Don't Duplicate ... Differentiate!
In today's increasingly competitive marketplace, the demand
for specialized products or services will also increase. If
your business sells everything or to everyone, chances are
that your audience will not perceive any greater value in
buying from you than from anyone else. If so, price becomes
the only metric by which visitors will compare you to others.
Keep in mind that price is not important. It is an arbitrary
figure that merely represents the value of an offering. When
you compare apples to apples, the only point of comparison is
price since it is the only real, visible distinction between
the two. Thus, if *your* value is perceived as equal to that
of others, naturally the cheapest alternative will win.
Price is only a metric -- a currency to which most people can
relate. Take the weather, for example. When you meet someone
on the street, it will likely be a topic of discussion because
the weather is a common denominator. Temperature is the same
for everyone. "Hot" and "cold," however, are different.
Similarly, price is only used when there's nothing to which
one can compare your value. (Of course, price is not the only
metric. But most people understand units of dollars more than
they do value, which is more subjective.) Therefore, if you're
too similar to competitors, price will always be an issue.
The more unique you are, the less competition you will have.
And the less competition you will have, the less substitutable
you are (or your product is). And the less substitutable you
are, the less elastic the demand for your product will be (in
other words, the less important price becomes, in this case).
So, if you are copying your competition, or trying to promote
your offering as one that's better than your competition, like
it or not you're only reminding people of that which you are
better: your competition. So, don't duplicate, differentiate!
Or as Earl Nightingale once said, "Don't copy, create!"
Being all things to all people will likely help you to stumble
onto some people who will visit your site and respond to your
offer. It's the law of averages. But the underlying problem is
that, with such an approach, you must generate a substantial
quantity of hits in order to produce an acceptable result.
Also, the more general or broad you are, the greater the need
will be to paint your website, content and marketing messages
with broad brushstrokes in order to appeal to everyone. In the
end, the traffic generated will be just as general or broad.
Even if your product is a perfect fit for some, it will only
be a fit for a small percentage. Also, the "generalness" you
project will likely convey that your value is equal to that of
others and that there's no added value in buying from you. If
so, price is the metric others will use to measure your value.
Additionally, out of the small handful of qualified prospects
that hopefully hit your site, a large number of them -- if not
all of them -- will likely leave due to your apparent lack of
understanding of their specific needs, goals and concerns.
However, the sales you generate will increase dramatically if
your site is narrowly centered on a specific theme, product,
audience or outcome. And niche marketing has an added benefit:
the need to produce a sufficient quantity of website visitors
to produce similar results will lessen significantly.
Offline, being everything to everyone is understandable to a
certain degree since, geographically, a niche will likely be
considerably small. But online, however, niche marketing can
work since a market will expand, even if it is a small niche.
However, it's a double-edged sword: since the Internet expands
your market, it also expands the competition. Niche marketing
is therefore more important online: by narrowing your focus,
you both increase your market and decrease your competition!
Here's an illustration: let's say that your best client is the
corporate executive earning $50,000 annually or more, and that
your website receives approximately 200,000 hits per month.
If your site aims for the public at large, only a small number
of that ideal market will be a part of that group of visitors,
and an even smaller number will be qualified for your offer.
For the sake of example, let's say that this percentage is
around 0.1%. It means that, of 200,000 monthly visitors, only
200 will fit into your market (that's an optimistic figure).
And since your site is too general, an even smaller percentage
of those 200 execs (say, about 0.5%) will be truly interested
in your offer and eventually buy. In this case, 0.5% (of 200
visitors) will equal to a single client for an entire month.
Looking at it in reverse it means that, if you want to achieve
at least a single sale per month from this ideal market, your
site will thus require at least 200,000 visitors on a monthly
basis, based on the law of averages. Therefore, your marketing
efforts will need to multiply exponentially in order to create
a high enough quantity of traffic to yield acceptable results.
Now, take the example of another website dedicated exclusively
to corporate executives earning over $50,000. However, this
site receives a meager 5,000 visitors per month -- admittedly,
it's not a lot, especially when compared to the other. But in
this case, the percentage of those 5,000 that fall into that
site's target market will be 100% -- a 10,000% improvement!
(Additionally, chances are great that your site will magnetize
this ideal market, almost effortlessly such as via the search
engines, since your site caters to their needs specifically.)
Furthermore, the percentage of interested leads that are in a
better position to buy will be higher by virtue of the fact
that the site centers on their specific needs. In other words,
perceived value will be greater in the mind of those people.
To be conservative, let's say that this percentage is only 5%.
It means that out of 5,000 visitors per month, one can achieve
250 sales -- that's 249 more sales than the other (and, on top
of that, with only a quarter of the traffic). But let's be a
little more conservative, for a moment. Let's say that only 1%
buys. It's still a remarkable 500% improvement over the other,
as 1% of 5,000 visitors equals to five sales per month.
Of course, the above example is when all things considered are
equal -- I agree that there are many variables at play, here.
But the spirit of this illustration is clear: it took an equal
if not lesser investment of time, effort and money to achieve
five sales per month than it did to achieve a single one.
Jim Banks started selling carpets online in 1998. He admits
that, at the time, he knew *nothing* about it. Says Banks: "I
thought that it would be a non-competitive market ('who would
want to sell carpet on the Internet?' I asked myself) and it
would allow me to learn about this whole new Internet thing."
But at first, Jim floundered. "I showed carpet on the website,
sent out samples, and used a wholesaler in Georgia to deliver
the goods. I made some money, but it was a lot of hard work.
In fact, a lot of hand-holding of customers was required, and
my time was a limiting factor in how much money I could make."
But then, Jim had an idea. He adds: "I had read one or two of
your articles at the time where you stressed the importance of
niche marketing. And after thinking about that, and applying
it to my industry, I came up with the idea of selling carpets
and area rugs with children's designs (e.g., animals, letters,
game boards, etc). Today, things are going very well!" (By the
way, check out Jim's site at http://www.KidCarpet.com/ .)
In conclusion, here's my advice: if you're looking at starting
a business online, first find a niche and fill it. But if you
already are doing business online, then narrow your focus to a
specific outcome, audience or product. And finally, if you do
sell everything to everyone already, I suggest breaking your
business down by developing several sites, which sell the same
things but targeted towards different segments of your market.
About the Author
Michel Fortin of http://SuccessDoctor.com/ is a professor in
marketing, a professional speaker and a highly sought-after
consultant whose marketing advice has helped countless clients
earn millions in record time. He is the author of four books.
His latest, "Power Positioning Dot Com," reveals how to keep
your business or product indelibly carved into your prospects'
uppermost consciousness. Visit http://successdoctor.com/pp/
For more information, contact Judy Vorfeld