Competition and modern business go hand in hand.
You know it and I know it.
And being on the losing end of the competition for customers in your market is no fun at all.
But as I have seen time and time again when analyzing our clients’ competitors, most of the time the fact that you’re struggling is your fault.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes you have to stare adversity straight in the face instead of reaching for a distraction to allow you to perpetuate your suffering.
Allow me to get specific here.
Recently, we’ve been working with a client in the plumbing and HVAC niche.
It didn’t take a genius long to notice something very apparent about this market when we started working with this client.
See, your business’s online footprint is actually pretty easy to track if you’re know what you’re looking for. The same goes for your competitors.
Here’s what I do when a business comes to me requesting assistance:
Step One: Check the Website for Clarity of Purpose
The first thing I do when a client enters our world is check their website for ONE THING.
What one thing, you ask?
The one thing that website is trying to accomplish.
Too many websites are designed as jack-of-all-trades experiences for a myriad of different potential customers.
You land on these sites, and it’s just chaos. Way too many things going on, way too little clarity about what I as a visitor should even do to take the next step with this business.
If you want your website visitors to give you a call, then you need to organize everything around getting them to pick up the phone and dial.
Make it obvious. Hit them over the head with the invitation to call and why they should do so.
Now, this singular focus strategy of web design might not work for huge conglomerates like Amazon (whose website is a study in chaos, incidentally).
But tell me, what do you notice about the single most visited website in the known universe?
Here’s the URL if you don’t know it off the top of your head: http://google.com
How much can you do on that page?
If your website is distracting, confusing, or trying to be too many things to too many people, you might want to rethink that approach if you want to win online.
Step Two: Check the Search Engine Results
The next thing I do when a new client comes to me requesting assistance in helping them grow online is I take a casual stroll over to the search engine results for their most important keywords.
If it’s a plumbing company we’re looking at, the keywords will be very straightforward:
I’ll run a few of these searches (using Google because that’s where 70% of the world’s web searching happens), and two things will become immediately obvious:
1) This new client of ours is practically invisible when it comes to online searches in Google. You literally would have no idea they existed if you were a normal person looking for a plumber on Google.
2) One or two of this client’s direct competitors will be absolutely dominating the search results. They’ll be toward the top of all three available google results areas — the paid AdWords rankings, the map-based local rankings, and the general organic search results.
What do you think this means?
It means that our client needs a major mindset upgrade, because they are going up against competitors who know how the game is played and are playing to win.
The answer to winning online isn’t just one approach. It’s to do everything as well as you possibly can.
AdWords, Facebook, SEO, content marketing – and many other strategies that come into play once you’ve got the core components of winning online covered.
It’s amazing to me how many of the businesses we speak with think one-dimensionally. They’re only interested in SEO or they’re only interested in paid online advertising.
As soon as you can afford to, you should do it all and do it all to the hilt.
Because every time your competitor wins, the game just got harder for you. As you already know, each new customer who enters into your business represents a node at the center of a large network of other people who could easily become your customer one day when you do good work and your customer happily sings your praises.
The network effect is only getting more pronounced as more and more people become plugged in and skilled at using social media to broadcast their opinions.
How many times does your company appear on the first page of the search engine rankings for your most important keywords?
If the answer is less than three and you aren’t trying to correct that posthaste, then you’re not playing to win online — you’re playing to lose.
Step Three: Seek Out the Invisible Web
A website and search engine rankings represent only the most visible part of the online equation.
But the businesses that are really playing to win online take the battle into invisible places where the real results accumulate to the victors.
Do you stay in touch with your would-be customers when they find you?
Do you follow them around using ad pixels so they see your ad more than the one time they searched one of your keywords?
Do you appear in their social media feeds?
Sure, all of this is a lot of work. The web isn’t a magic land of effortless victory…it’s a battlefield as intense and demanding as any other part of the business landscape.
However, there are ways to minimize the work required. There are ways to use automation and systems to help you grow and win vs. your competitors online.
As soon as I identify a customer’s fiercest competitors, I want to enter the invisible world of their follow-up processes. I want to get on their email list, find their secret ad campaigns, and track their movements across all the social and display networks.
As I do this, a fuller picture begins to emerge of what my new customer is up against. And the picture is often pretty intimidating at first.
Companies that understand the exponential nature of the online game can build up so much momentum that it’s almost impossible to stop them. Every day, they’re pulling further ahead.
Don’t be ground underfoot by competitors who have it all figured out and are playing to win.
How do you make absolutely sure your business is playing to win online?
Rise to the occasion with three key strategies:
1. Streamline your website and focus it on the ONE THING you want your visitors to do. (Use Google.com as your guide.)
2. Aim for the top of every aspect of the search game – the paid results, the local results, and the organic results.
3. Build out the invisible strategies that your competitors won’t even see coming – automated follow-up campaigns, content marketing, pixel tracking, and targeted social media advertising.
Not sure where to start with this stuff?
No problem — this is what we focus on all day long.