later I was reading Seth Godin’s blog on The Next Google. Essentially giving the same advice I give to all our clients who want to be the next whatever – don’t waste your time — it has already been done.
Most of my life I have live in small communities. One common business thread that I see over and over again is
- Some one gets an idea for a new product – say a candy store
- They start making money with their business
- Another candy store opens on the next block.
- Both stores compete by lowering prices.
- Eveyone goes broke
We can easily see the cause and effect in a small market. First there is a limited market – an inelastic market. This puts a limit on the demand. As more suppliers enter the market there are more opportunities for customers to substituted services. The price is reduced to either attract or keep clients. At some point price will be reduced to a point where no one can make a profit.
The Internet is different. The demand on the Internet is large – but fixed. The price is zero – not much room for price reduction. And, there is customer inertia.
Lets go back to our small town. If the new candy store had the same prices, they will only attract people who were dissatisfied with the other store. Customer inertia will keep people at the first store if there is no difference in product, price or service. To attract customers, they have to do something different. Being the same is not an option.
Getting back to our potential “Mommy Blogger”. She needs to either find a niche within the genre that is not being served or define her own blog in another manner. Being the next “Dooce” is not an option.
In a resent post, Matt Cutts – the Google WebSpam guru talks about a problem he had over a data storage device from Data Robotics. The problem was NOT with the device, but an ill-concieved plan to increase revenue by charging for firmware updates.
Of course this is only one example of companies alienating their customers. It has only been a few weeks since Facebook was force to retract their changes to their ‘Terms of Service’ by complaints from their customers.
Historically, things weren’t any better. Coke lost millions with the introduction of ‘New Coke’. Back in late 1950′s sales at Ford tumbled when the Edsel was introduced.
Making chances that benefit you or your business instead of those that benefit your clients is the easiest way to drive away customers. Making changes becuse you ‘think’ you know what the customer wants, as was the case with ‘new Coke’ and ‘Edsel’ is another great way to dirve customers to your competition.
Keep your focus on what your customers really want. (Ask them if you are not sure.) And, make changes that truely benefit your clients – not just to serve the interests of your business.
In his poem "The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill", Robert Service lists "sudden wealth" as one of the many ways a man can die. For businesses as well, suddenly having your business "take off", can cause many problems. In some cases, it has cause businesses to fail.
As your business struggles to stay alive, it is a good time to consider the future.
By now you should have a good idea if you are going to weather this economic storm. If you are – consider the business landscape once the crisis has passed. Some of your competitors will have disappeared – will you be able to handle the increase in orders?. Some of your supplier to may have also scummed – do you have alternate sources? Will you need more space? More staff? How will you finance your growth?
These are only a few of the questions that will need to be addressed. Each business is unique. Only you know what problems are likely to face your business and your area. By all accounts – you have a lot of time to get ready. But, the sooner you start thinking about these problems, the less likely you are to die by "sudden wealth"
At a presentation I did recently, I was asked how you track how much your website is contributing to in store sales. This is a very important point – so instead of a quick post I wrote an article Tracking Website Generated Sales. The article contains ideas for making the connection between visits to the website and in store sales.
The squeeze is on small business.
Customers have stopped spending and many businesses are starting to panic. All too often this results in poor decisions. And, while only you can decide what is right for your business you MUST take the time to evaluate the effect your actions will have on both the short and long term.
The ‘knee jerk’ reaction to falling sales is falling prices. As businesses struggle to reduce inventory, margins are cut and prices are slashed. And, while this may increase cash flow in the short term it may be devastating in the long term.
As with most crisis, there are those that are ready, and those that aren’t. While no one could have predicted the speed and depth of the current crisis – the fact that there would be a crisis was obvious. As far as we know, only the universe expands forever. Everyone knew, or should have known, the economy would, if not collapse, at least slow down. Those businesses that prepared are going to be fine.
What about the 99.9999% who didn’t prepare?
You need to look at your whole marketing strategy. The strategy you adopt now will set the tone of your business for years into the future. What is your marketing advantage now? How can you change it to bring in customers now? How will that change effect sales in the future?
Just as nothing expands forever, nothing contracts forever with out becoming a Black Hole. The economy will come back. When it does, the decisions you made now will effect whether your business will also come back.
While you want your business to survive – not all businesses will. Made that decision early and review it often. It is better to close while you can retain some of you capital than watch it all disappear in a lost cause.
Don’t race to the bottom. There are those that will under cut you. Unless you are a WalMart – selling on price alone is a poor strategy.
Take the time to consider all your options.
Top Rank had an article on the Marketing blog A Strategic Approach to Internet Marketing with Content & SEO where they interviewed a number of marketing professionals on the importance of content in marketing online. While the comments were insightful, they seemed to me to lack one basic premise, knowledge of you audience. (I left a comment to that effect.)
Too many small businesses treat their website like a shotgun. If you have a wide enough pattern you are going to hit something. Put enough information on your site and someone will buy.
This is the wrong approach.
Think of your website as a laser pointer. Narrow your focus and put targeted information on the website. If you have more than one target audience – segment your website. Keep each area focused. Give your prospective customer the information they want. Don’t make them hunt through a lot of information they don’t want to find the relevant information.
Websites can be segmented in a wide variety of ways. Product segmentation is the most common. But, if you have a product that appeals to a wide variety of people you may want to segment by age, singles and married, families with kids, families without kids. The possiblities are endless. But you have to know your customers.