To achieve online success try disconnecting from the internet!
The concept of a business with no brick & mortar storefront and no physical product was unheard of 25 years ago and is now so commonplace that we take it for granted. So how could I possibly convince you that to achieve online success, you need to disconnect from the internet? Let me tell you a story…
Recently a client related to me how their once strong online business had lost 50% of its traffic and 40% of its revenue in just 18 months. Nothing substantial had changed during that time; their product was still the same great stuff that had brought them success. They hadn’t changed their digital marketing strategy and their customers were still sending in fantastic testimonials. I looked at their digital marketing with all the tools in my arsenal and validated the situation however no ‘eureka moment’ appeared.
After a bit of thought, something from my past hit me like a lightning bolt! There used to be a locally famous steak house near my town named Henry’s. Henry’s wasn’t fancy but it was on the busiest street and had the best steaks cooked by the owner (you guessed it – Henry!), for 50 years. Customers had voted with their knives and forks since the 1950’s and it looked like Henry would retire a wealthy man.
One day, I passed by the restaurant and saw a ‘For Sale’ sign outside; I was amazed! Just a couple of weeks earlier I had been in and business seemed good. I went inside and asked Henry what was going on and he told me said sales were way off and diners were going elsewhere. I asked him what he thought the problem was and Henry said he couldn’t figure it out. The steaks were the same great quality and price he said. “Seems like people just aren’t showing up any more,” he told me. Thinking about what he had said on my way home, I saw the issue clearly….
Henry’s was indeed a great restaurant but when a new mall development opened just off the highway, Outback, Lone-Star and TGI Friday’s all came to town. Each of them had a broad menu including steaks that were good, but not as good as Henry’s. Customers understood those steaks were good enough at the same or a little lower price than Henry’s steaks. In addition, the new restaurants all had bright shiny facades and lots of parking close to the doors. On top of all that, the advertising budgets of the national chains made listening or seeing their value propositions impossible to miss and because human nature drives people to the new, customer trial of the new restaurants was high.
I had hit on the crux of the problem! Henry didn’t do anything wrong, he was just so focused on his steaks he didn’t step back and look at the larger picture and new reality. New and well-funded competition had appeared. Their menus were broader and steaks ‘good enough’ even though Henry’s steaks were better. These new competitors were focusing on driving traffic and hammering home their value proposition with every possible marketing vehicle.
How can your online business avoid a fate like Henry’s? First, you need to think beyond digital marketing. In the Henry’s example, the major problems were strategic business issues first and marketing issues second. In many cases with online businesses, the same traditional problems are hurting business and have little to do with pure digital marketing.
Begin with a look at your competitive environment and location - your ‘digital neighborhood.’ Do you have new and threatening competition? Are you offering a clean and inviting digital experience that satisfies your customer’s needs and wants? Does the competitive product offering put you at a disadvantage? If so, can you adapt, focus and market your products to appeal to a high-value niche market while seeking additional sources of revenue?
Next, think about the business’ unique value proposition. Is it still relevant and does it align with the customer’s needs? Moreover, are you sure those customer needs and wants are still valid today and have not changed? Are you communicating your value proposition only through word of mouth and reputation (social media) like Henry’s, or do you take an active role like the newcomers with varied digital marketing campaigns? Maybe you cannot compete dollar for dollar against VC funded start-ups, but you can relentlessly pursue your niche through honing your value proposition and delivering an excellent user experience all the while making your efforts visible through strategic digital marketing campaigns.
So what was the solution for my client?
The solution was to adapt traditional marketing best practices to today’s digital reality. I analyzed my client’s business examining each business & marketing touch-point from competition to product & pricing and from UI to email marketing and everything in-between. Paying special attention to the sharpening of my client’s unique value proposition, the client and I developed a path to recovery that is well underway and uses each digital tactic to support a basic strategic business or marketing goal.
If your business is facing similar problems and would like some help, contact the Digital DocKtor. We’ll develop a solution that works for you!