Step 1: All Marketing Starts With Discovery
You start marketing your product or service when someone discovers it and assigns a value to it. I’m not talking about dollar value. I mean the kind of value that says “This won’t end up in the attic a week from now”.
Online, discovery happens through search engine results (paid and organic), social media, e-mail marketing, referral and other methods. It works if you know the room through good persona research.
Valuation in internet marketing is a funny thing. In traditional marketing it was all about grabbing the customer’s attention, then creatively slapping them silly until, in a stupor, they decided what you had was valuable. Internet marketing flips that. Generally, your customers have already attached a value to what they want. Then they find you and decide whether you can deliver that value.
By the time they’ve found you, they know what they want. Internet customers can be great prospects that way.
So, personas and discoverability-driven marketing (aka Bragging Modestly) will start the ball rolling.
Step 2: Introduction
Now it’s all about how you look. If you dress appropriately, though, the ball keeps rolling.
At this point, you’ve got a few customers.
Step 3: Identification
This is the marketing sweet spot. Here, your customers don’t see any competitors for you. You are unique, and you have a huge customer base.
You can stretch out the identification phase and stay out of the dreaded commodification morass longer if you provide lots of value, communicate it clearly, keep your customers happy and keep in touch with them.
In other words, you need to sound smart with great copy and contingency design. You also must keep in touch through e-mail, SMS, RSS and any other means at your disposal.
Step 4: Commodification
It happens, no matter what you do. Your competitors flood the market with cheap imitations, or your offering gets stale, or you have a bad month/quarter/year.
At this point you’re competing on price and price alone. You’re providing a commodity in a race to the bottom.
Traditionally, that race ended with a thud. You rolled right off the platform and had to find a new product or service, or at least a new angle on the existing one.
Internet Marketing To The Rescue
Rejoice! If you’ve been talking to customers, using web analytics and generally learning what works and what doesn’t, you can actually observe and adjust: Web analytics mean you can know when commodification starts, long before the ground comes rushing up at you. You can fix problems, improve your message and start the ball rolling back again.
This assumes, of course, that you’re actually selling a decent product, and you’re being honest about it. If you lie or sell junk, no marketing can help. Folks will find out. When they do, they’ll leave.
Online, this cycle can happen in months, days or even hours. The important thing to realize is that it can happen.
The moral? Perform sound, careful, honest internet marketing. And for heaven’s sake, have good web analytics in place from the first day you’re online. Otherwise the first sign things are slipping will be that dull thud when you ‘win’ the race to the bottom.