The concept of web clutter isn't a new thing. It's the entire reason that search engines were created. There got to be so much stuff, that there needed to be a way for the user to find what they are looking for. Though I can't imagine who could possibly be looking for this: http://scanwiches.com/ While open to interpretation as art (I have a hard time even accepting that), this is an example of what businesses have to compete against for search rankings. A site that is in all respects useless, though mildly amusing when first viewed. Thankfully the author has the good taste to not SEO the site. I wish I could say the same for all useless sights. It's certainly happened to you more than once. You log on to Google, enter your search query, then have to search the results. Clicking link after link, and finding nothing that even resembles useful information. It's not because the solution to your problem doesn't exist, or that Google is a bad search engine, it's because people have used SEO techniques on their sites and are being ranked well. This is just another obstacle for businesses that turn to Search Marketing as a way to generate sales leads. It's competition for rankings and legitimacy. Because even if a serious website achieves first page rankings, they must battle every other website in the search results to be take seriously. The websites in search results are more than just individuals, they are representatives of all websites in the results. So when surrounded by clutter, legitimate websites lose credibility. Just something to consider when evaluating success or failure of your SEO campaign.
Let me tell you a story. Three companies went out in the world to make their fortune. The first company decided to play it safe and conservative. Only spending money internally making their widgets that would sell eventually not thinking of the here and now. The second company spent liberally on "getting the word out" but thought little about the future. The third company thought carefully about now and then and balanced their approach. As in the real world the companies in the story made similar products of similar quality (or provided similar services of similar scope). Time went on and the first company stockpiled its efforts for the day when word of mouth would sky-rocket them to wealth. The second company hired a big advertising firm and advertised every way they could. TV, Radio, Newspapers, Trade-shows, etc... The third firm invested in their company to streamline their process and found a lean mean marketing firm to outsource their efforts. This firm kept its own costs down, charged less, and produced quality work. You know where this story is going. The big bad economy came and reduced demand so the first company sank under the weight of its widgets. The second company cut its spending dramatically but it was too late and operations ground to a halt, there was no money for payroll. The third company however had a streamlined process to avoid major cost cutting, and an affordable marketing strategy that could be maintained throughout the bad times. Imagine you're that third company. The weak economy slows your business but does not stop it. Your message is out there, people hear it throughout the downturn and of the three companies you're the only one still talking your product up. No competing message, no background noise. Just you in a quiet media space announcing to the audience. Those in the audience that can buy do. Those that can't know who you are and when the economy picks up and they can buy you're the first one on their lips. They know you, you were always there, stable, assured, and that is how you advertise and market. The moral of the story: Marketing is the first thing weak/shortsighted companies cut. Marketing steadily will lead to growth in the long run. Don't believe me? Just ask General Mills. This isn't a fluke either. They learned from the Great Depression. Post was ahead of Kellogg's going in. The Depression hit and Post cut their marketing while Kellogg's kept it up. By the end of The Great Depression Kellogg's was in the lead and Post had to play catch up.
Consumer Demands of Marketing 2.0The internet generation is accustom to the products and services they want and need being where they are, when they are. If you're not there to compete, then you've lost. If you're static then you've lost. If you don't listen to every customer that says something to you, then you've lost. Products and services are more about lifestyle these days than anything else. Since lifestyles are so often defined now by brands, sterilized and homogenized branding that is non-offensive or defining of any particular psycho-graphic segment is a sure way to lose in the consumer market.
Large companies act small. It's all the rage among business gurus, and it's about time. The idea is that small business are nimble and capable of avoiding adversity rather than running into it full steam and hoping to absorb the blow. The marketing revolution of the 80's taught its proponents that the people need the company more than the company needs the people. In recent years some businesses have emerged that recognize the desire for a more personal business relationship by its customers, prompting some competitors to adapt. Still, there are businesses that are so large and set in their ways that they refuse to budge. As Seth Godin said in his book Small Is The New Big, about these giant institutions of American commerce, "We don't care, because we don't have to." They have terrible customer service and nobody cares how customers are treated, because competition is low and demand is high. If there is anything the last few months has taught us, is that even the mightiest of institutions can fall. All it takes is the right set of changing market conditions.
Traditions; the enemy of progress. Businesses across the country love to claim market superiority with a slew of buzz words like innovative, progressive, and total solutions provider. They hire ad agencies of all sizes who have established institutional marketing strategies and traditional messages. You'll often hear from them "messaging this" and "messaging that", "we'll conduct a series of focus groups to refine your brand messaging". Well I say forget messaging. There's too much energy spent on messaging, a concept traditionally measured by impressions. Ad agencies use impressions to measure the success of a campaign, and to justify their cost to clients. But how does an impression affect sales figures? They don't. It's even difficult to figure how an impression really influences brand recognition. So why do so many ad agencies use impressions to measure campaign success? Tradition. The progressive way to measure advertising success then should be measured in action. How many people sign up for your e-mail newsletter? (You have one right?) How many people link to your YouTube videos? How many people are in your company's Face Book friend profile? How many people visited your booth at that grassroots marketing event? Answer these questions, then you can spend time on developing your messaging.
Ironically one of the first budgets that companies cut when times get tough is their marketing budget. The very aspect of business who's sole purpose is to make more sales and boost the bottom line, gets cut. I can't really blame businesses leaders though when so much of what they hear is "this look... that look... artistically speaking...". It sounds like a bunch of fluff. And it is. But customers love fluff, especially in a down economy. Fluff represents stability in an unstable world. It tells customers that you are serious and that you will endure through the hard times and still be there when all is well. So planning ahead and strongly defining your brand look is the key to cutting your fluff budget during hard times. A well defined brand look will reduce production time of each piece. By not having all the colors of the rainbow to choose from, by being able to quickly eliminate graphic styles, and fuss less over piece layout you save production time. Taking the right messaging approach is key as well. Now is not the time for brand building pieces. You know those ones that don't really have any thing to say. That simply put your product or service in context of lifestyle? Well, the majority of lifestyle is to cut expenses and reduce debt. So cut expenseses for your customers. 10%, 20%, 50% off! And let your customers know it. Hand out, mail, e-mail, print in the newspaper coupons the week before. Broadcast the event across the radio and television, and tell people how they can take advantage of your sale. This applies to B2B as well. When your business sells to other businesses, how many clients are you going to loose because you were unwilling to take a small cut? Survival is the name of the game here. There's really only one question you need to ask yourself. "Is it better to make 20% more sales at 20% less than it is to make 20% fewer sales by not reducing rates at all?"