Some time ago, Chris Anderson of Wired magazine wrote the now infamous “long tale” article. He argued that the music industry needed to have broad based “hits” and serve narrow “niches”. So now you are thinking, here we go again, how does this apply to my business and internet marketing? It applies the same way it does for an attorney in Fresno, California or an Aston-Martin dealer in Scottsdale (or Scotsdale as I have been known to spell it) Arizona.
The long tail theory applies to smaller businesses and Internet marketing in a very direct way. Successful Internet marketing only happens when you know exactly how people are looking for you. The search engines are smart, but if they were perfect, they would match the right website to the right person every time and Internet advertising would die along with their key source of revenue (and mine).
Until that day comes, business owners need to clearly understand their customer. The Aston-Martin dealer is a pretty clear case. They pretty much sell and service one British marque, the Aston-Martin. If you have a Ferrari, you go next door, a Porsche around the block. They understand their customer. The Lawyer presents the more common challenge.
The lawyer might be like a family doctor, a general practitioner of sorts. The lawyer might charge by the hour or he might charge by the case on a percentage or fee basis. A few even work on retainer like an insurance company. Most of these general practitioners have small quiet offices.
The problem with Internet advertising for this general practitioner lawyer is, it costs money every time someone clicks. If a lawyer working by him or herself in Fresno California tries to advertise to people searching, bankruptcy, personal injury, divorce, tax problems, business law, contract disputes, real estate law, workers compensation and trial law, the lawyer will go broke before anyone ever can write them a check. The keyword bid for “personal injury attorney” is as high as $15.00 per click in some cities. I have seen single keywords like lawyer go for $20.00 per click.
The interesting thing about the Internet is the people searching know what they want. They enter a search sentence that is broken down or “parsed” by the search engine to try and figure out what website will best help them. If a person is looking for an attorney with RSD experience and they land on a website that highlights the lawyers success as a divorce attorney guess what happens. The lawyer just spent $8.00 for someone to click their back button.
In 1998 when I first started building websites, I didn’t realize how important focus would become to my success or my customers. I have since expanded my work to helping people and businesses find focus. What I learned over the years with the Internet applied to people so I wrote the book So, Now What? because most people don’t need to spend $200 an hour for me to coach them. Success through focus also applies to businesses and that is why we incorporate business focus consulting with our SEO programs.
Simply put, we can’t focus your Internet advertising if your business isn’t focused. Let’s consider the example of the attorney. There are some larger firms with deep pockets that do advertise to a wide spectrum of people browsing the Internet. For smaller single practice firms and any other small business, focus is the key to keeping your advertising program on budget. By selecting two (or three at most) key areas, we are able to create a very specific website and advertising program. Keep in mind, there are over 2,000,000 searches every day just in the Fresno California Area, the lawyer only wants the one person he can help that day. In Houston Texas there are 400,000,000 or more searches every business day. Search is huge.
Using Chris Andersons Long Tail approach, when the attorney picks a couple of niches to focus on, we are then able to create a four or more keyword ad that only costs $1 or $2 per click. We also create a website that highlights those keywords. Instead of 400-500 clicks a day at $8 or more per click where only one person calls the office, we are now getting 4-5 clicks a day at an average of $1.47 a click and getting the same one person calling the office. The secondary benefit of this is the attorney becomes much better at that specific niche of the law. When we pick two or three niches to advertise, if we find one to be a low performer, it can go away and another put in it’s place.
Recently we added a client in Costa Mesa California, TruSpeed Motorcars. TruSpeed is an independent Porsche service center, and has certified technicians for BMW, Mercedes and Ferrari. They also have a technician that is Bentley and Land Rover certified. When the service manager let me know that we should add Bentley and Land Rover to our marketing campaign, I saw my income going way up. The GM quickly said the right thing and killed my pay raise. He said “We are not going to be the jack of all trades, we service only sports cars, and European ones at that, we are not advertising Bentley or Land Rover”.
While this may sound strange to some people, this is where the 80/20 rule kicks in. The service manager is trying to get all the business and the GM is trying to get the right business. Every time I coach a small business owner, their financial issues are fixed by simply changing their focus to getting the right business. If you can do 80% of the work that you are doing now, and get a pay raise would you do it? Of course the answer is yes, so why don’t you?
What happens in business is simple. Business people cater to the customer, sometimes too much. In doing so they start doing work they shouldn’t. Accounting systems don’t always show that the business is losing money on a specific type of customer. The accounting systems have to be set up for it, and that can take six months or so to set up and get enough data to prove the point. The faster method (and I would argue therefore better) is to find the core competency and trim the customers (and ads) that don’t fit and see if profit and attitudes of the business improve. So far in all but one case over 15 years it has worked. The one that didn’t, the owner refused to even try. He said, “I need all the work I can get, I don’t care what brand or what service.”
When a politician runs for office, the winners usually picked one topic or one issue and stuck to it like it was tattooed on their forehead. Does “Change” sound familiar even two years later? Life and business are no different. When you pick one area to focus on, and really go for it, you will win and so will your business. If the attorney in Fresno decides to go after farm workers with pesticide related illness, he might need to expand a little outside of the Fresno area, and over time will become known as the “go to” attorney for pesticide exposure cases. When this happens, he is also able to command a much larger income for a lot less work.
Before you open for business today, what is the one thing you will focus your entire business on? Write down four to six very specific goals for the week, make them realistic and get them done. When your business is focused and your advertising is focused, you will hit your targets more often and better than your competition. That sounds like success to me. Get focused, stay focused and succeed. If you need a little help call me.