Jan 08, 2004
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Poor Gord Hotchkiss.
He's the CEO of an optimization firm called Enquiro. We were
chatting on the phone the other night about 2004's challenges for
the search optimization (the fact that nobody really understands
Google's latest "Florida" update yet; Yahoo deciding to bail on
Google and create their own natural listings algorithms that
everyone will have to re-optimize for; and the fact that there
are still bozos giving a bad name to the search field by doing a
cruddy job for clients.)
Then Gord innocently asked, "How do you think the search firm
industry could better market itself?" … and I exploded into this
I had no idea I felt so strongly. But the fact is, the search
industry has an identical marketing weakness to most industries
where there are tons of competitors (software firms, marketing
consultants, etc.): zero obvious differentiation.
Most competitors' Web sites make same-sounding claims, describe
same-sounding services, and make same-sounding lead generation
offers. (And too often use clip-art.)
Some try to break from the pack by making either of the three big
Mistake 1: Boasting about leadership. "We're the leader in…"
Even if it's true, unless you're a household name it sounds fake,
and no one cares except your CEO. It's not a key differentiation
Mistake 2: Making up terminology to describe yourself. "We use
the unique A.B.C. process to…" If prospects never heard of it,
they don't care. They are not here to learn about you - they
just want to know if you can solve their particular problem.
Mistake 3: Broad customer description. "Everyone from the
Fortune 500 to small businesses use our services." Prospects
don't think of themselves as generic (even if they are), so they
don't want to buy generic services (even if it would suit them.)
My advice? Focus your positioning on the customer - not
Do you have a group of clients in a particular niche? Then
create marketing campaigns (and a site section) dedicated to how
you serve that niche specifically (yes, even if you also serve
others.) A niche can be:
- the tech platform they use
- the size of their company
- geographic location
- their business model
- their budget
- their job title
And, yes if you serve many niches, then create many of these
vertical marketing campaigns starting with the niches that are
currently most profitable for you. Then stick a big honking link
on your home page and your site navigation bar calling out to
each niche by name (the name they themselves use, not something
you made up).
This is *not* rocket science. It's 101 marketing.
Ok, rant over. Thanks to you and Gord for putting up with it.