The blog concept – deliver content, build community, and conduct commerce – seems deceptively simple. And it would appear to lend itself well to myriad niche markets, from photography buffs to heart surgeons to naval architects. The problem isn’t with the notion of targeting niche markets; that’s a keeper. The issue is that running a successful website has become difficult.
If you want to attract customers and transactions, building a blog/portal may not be your most effective strategy. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. Instead, you need to go to your customers and prospects. Syndicate your information and your products, let customers and prospects get your information, products, and services from a multitude of websites, digital markets, and aggregators.
Don’t chase ad dollars – The leading mass consumer portals such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, or Pinterest were predicated on an advertising-supported business model and they generate approximately 90 percent of their revenues from selling ads.
You can’t compete with these portal giants; don’t even try. Sure, you may be successful in building a niche portal catering to a niche market. And you can certainly draw advertisers to your site with your more focused appeal. But the chances are good that the ad revenues you reap from a niche portal strategy won’t come close to covering your expenses.
Don’t rely on community and content to draw prospects – Many e-business executives are naively presuming that if their company provides personalized information and great content focused for their market, customers will appreciate the information and come back for more, staying in relationship with your firm. This is one of the most important tips for small startup websites.
That’s not realistic in today’s information-overload world. Customers are too busy to hang out, inform themselves, and schmooze. If they’re passionate about a topic or have a technical problem to solve, they’ll look for kindred souls to converse with and for folks who can give them a fast answer. But mostly, they’re too pressed for time to go to a Website. They’re task-oriented. They need to research products, procure them, keep them running, make improvements, add capabilities. On the home front, they also want to take care of business fast: buy gifts, groceries, apparel, appliances, cars; get mortgages.
Design your destination sites around customers’ scenarios – Of course, customers will come to your company’s Website to get information, customer support, and to buy things. The best way to win customer loyalty is to make it easier for your consumer customers to do what they came to do. You do that by focusing on the customer’s actual scenarios – the set of tasks they are trying to accomplish. At GE.com, for example, right on the homepages of both the GE business and consumer sites, you see a series of linked menus that let the customer specify “I am a homeowner and I want to repair kitchen appliances” or “I am a maintenance manager and I want to order parts [for] aircraft engines.”
“Syndicate” your content and products – The name of the game on the Web is not to force customers to come to your site, but to be in their faces wherever they are. Not with advertising, but with useful content, searchable product attributes, and transactions. Instead of trying to build traffic to a portal site, make your product information and your customer support information available to any Website that would like to mirror it.
Manufacturers can support “manufacturers’ aisles” in a variety of digital marketplaces, metamarkets, and e-tailing outlets. You control the accuracy of your content and your brand by maintaining it and syndicating it to anyone with a good reputation, even your competitors! So don’t change yourself if you’re not totally convinced you have to.
Make it easy for customers and prospects to find the information they need to get answers, to research products, and to buy products, parts, and service. To do this, you’ll need to organize and tag your content carefully with the attributes that matter the most (weather-hardiness of roofing shingles, colors and sizes for apparel, viscosity for transmission fluids, and so on). Make that information easy to search.
The question of who actually stocks and sells your products will still be based on your distribution strategy, but you want to make it as easy as possible for prospects and customers to obtain useful product information and technical support information from as many Web venues as possible.
Forget portals; start syndicating your information. E-customers won’t just come to you. You need to go to them.