There is one thing that small and medium businesses (SMBs) can do to stand out online – if all other online marketing (site structure, search marketing, advertising, social interaction, etc.) is equal to your competitors. SMBs should produce content with a personality, content that has a point of view on your industry or specialty.
Online marketing, including search, social and advertising, should be ongoing marketing efforts just like other forms of marketing. Make no mistake, there is no silver bullet – good online marketing and optimization require an ongoing effort as long as your site exists. But, having a consistent and likable personality will help you as long as you do it.
Consumers in 2013 – especially those in the Millennial generation – want to like the businesses they patronize. They want to agree with the worldview of that business, but they can’t do that if the business doesn’t have a point of view. Taking a stance and having a personality also assures that a business will have “unique content,” and we’ve all heard a million times that Content is King when it comes to search engines.
Having an online content personality and point of view also shows passion about your business, knowledge of your business, and authority – expertise (let’s drop the “thought leadership” mumbo-jumbo) – in your industry. Those are attributes that are likely to get your content shared via social media, and that will cause other websites to link to your site. Ultimately, that’s a very tangible asset to boost your site’s search rankings.
Let’s look at some examples of brands with an online content personality and how they outstrip their competitors. If you look at an aisle of deodorant in your grocery store, what makes one stand out from another? All antiperspirant/deodorants work pretty much the same way, and they all smell more or less manly. But, I bet there’s only one with a personality that you know, and that’s what saved Old Spice from oblivion.
Do you think that the founders of Whole Foods thought, “Man, someday yuppies are going to want organic foods, and if I start an organic market I’ll make a mint!” Of course not – they believed in the principle of what they started, and the success followed because their passion almost single-handedly created a bigger market for the food they believed in.
What about Tom’s shoes? Blake Mycoskie didn’t start his business thinking, “I’ve got these terribly ugly shoes that I want to sell for way too much money, but I need a hook … Poor kids in third world countries! No sucker can resist poor kids!” He saw poor kids without shoes first-hand, and he wanted to start something that matters.
But, it’s not necessary to have a cause in order to market your business. Blendtec made blenders fun by taking a risk to show off the power of its products. One of the biggest brands in the world has an incredibly distinctive online content personality without ever really talking about itself.
Allow me one analogy. Imagine your business is a gas station convenience store. You’re located on a busy intersection – along with three other gas station convenience stores on the other three corners. You have the same great location, the same gas prices, and more or less the same products inside as your competitors. So, how can you beat them? Customer service? Sure, good customer service can set you apart, but there is no barrier for your competitors to replicate or even exceed it. I believe good customer service is an element of your corporate personality, anyway. It’s a byproduct of the way you treat your employees and customers, which is greatly dictated by your culture and personality. Nobody can replicate your personality if it is consistent – ask Southwest Airlines, which has coupled personality and customer service winningly for more than four decades (on its very own intersection with dozens of competitors providing the same service of moving people from Point A to Point B).
Relatively few online businesses – or brick and mortar businesses – have truly unique products or services. No business wants to compete solely on price. The Internet is a big place, global in fact, but all of your competitors are still in one place. So, promotion is the only element of the marketing mix that you have left at your disposal to help you win. Money can buy you advertising, marketing, and public relations, and it can do the same for your competitors. But, instilling your communications with your personality can truly set you apart.
If you believe you know about your business, show your potential customers what you know. Object to common ‘wisdom,’ support a unique cause, take a stand politically – heck, half the country is going to agree one way or the other. Be you – tell your customers what you do outside of work that makes you who you are and influences your business decisions. Be your business – own up to what you’ve created and why you did it.
In a world where practically everybody has access to the resources to start a business, there’s only one thing they can’t be better at than you are. Being you.