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Senior Money Memos

The NUB Of Getting More Internet Sales

INTRODUCTION

Sales are the lifeblood of any company. Sales fuel the growth of a successful company. How are sales? is the most important question to be asked of any CEO. The answer can be make or break for the corporation.

That has been true for many decades. Methods of increasing sales in traditional market places have been honed over the years. Some may feel that the Internet is just an additional channel for sales. Instead of promoting via the print-version of the Yellow Pages, why not now promote via the Internet.

Stick up your online billboard, in other words your website. Then do some SEO to try to get your website ranking well in Google keyword searches. Add in a little Pay Per Click advertising to increase the traffic. When leads come via your Calls To Action, try to make the sale. Use all your selling skills to persuade the client to buy from you. You may well get appreciable sales this way. However it is built on a very limited view of the Internet.

One way of describing the traditional selling approach is called push marketing. You spend what it takes to get your message in front of as many of the right eyes as you can. The majority of those eyes may even resent the intrusion. However hopefully a sufficient (possibly small) percentage will be intrigued enough to follow up. The alternative approach is called pull marketing. You take actions which will result in people who are interested in your products calling you for more information.

The Internet is all about people being able to make connections. It empowers individuals by giving them easy access to incredible amounts of information. An astonishing proportion of people now use the Internet at some time or other every day. It is a whole new world. It is also a crowded world and getting more crowded all the time. The latest innovation from Google, knols, will add appreciably to the mountain of information.

Although traditional selling methods do still work, they are only partially successful since they do not leverage these real features of the Internet. That is where the NUB comes in.

WHAT DOES NUB MEAN?

The NUB Of Your Marketing Strategy was described in a previous newsletter. NUB is the most essential or most vital part of strategy. More importantly when considered as an acronym, it provides the short list of what must be included in the strategy. NUB stands for:

  • N - Niche of potential customers
  • U - USP, Unique Selling Proposition. This describes what you offer to those potential customers, that is unmatched by the competition, and
  • B - Bottom-line. The forecasted 12-month cash flow to confirm that this is a satisfactory and viable scenario.

Every one of these three letters is tough to focus on. The lack of clear definition of one or other of these has been the downfall of many companies. With all three strong and well-defined, success is highly probable. Each of them does of course interact with the other two. So you're involved with a cycling process continually refining each until the total NUB is consistent.

NICHE

A Niche is a group of potential customers (they could be individuals or they could be companies) who share some common characteristics. In this global age of the Internet, it no longer needs to be a regional grouping although some are.

USP

The Unique Selling Proposition has been much discussed throughout the years since Rosser Reeves coined the phrase in his book, "Reality in Advertising", in 1961. His definition was as follows:

  1. The proposition to the customer should be: "buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit."
  2. The proposition itself must be unique.
  3. The proposition must be strong enough to pull new customers to the product.

B FOR BOTTOM-LINE

The third letter, B, is for the Bottom-Line. Or it could be for any of a number of other letters starting with B. They all relate to Cash, a critical resource. B could also be Budget, or it could be projected Balance Sheet, or it could be Bucks in North America. For a start-up enterprise eager to get moving and not waste too much time on planning, I would suggest it could even be Back-of-the-Envelope Cash Flow projection.

Those are the short explanations which were given in the earlier newsletter. In applying them in real life case studies, it turns out there are some refinements that can give even better results. This is what we will be discussing in the balance of this newsletter.

A NICHE CAN BE VERY LARGE

The Internet is crowded

The word niche suggests something small. If you are dealing with customers in a small regional area who can be reached by car, then your niche certainly may be small, perhaps even a few hundred prospects. On the Internet on the other hand there is no geography. Everyone is as close as your mouse. Perhaps the language you use will select a certain slice of that niche, but even so the number of prospects in that niche will likely be very large. A niche such as small and midsized companies in North America is truly enormous.

Chris Anderson has got us all thinking that there is a distinction between mass markets and what he called Long tail markets. He described Long tail markets as Niches or even Micro-niches. Mass markets are served by the Wal-Marts of this world, while Micro-niches are served by specialized suppliers serving customized products. Just think of microbreweries as a typical example of supplying such a micro-niche. Since micro is the Greek word for small, this may hide the realization that on the Internet such Micro-niches can be very large.

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A CUSTOMER-CENTRIC VIEW FROM THE NICHE

This size question becomes even more apparent if you take a customer centric view. Different niche members can have very different needs. Although they may all fall within some standard definition, their backgrounds and their likes and dislikes may well show enormous differences. It becomes very difficult to think of only one persona to typify such a huge variety. Can the same selling approach really work for all members of the micro-niche? Since the micro-niche is still very large it may be that targeting a particular subgroup of prospects can make for a more effective selling approach. If so, how might the best subgroup of prospects be selected.

PROSPECTS ARE LOOKING FOR YOU, IF YOU HAVE THE SOLUTION

Everyone now realizes that if you are looking for something, then you Google it. One key application here is if you are looking for a product or a service. By googling it, you are already flagging your interest. If as a result you visit a website after a Google search, then the website owner knows that you have some interest. They did not force you to come as might have occurred in a push marketing campaign. Google searches may bring more than two thirds of the traffic to many websites. Every such visitor is there because they had some interest. If this is part of a pull marketing approach, clearly it worked. The challenge is to try to make sure that those visitors are the type of prospects you would like to be seeing.

THE RIFLE APPROACH - TARGET A SUB-NICHE

targeting the micro-niche

One effective selling technique is to look for prospects who are suffering pain. In other words they are extremely dissatisfied about something or other. By offering a remedy for their pain, you get their immediate attention and can start the selling process. That line of thinking suggests a way of defining a target sub-niche. Look for prospects who have some extreme dissatisfaction and who are looking for a solution. On the Internet it is likely that you can access a large number of such prospects. So set up to be the provider of the solution they are looking for.

With such a clear and precise focus, your Internet marketing strategy becomes very clear. Check out how these prospects will look for solutions on the Web. What keywords will they use in searching? These are the words you should be targeting in making your website search engine visible.

You then must make sure that when such a searcher arrives at your website, they see in the blink of an eye that you have the solution they are looking for. If possible an appropriate image should pass the message in a flash. At the very least a tagline should confirm they are at the right place. You should quickly supply whatever proofs are needed to convince them to explore the site further. That might be scientific research or it might be testimonials from other satisfied customers. There should be obvious paths to allow them to get whatever information they might next want.

CHECKING THE SIZE OF THE SUB-NICHE

You will of course wish to make sure that there are sufficient prospects in the sub niche. A recent blog post suggests how you can do a Business Strategy Reality Check using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. The Keyword Tool is now Updated With Search Volume Data. It is therefore possible to check the number of people searching for any particular keyword phrase. The Keyword Tool shows the number of searches each month for any given keyword or keyword phrase. Provided the phrase which defines the sub niche of those feeling pain has monthly search volumes measured in the thousands, then this gives reasonable assurance that the sub niche is an adequate size.

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SHOULD THE SUB-NICHE BE BROADER?

Targeting only those prospects who are so dissatisfied that they could be said to be feeling pain may seem unduly restrictive. If enough such prospects can be accessed through the Internet, why would this be a concern? We will be delivering a message that will maximize the conversions to sales, so why is this not good enough?

It is understandable that some might feel a somewhat broader group should be targeted. If so, how does one determine the optimal breadth of the sub-niche? By choosing a less focused message that appeals to more prospects, two things occur. Firstly for our optimal sub-niche who are feeling pain, they are less likely to find us with this broader message and are less likely to be convinced to become prospects. That represents a loss in sales revenue. This is balanced by an increase in the second-tier prospects who find the website and may be convinced by the broader message to become customers.

It should be remembered that we are considering here prospects who are unaware of the company's existence and become aware through a keyword search. Prospects who are made aware of the website through other direct means (say direct mail shots or direct solicitation) will be a minor fraction of the website traffic that certainly should not be forgotten. Such direct traffic will be less affected by their first impression of the website. They are already motivated to explore the website. They are less likely to blink and click away.

NOT LOSING THE REST OF THE NICHE

This emphasis on prospects feeling pain is to ensure that such prospects do find the website through search engine keyword reports and are then highly likely to convert to purchasers. The Internet is a very crowded place and unless there is this focus, these prospects may never find us.

That is not to say that the website should deal only with the solution to their pain. Remember they are members of the wider niche. That means they share some characteristics with other members of the niche. They may have other current needs or will have further needs in the future.

This is where skill is required in website design so as to cover what else is on offer without making the solution to the pain less visible. The website should clearly indicate other products and services the company can offer "down the road". At the same time these other products and services the company offers may have greater appeal to some others in the niche who do not currently feel pain. The website should clearly spell out the total set of products and services the company supplies, while still highlighting its solution to pain for those who are suffering.

This is where the company blog can come into play. By carefully crafting individual posts and ensuring they are search engine visible, the company can maximize the chances that it is found by prospects looking for other related solutions.

CONCLUSION

The Internet is a very crowded space and will continue to get even more crowded. The recent introduction of knols by Google is only one of the many influences causing the explosive growth in online content. This makes push marketing and blanket advertising even less effective than they ever were. At the same time, search engines are improving all the time so a prospect looking for a solution is likely to find what they need.

targeting the micro-niche

By ensuring your website is highly visible to an important micro-niche of prospects, you maximize the chances that such prospects will buy from you. In parallel, by indicating other products and services you supply that may cater for down-the-road needs, you can also appeal to the wider niche in which this sub-niche is located.

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If you require help with any aspect of targeting your micro-niche and growing your sales, then SMM will be happy to help you figure out your best approach. Our help can be configured to meet exactly the needs you have. Our strengths, experience and creativity can complement those of your company. So write us a Message today on what you're looking for without obligation.

Barry Welford

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