By Hector Cisneros
Millions of companies are trying to sell products on the web. Large companies like Walmart, Target and Best Buy have big advantages over the small mom and pop players. So just how do you compete with these mega corporations? What can you do to stay in the game? How can you get found and then provide an offer that your visitor can’t refuse? Well, if you’re not willing to leave a horse's head under your visitors bed sheets to get them to take the next step, you will have to provide another offer they can’t refuse. In this article, we will cover how to turn visitors into buyers by providing the real trust elements that every website needs. We will cover the basics of creating irresistible offers and we will cover how test your offers so that you don’t have to threaten equestrian wildlife to coerce your prospects to take the next step. So let's get started by digging into how small businesses can compete.
How can Small Business Compete?
Big business has big advantages when it comes to capital for marketing, marketing teams and huge buying power. So how can a small business beat the odds? Believe it or not, small businesses can compete with the leviathans of their industry by being more nimble, more convenient, by providing a more personal service, or by being more focused and by using guerrilla marketing tactics.
To be successful, small businesses have to be proactive in understanding their business. The free market is not a forgiving place to fly by the seat of your pants. Every small business needs to take the time to fully understand who they are, what their purpose is, what is special about their business, who they serve and how they serve this target market best. Let’s look at these elements for a moment.
I often hear business people say, "My product is needed by everybody". Well, here's the rude reality… its not! Today the average consumer has choices, lots of choices. Even if you have a monopoly because of a patent or government edict for your product or service, you won't keep that monopoly forever because the free market hates monopolies. A free market creates competition wherever there is money to be made!
Understanding who your target market is
Businesses that make lots of money, are focused businesses. They may have multiple divisions with different focuses, but understand this; they are focused. They fully understand who their target market is for each of their focused products or services. In the past, I have written about "How to Create Your Idea Customer Profile" so I won't go into great detail here. Know that even though your product or service may have wide appeal, it still has a specific target market, and that ideal customer is not anyone or everyone! Needless to say, if you don't know who your ideal customer is, you're probably marketing to the wrong people right now.
Your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
On top of not know who your target market is, you may not know what your best weapons are for winning the battle you're in with the mega corporations. Let’s face it, in most cases you cannot compete on price, so you're going to have to compete on some other battle field. This is where your unique selling propositions come into play. If you haven't taken the time to explore and codify your USP (unique selling proposition), you need to do that now. Competing in the free marketplace without a USP is like going to a gunfight with only a knife. Whole books have been devoted to creating USP's and I have written about it as well. I recommend you also address this portion of your business now, because without a USP of any kind you're entering the battle with a significant disadvantage. There are other weapons you can use in this battle. See the section labeled “Trust Factors on and off the Page.”
Having a Compelling offer is Key
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Creating a marketing plan
One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is winging it. Flying by the seat of your pants is not a formula for success in any endeavor. There are many books, software applications and thousands of articles devoted to helping businesses create a business plan, yet few small businesses do this. I believe that is why so many small businesses fail within the first five years of operation. Depending on whose statistics you look at, the failure rate is between 50 and 80 percent. Not a rosy forecast. Most fail because they are running their businesses without a map or compass. The direction you move towards is your target market (the ideal customer profile), and the map consists of the business plan to get you there (which includes the research identifying your target market, your ideal customer profile, ideal marketing venues, your USP, and your irresistible offer). I recommend getting help creating a marketing plan. Find a marketing consultant with a good reputation, that fits your budget and build your plan. There are many organizations that can help small and minority businesses get a leg up on this process. A couple of organizations I recommend are Marketing Matters - part of the Chamber of Commerce here in the Northeast Florida area and the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) at the University of North Florida. Just for reference purposes, we charge between $500 and $2000 to create a plan for a small business. The cost is determined by the amount of work we have to do (based on what that business has or hasn't done yet).
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Executing your marketing plan
Once you have a plan, you must execute it. Follow your budget. Don't let advertisers lure you into thinking their ads will produce revenues that will generate more cash to make more sales and do more marketing. I know that this is the ideal situation; however, until your market testing bears this out, it’s a huge risk to throw money at untested advertising.
Make sure you use guerrilla marketing tactics if your budget is small. Guerrilla tactics include marketing venues like daily social networking, weekly blogging, creating and sharing YouTube videos, adding your profiles to as many search directories as possible and face to face networking where word of mouth is king. The reality is this, if you have a small budget, you probably have more time than money, so use your time as money by investing that time in marketing activities that can build relationships that lead to sales. I recommend joining your local chamber of commerce and a BNI chapter. The chamber has many resources and puts on many events that will provide you with word of mouth networking opportunities. Joining a BNI chapter will also provide you with networking opportunities, but more importantly, they will teach you how to network effectively. How-to network is not taught in most business school curriculums. On the other hand, BNI does a heck of a job teaching both beginner and advanced word of mouth marketing. I recommend reading lots of articles and books on this subject. I can recommend many of the books written by the founder of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. I also recommend reading my first book; "60 Seconds to Success". It is devoted exclusively to helping businesses make the most of their elevator pitches.
The importance of having a Good Product or Service
No marketing plan will produce long term success if you don't have a good product or service. Everything will be short lived even if you have the best marketing plan in the world. For example, every holiday season you see lots of new gift ideas come out. I specifically remember the pet rock and Chia Pets. These products had lots of success in the beginning as a novelty, but high sales could not be sustained because the products only offered novelty for a short period of time. Also in short order, competition sets in and the novelty quickly disappears. These products are still sold today, but not in anywhere near the quantity they once sold at. A product or service with high quality, usefulness and utility will keep business coming back for more. Also selling high quality consumable products will also do the same. Once you have the right marketing message (a great irresistible offer, and USP) getting distribution to the masses is your next hurdle. Here’s where the marketing begins. But to try and short cut this marketing process with trickery will cost you.
Trickery has Consequences
A marketing message that is deceptive may garner some sales, maybe even lots of sales, but it will produce few repeat sales. A compelling offer that lies to make the sales is not an irresistible offer, it’s a scam! Scamming people out of their money, even with white lies has consequences. Also selling inferior products is tantamount to trickery and will never result in future sales. Today, the advent of social media means that the emperor wears no clothes. If you're caught misleading your customers, you will pay in the courtroom of social media justice. Bad news travels real fast on social media. If you rip someone off they will post your deed on their social networks and rating sites. That news will spread like an unstoppable wildfire and your misdeeds will secure your demise.
High Quality, Focused Web Properties
Today, the web has become the go to place to market your business. One thing that is good about the Internet is that it can be a great equalizer for small business. Your website and social site can reach the entire globe. Make sure that quality is one of your top criteria. Professionalism is just as important. Proper spelling and grammar are a must. Your properties need to be focused and clear and easy to navigate as well. On top of that, make sure all your web properties are mobile friendly. Always strive to make it easy for visitors to do business with you.
What does “focused” mean? A focused web property is uncluttered and includes just one main subject, where one focused product or service is covered. It is made up of a focused keyword-rich URL, focused title and content that contains your focused keywords in the body of the page.
Trust Factors On and Off the Page
Make sure your focused pages include the following trust factors. Also make sure that all of the trust factors are above the fold on the screen. Trust Factors include: at least one video testimonial and a USP from your company, easy to find contact information, including a clear and highly visible address and phone number, a map (preferable a Google Map) to show your location, listing of your top five social networks, a way to spread your message for the visitors social nets and last but far from least, a clear, easy to understand compelling offer with a high perceived value.
A few parting notes. It's very important that you test your marketing messages. A split testing program (AKA A/B testing) can be carried out very inexpensively on social media and search. If you don't know how to do it, hire a marketing company to do it for you. The management fee they charge could save you thousands in the long run. Also, don't underestimate the value of Word of Mouth marketing (aka WOM). More on this in part 2 of this series.
Ask anyone this question - "what’s the best form of advertising?" The answer will always be Word of Mouth. WOM is very viral in nature and in essence jumps ahead of the irresistible offer (because of the trusted referral). The credibility of the person providing the testimonial and that referral allow you to have instant credibility. You can put WOM marketing on steroids by using it in your social networks and by getting your referral partners and clients to share your irresistible offer. Get your customers to sing your praises (i.e. spreading your positive message, providing testimonials and high ratings) and you will be successful.
In this article I have discussed how many elements of your web properties affect the success of an irresistible offer and ultimately the success of your marketing. These elements are just as crucial as a message that purports a high return on investment (aka irresistible offer) with regards to the success of your marketing message. These elements include many things, such as on page trust factors, page focus and of course, what Mark Joyner calls "The Irresistible Offer". This article further covers the importance of understanding of your target market, creating a USP/s, engaging in market research and more. The second part in this series will also cover how to create an “Irresistible Offer” like the one Mark Joyner discusses in his book. It will also discuss how to build trust and create viral marketing via Word Of Mouth. Click here to read it as well.
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Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida. He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success and co-author of Working the Web to Win.”