A big picture view of how to succeed with an online business for the long haul.
You need four legs on a chair for stability.
Two-and-three legged chairs topple over with little outside force. A one legged chair is like a pogo stick – worthless for stability. But a 4-legged chair…that’s stable.
The same is true of your business. Once you get the 4 legs of your chair established, it’s hard for things to go wrong. These are the four legs of your digital marketing success.
Leg 1: Match to Market
Forget content, the market is king.
And your business is a servant to the king.
If you don’t serve well – i.e. match your offering to the hungry market, then your business will totter. You need a well matched offer to the needs of our market.
Legendary direct mail copywriter Gary Halbert once wrote:
I like to ask my students…”If you and I both owned a hamburger stand and we were in a contest to see who could sell the most hamburgers, what advantages would you most like to have on your side to help you win?”
The answers vary. Some of the students say they would like to have the advantage of having superior meat from which to make their burgers. Others say they want sesame seed buns. Others mention location. Someone usually wants to be able to offer the lowest prices.
And so on.
Whatever. In any case, after my students are finished telling me what advantages they would most like to have, I usually say to them something like this: “O.K., I’ll give you every single advantage you have asked for. I, myself, only want one advantage and, if you will give it to me, I will (when it comes to selling burgers) whip the pants off all of you!”
“What advantage do you want?” they ask.
“The only advantage I want,” I reply…
“Is… A Starving Crowd!”
So once you have your market, i.e. your starving crowd, you need to bring an offer. To take Halbert’s example, you could have a literal starving crowd hungry for hamburgers and try to hock life insurance policies, people will laugh at you…or worse –
They don’t want life insurance, they want hamburgers. So change your offer. Match your offering to what people want. Do the keyword research, talk to your target demographic, and discover your market’s hidden pains. Then match your offering to fix that problem.
One other key point in the ‘match to market’ leg of the chair – it must match the right segment of the market – which is a market, but the distinction should be made.
Imagine you’re a desk manufacturer.
You sell motorized raised desks. You notice that this market is newer, but there’s an opportunity to stake your claim. You also notice a couple of well-placed competitors who are already building good motorized desks at a lower price point – but they don’t seem to be going after the affluent market.
There’s the opportunity.
So you match your offering to the affluent segment of the market: a website with awesome photography of high-end motorized desks and a quality product to match. The website is geared for a business person who expects to be pampered or a designer who wants the best desk for her studio. And you launch in the context of no competition.
That is a solid match-to-market.
Leg 2: Quality Product/Service
Leg 1 is about the promise. Leg 2 is giving a quality product or service to fulfill that promise.
It does no good to offer the moon when all you have is a rock in your pocket. That strikes against your credibility and doesn’t help win any friends in the industry. Worse, it ruins your brand’s reputation in our review-driven economy.
So as important as leg 1 is, leg 2 is equally important.
For example, I run a small digital marketing agency. It’s a service business. The moment I stop offering a quality service, stop returning emails, stop sending out clear reports that show where results are heading, my company is sunk.
Clients will cancel the next month and find someone else.
I need to deliver on those promises of unlimited email support, clear reporting, and good results in advertising, content marketing, social media and whatever else we’re working on.
To take it a step further, give your customers more than they’re expecting. Demonstrating value above expectations is the best way to generate good will. Those are the moments when clients and customers jump online and leave a positive review (without you hounding them). And those are the moments that create loyalty.
That’s critical to your company’s long-term success.
Leg 3: Effective Funnel & Distribution
Now that you have a great match-to-market and a high-quality product or service, you need to tell people about it. This is a two-step process.
The first step is to establish a good sales funnel.
A sales funnel is the way in which prospects interact with your brand before becoming engaging. The key to this piece is getting enough impressions that meet the need of the prospect to break through the noise and get a response. Sometimes that’s fast, sometimes not.
Integrate pieces of the sales funnel into your website and social media profiles. Capture emails so you can put even more messaging in front of them long after they leave your website. The more times they see your messaging, the more likely they will respond to your offer.
The second step is content distribution.
Content distribution takes on many forms. For example, content marketing is an effective way to SEO your website (search engine optimization). Create compelling content for your target market and publish it on various platforms (blog/website, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). The result will be your prospects will trust your voice and enter your sales funnel.
Other forms of content distribution include paid search marketing (PPC/SEM), social media marketing, and more. Oftentimes content distribution is paid, sometimes it’s not.
One caveat to content distribution: it’s hard to do too many things at one time. Analyze the best ways for you to break through the online noise – whether it’s through Google AdWords or Twitter, however you or your consultant decides is best. Then do it. Once you gain traction in one channel and you’re getting consistent leads/sales, expand to another channel.
Leg 4: Continuous Improvement
When you understand your market, offer something valuable to them, distribute content so prospects interact and buy, then it’s time for leg 4: continuous improvement.
No matter how much you plan, your offer will not be perfect.
Going back to the motorized desk example, you can create what you think is the coolest desk to perfectly fit the market, but if people start returning them, something’s wrong. There could be 5 things for 50 things. Whatever the problems, they must be fixed.
Isolate those issues and fix them. One at a time.
My friend Chris Burnham at the Lean Leadership Podcast focuses his content on improving business processes. He lives and breathes kaizen, Japanese for “continuous improvement”. Chris would argue the secret sauce for Toyota’s, Walmart’s, and Apple’s success would be continuous improvement. I agree.
Get feedback from your customers on what should be addressed. What are the problems of your product or service? How can those issues be fixed? You don’t’ want to have just satisfied customers, but raving fans. These days, if you don’t aim for best, then you may not make it. So fix every major issue and ship the new and improved version to your next customer.
Then do it again.
The more you improve the quality of your offering and the more responsive you are to your customers, the better off your business will be. You won’t be sitting on an unstable 2-3-legged chair ready to topple over with a slight push. You will have a stable digital marketing foundation in place. And you can expect to grow beyond your current office space.