I was speaking with someone the other day who wanted nothing more than to understand the “secret sauce” of one of his competitors. If only he knew what this guy was doing to attract business he could replicate it and watch his own business grow by leaps and bounds. Is it possible to peer into someone’s online strategy? Sure it is. You can see from the code on their website what keyword phrases they are likely optimizing for, you can see which other websites link to them, check out their traffic and know in which directories they are listed, where they are advertising and who is sharing their blogs. But will online espionage be the answer to your prayers? In a word, no.
Am I saying not to engage in checking out your competitors? Of course not, in fact I highly recommend it. However competitive analysis when performed without a clear sense of who you are as a brand, can lead you to throw away a lot of advertising money without return.
Entrepreneurial success is all about Focus.
Too often I have seen entrepreneurs try to be all things to all people and end up with a message so diluted that no one really understands what they do and what makes them different. Usually the entrepreneur takes this approach out of fear that by being too specific they will turn away potential business. Yet actually the opposite is true in that the more you focus the more you will attract potential business since you will stand out as being the recognized expert in your field.
Once you have completed your market analysis (see “How To Clone Your Best Clients
“) and selected your sweet spot (that niche in the market where you can be THE expert, in a way that reflects YOUR uniqueness), it is time to create your buyer personality profiles (a.k.a. “buyer personas” in marketing speak). These are fictional representations of each of your target buyer segments. They aren’t a single buyer but rather a compilation of the background, challenges and goals of an entire segment of buyers. Although fictional, they are based on actual data about buyer demographics, behavior, needs and challenges from data gathering, observations and interviews, augmented with educated speculation.
Create 3-5 buyer personality profiles for your target markets and have fun with them. Give them each a name like “Debonair Dan” or “Self-Made Stephanie” and use what you know about their preferences to select your advertising channels. Think about how they would respond to different content and images. They should connect with and relate to the channels you use and the message you put forward. They should be able to read about their needs in your blog and social media channels. Use them as a sounding board of sorts to create a consistent brand image across all of your channels. Use them to emphasize where YOU excel. Look for opportunities to connect with them offline as well as online in interesting ways. For most entrepreneurs this means a strong focus on networking. Remember that there is no magic to online marketing. After all, behind the computers they’re all still people and finding a way to reach those people in a way that is true to YOUR brand will set you apart.