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(From “Gladiator” by Ridley Scott)
H ow many times we have seen clients coming to us asking to help them with their sites? Every day, no? And the majority of those sites are desperate cases, not because of the sites themselves, but due to the poor execution of the idea its owners had when creating them.
Just think it: eCommerce one identical to the other, hotel booking sites using the same hotel database, apps site which difference is only the color of the WordPress template used. Or gems buried in the SERPs and that you have discovered just by chance.
The Internet is a tough battleground
You have an idea, you maybe have a wonderful idea. And just because it is wonderful you believe it will conquer the World. The Internet will be yours. But hardly you will have success.
When you have an idea and Internet is where your idea must engage in the battle for customers, the idea is not enough, even if your battleground is a niche market.
The question is: how can make my idea become a successful one for real?
I invite you to take a step back in time with your imagination.
The time: eighth century before Christ. The place: Italy.
Rome was just a small farming village.
Let’s do jump forward in time… second century before Christ: Rome is ruling the Western side of the Mediterranean and it is quickly conquering the eastern part. Soon Julius Caesar will submit to the dominion of Rome the actual territory of France, Belgium and part of Germany.
How could those farmers conquer the world? Because they were organized, they were an army, they learned to do better what others already did and because they build such a myth of Rome that the nations they conquered soon after being conquered were proud to be Roman.
Ok, but what all this has to do with sites and web marketing? A lot.
Prepare the battle
You have an idea… be firm with it, never regret it. Be consistent with that intuition. But before choosing the battleground, you have to know it perfectly.
In marketing that means to know your end users even before you start creating a product. Do your homework, do a work of Intelligence: what people is saying of your competitors? Use Social Mention to listen. What the people you want to be your end users is looking for? Do a keyword search, not with the purpose of simply knowing how much traffic could your site attract, but to craft your strategy, which should be giving to them what they do really need. Or try to previews the trends in your market and contrast with them the correctness of your idea with real data. You may want to monitor Twitter with tools like Trendistic, but also study the how people tastes have radically changed in your market in the past and try to understand why and who were the first welcoming and driving those change to the mainstream.
Before you decide to start the battle you have to know the personas your going to battle for.
A good way to know them is, for instance, creating a small site, an beta “niche” one: that is your small farming village. Don’t go for the biggest competitors at first, go for the middle ones. Go local, also if your idea is there to conquer the world market. That is what FourSquare did, conquering the New York market and from there trying to conquer the global market of the location-based mobile platform. Or go niche as Facebook did, being beforethe social network of the university students to then jump out and go to the conquest of all the internet users and become the Social Network.
Now you have the tools to classify and distinguish clearly what kind of persona visit your site, combining neutral data like keywords with demographic ones. And with those information now you can understand the different behaviors of those persona while visiting your site using the tools Conversion Rate Optimization and Analytic may offer.
Train your army
You and the people working with you are your army. The local/niche wars are the prelude to the biggest one you will combat. Use them to train your army and to create your cohorts. Don’t be stupid and make them the protagonists of the victories your site is obtaining. Just that way you will be able to start creating your own myth of Rome.
And share the benefits of your site success with your users, because them too are your army. Prize them, make them feel indispensable and part of the success of your site. Make them feel part of your myth. This way they will become your best ambassadors and help you seeding your vision in every place and help mining the foundations of your future bigger competitors. They are your newly conquered people proud to be Romans.
And train, train, train. Remember? You’re still a small farmer village, even though you have conquered your first territories and slices of market, as Rome did conquering Italy battling one after the other every other nation. Being small you must excel in every field: SEO, Social, Content, Analytic, Programming, Web Design. Learn from your competitors, not just from their mistakes but also, if not even more, from what they do well… and do it better.
Seed your vision, gain allies
When you feel secure, scale the battle and go for the big competitors. But before gain allies.
Yes, because just if you have allies you can have a huge chance to win. Rome needed allies to win against the Gauls, and allies to win against Hannibal, and allies to win its last historic victory against the Huns.
To gain allies you must seed your vision… and in Internet the allies are the influencers.
At this time you and your site are probably already know, but maybe still considered as interesting case and an outsider. Or, depending by the market your acting in, your are well know but just locally or in your small niche.
This is the time to start doing inbound marketing at large scale.
- Go to Followerwonk and find the people who can become the ambassadors of your vision at large scale. Engage with them, befriend them, offer yourself to help them;
- Go on Topsy and find the most shared and popular blog posts and discussions about your market. Propose yourself as thoughtful voice;
- Become the most trusted content curation source in your market, following the example of KISSmetrics in the Analytic field;
- Start guest blogging… at first in the blogs of those ones who, as you, are commenting in other bigger blogs… conquer the linkpins trust first. Then ask and start guest blogging in the influencers’ blogs;
- Revamp your Social Media activity and create a real back and forth channel between your social media presence and your site;
- Re-analyse constantly the persona your site is targeting and explore new ones.
Win the battle, and the war
Now you are ready.
Your army is trained and you have gained new powerful allies… and you know that the big competitors usually have very slow reactions, but can still win you thanks to their own mass.
Time to launch a campaign: maybe with a new product, or a new design, or a new community platform inside your site… or maybe with all of them. But be sure to orchestrate the campaign in every field:
- Asking them to share it to their followers
- Asking them to write about your site
- Asking them to talk about your vision in conferences
- Asking them to write in your blog