Disruption is everywhere. It’s not confined to Amazon and Netflix. Every industry and every business is experiencing it. If you haven’t felt it yet, you will. Sometimes you don’t recognize the disruption until it’s already happened to you.
This lack of awareness is what I call “Narrow Visioning”.
“Narrow Visioning” takes two forms. The first is more obvious. It happens when new technology and processes fundamentally alter your industry to the point where your business becomes obsolete – when the retail store has to close because Amazon was faster and cheaper or when streaming video puts your local video rental shop out of business.
The other form of “Narrow Visioning” happens when an entrepreneur doesn’t recognize new opportunities that open up. The usual way this happens is when an entrepreneur becomes successful and too comfortable. There are no serious threats. Things are working. So, why make a change?
Why make a change?? The answer is that the world is constantly in a state of change. Don’t abandon what works, but please be alert. Change is happening around you. You should constantly be looking for new opportunities: new markets, new products, new services, new ways of attacking your market, whole new businesses. If you’re successful and only want to keep doing what you’re doing because it’s safe, you have blinders on. You’re not seeing the world as it is. Opportunities are slipping by for someone else to seize. Your vision is narrow and so are your prospects.
The solution to “Narrow Visioning” is simple common sense – take a fresh look. That can be hard to do from the inside, especially if you’ve been doing the same thing over and over for years. It can require a new set of eyes from a new mind taught from different experiences. In the churn of change there is no shortage of ideas out there – some that work and some that don’t. And they can all teach you something. Many ideas that you discover can be applied in a practical common sense way to your circumstance. Don’t overlook them.
Common habit is the enemy of common sense, just as Narrow Visioning is the enemy of success.
The marketing concept I often have the most difficulty communicating to clients is the difference between push marketing and pull marketing.
In the pre-internet and pre-amazon era we were all conditioned to believe that in the marketplace the business with the best argument wins. The business with the lowest price or the loudest message will dominate. To an extent that still works. For example, the nagging repetition of furniture shills on TV drill their brand message into our brains so deeply that when we are actually in the market for furniture we march like zombie robots to their store without thinking. That may work for your local furniture store. People still don’t buy a couch without sitting on it first and you can’t do that online….yet.
For most businesses that doesn’t work anymore. Consumers have too many choices and too much information.
Consumers are more demanding. They have more control than ever before. So what do they want? Price is still important. More than that they also respond to relationships. The business that provides a relationship has an advantage.
Good customer service is a start. That is expected and is usually not a distinguishing advantage. Consumers today are asking “What else can you do for me?”
Give me something of value for free. Show me that you are serious about wanting my business. It doesn’t have to be of monetary value. It can be entertaining or it can be something of educational value that will help me in my work.
Listen to me. Ask me what I want. Engage. Be personal.
Consumers want to know that there are real people behind your business. If you can connect person-to-person with your customers, you are ahead of the game. One maxim that has not changed is that people do business with people they like. So, be likeable. Likeable doesn’t mean accumulating followers on Facebook. It means that customers like you and your business for good reasons. That is what builds loyalty.
The difficulty with understanding pull marketing is that it is hard to escape the power and lure of push marketing. It is the prism through which we instinctively see all marketing. So, when I say pull marketing the initial thought is to somehow grab consumers and pull them into becoming buyers. It sounds like kidnapping. Thinking of it this way is like the push me pull you of Dr. Doolittle fame. (Technically it is called pushmi-pullyu.). Both sides are still part of the same animal. There is no difference. However the true meaning of pull marketing has nothing to do with kidnapping customers. It is all about customers pulling you closer. They do the pulling, not you. In successful pull marketing customers seek you out. They love you on their own because of all the great things you do. For example consumers love LL Bean. Sure the sales help, but you can usually buy elsewhere for less. Consumers pull LL Bean close for many reasons. They love all the free advice they offer. They love LL Bean because the people really really really want you to use their products properly and enjoy them. They love the legendary return policy. LL Bean is a very sincere and honest business. People rave. It is all built into their brand. LL Bean is an old business but it is well suited for the new environment and it knows how pull marketing works.
In the new environment understanding and properly using the techniques of pull marketing is the best way to distinguish your business from the competition.
If you dismiss social media as the pointless nattering of teens and adults with too much time on their hands, maybe you dismissed Google search 8 or 10 years ago, too. “How can a free search engine help my business?” you might have asked. Since that question is settled, we need to consider how social fits into the picture for business.
By now every business should be on Facebook. Your customers expect it regardless of how socially active you are. Facebook is ideal for restaurants and not as helpful for funeral parlors. Nonetheless being there is important, just as having a website is important. Slowly businesses are discovering the power of engagement and how to apply “Pull” marketing in the new environment. (I’ll have more on that in future posts.) But now it is even more important to have a strong social presence for other reasons.
How your business ranks in Google, Bing, and Yahoo is important for obvious reasons. Logically you use keywords and use the traditional techniques to optimize your site. Those techniques will get you only part way to where you need to be. Google now factors in your social credibility. If your business is on Google+ and you have more followers than a competitor, your business will rank higher in keyword search results, all other things being equal. But it doesn’t end there. If you have a YouTube channel, that will boost your ranking, too. Don’t forget that Google owns YouTube. Google will even add a clickable thumbnail to your videos in search results. Studies show that searchers will bypass text results in favor of ones containing videos. The number of views and viewer rankings also factor in to where you show up. Google even gives more weight if viewers watch the video all the way to the end rather than cut out early. Google casts a wide net beyond its own properties to accumulate even more information about your social presence. Google doesn’t have access to everything inside the Facebook empire but it certainly knows if your business has a page there.
If that is not enough of a motivation to pay attention to social, consider what Facebook is doing with its billions of dollars spent on R&D. Currently for most users when you use the Facebook search you will find results within Facebook followed by a generic keyword search in Bing. This year Facebook will be rolling out what it calls Graph Search. With a huge captive audience it is making a move to compete against Google and other conventional search engines. You can try Graph Search here. Essentially they are leveraging that huge database of likes to better help people find precisely what they really want. Let’s say you are searching for a restaurant. You can fine tune the search by cuisine and city, just as you can using Google. But, with Facebook you can also factor in “liked by my friends” and even “visited by my friends” all from a single search screen. There is obviously much more depth available with Facebook’s vast data. If Graph Search catches on, why would anyone use Google?
It’s a new environment and proper online execution requires a willingness to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of social and search.
Keywords are important – no doubt. Bit by bit Google and the other search engines are creating new ways to evaluate your site and direct searcher to quality results. Sites that pack keywords in their titles, headings, and tags are coming under closer scrutiny. If the site is also packed with ads and thin content, Google will penalize the site. Thin content includes things like external links that have no relevancy to the presumed purpose of the page and content copied from other sites. Google gives bonus points to original, helpful, and relevant content. When linking to external sites it should be done in the context of providing more information for users wanting to explore the topic more after consuming your content. A page with a list of plain links probably won’t impress Google much. Google also loves videos and original images. They imply a content rich site. Remember – Google owns YouTube. Stay away from schemes to have your site listed on hundreds directories in order to boost your results on search engines. If Google identifies those directories as link farms, your ranking will crash. Stick to “white hat” techniques. If you have quality and meaningful content for your target audience, Google wants to find you. Follow their guidelines and you will be rewarded.
This is Vilfredo Praeto. In 1906 he observed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. He then looked around at land ownership in Italy and discovered that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people. As he noticed the same pattern in other phenomena, he developed the Praeto Principle – “80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” In business it is often applied to sales and profits – “80% of the sales/profits come from 20% of the customers.” The Praeto Principle is important when developing an online presence. Everything should be focused on attracting more “ideals” like the most profitable 20%. 20% is a rough estimate. In some situations it might be 10% or 5% or 15%. The point is that profiling your “ideals” is something you should consider before starting your next online project.
Online execution encompasses more than throwing up a pretty website.
A well-designed site begins with an understanding of the target audience – specifically your ideal customers. Profile them. Identify what they will be seeking when they visit your site.
Will your ideal customers be using your site from mobile devices? In most cases the answer is yes. Also, in most cases they will sometimes be using desktop computers, too.
Are your ideal customers social? In most cases the answer is yes. What networks are they using?
What are your business objectives in being online?
How will your online presence integrate with your offline marketing?
All these factors and more need to be considered before committing a single line of code.
This blog will provide some guidance to entrepreneurs and business owners developing their online strategies. If you know someone who would benefit from a little help, share this link.