Google has just announced the establishment of a holding company, Alphabet, which will act as an umbrella for businesses such as driverless cars that are not part of the core search and linked advertising effort. In so doing it has focussed its brand so that it “sacrifices the things you could be to uncover the one thing you should be” as Adam Kleinberg od US brand agency Traction put it.
Like Hoover and Xerox before it (and indeed FedEx and perhaps Kleenex) Google has become so linked to the concept of Internet search that the company name has become a verb in common parlance across multiple languages.
Very few businesses can – or even should – seek to gain brand recognition in the way that Google has. However, this is not to say that focus on a relatively narrow field of expertise is invalid. On the contrary, such focus allows potential customers to self-select and to put themselves forward as warm prospects. That focus can be supported by the judicious use of good quality content deployed across many types of media.
A great example is River Pools and Spas. This is a company co-founded by Marcus Sheridan. It operates in the Virginia / Maryland area of the US and supplies fibreglass pools and spas (Jacuzzis etc.) that are positioned in the ground rather than freestanding.
Following the financial crash of 2008, the business, which had been doing well, hit problems as new business slowed to a trickle. Sheridan pulled expenditure on PPC and other advertising and instead focussed on providing answers on the firm’s website to all of the many FAQs asked by potential clients over the previous five years. This gave rise to some 300 pages of additional content. This in turn enabled the website to climb the search engine rankings rapidly.
By promoting the site via social media, answering questions posted on other pool-related forums by directing the questioner to existing content on his own site and by keeping up a steady flow of new and relevant content, Sheridan ensured that River Pools and Spas ranked on the first page of Google results for a number of relevant key word searches.
As a by-product, it became clear that the more content a potential customer had consumed at the firm’s website, the more likely it was that that a sale would result. If the customer had accessed 30+ pages on the site, the closure rate rose to 80% plus.
Three factors are key here:
- Identifying clearly your preferred customer
- Providing good quality content that is relevant to that person right now and is genuinely educational / helpful rather than merely salesy
- Deploying that content across multiple media likely to be accessed by your preferred customer
A fourth factor is also important: making yourself available to answer questions and indeed simply engaging with potential customers in conversation, using their preferred medium. This is the humanising aspect of the online world. It allows you to establish a basic relationship, which ensures the potential customer remains warm. Lastly you must put in place a process to nurture the nascent relationship so that it leads naturally to a face-to-face (or at least telephonic) conversation.
That conversation is not about selling. It is about gathering information that allows you to articulate the value you can deliver for that individual in language that resonates with them. If you can do that, your success rate in meetings will grow exponentially. It is not unreasonable to expect 90%+ success rates so long as there is:
- A good fit personally (basic “like and trust”)
- A good fit commercially (you can see opportunities to make a significant positive difference for the client)
- A reasonable budget available
All of that said, focus is critical so that people understand what you do and what’s in it for them with minimum friction and fuss.