Don’t forget the business basics... the product has to stand up

I was recently referred to a company who were looking to grow a strong online presence for their relatively new product. They had a website and had spent some money promoting it online but to date, it hadn't really worked - so now theyBlueprintswere looking for some professional steer to really assist them in getting more visitors and ultimately more sales – and overall growing their brand online.

Their brief focused on doing pay per click advertising and search engine optimisation.

When I reviewed their site it was clear that they had spent resources creating an effective website. The product wasn't one I was familiar with and so to see what was currently out there, I naturally did some very top line research via Google. I wrote down a few keywords, looked at who else was advertising, who was appearing organically in the search listings and checked out competitor sites to review pricing to get a feel for the scope of the landscape.

That top line research must have taken me all of about 15 minutes to do - however, having done this very short exercise, it become very apparent that the owners of the site that had been referred to me must never have undertaken such a simple and very basic exercise.

Very quickly I had observed that:

  • There were lots of similar products available - and one could argue, better quality than the ones they were offering - for a 10th (yes, that’s right I said a 10th) of the price this company were selling them at.
  • There was absolutely nothing unique about the product offering - and I noticed that other sites had much clearer purchasing processes and visible customer testimonials already in place.

Without going into detail, it's a difficult conversation to have with an enthusiastic business owner who has clearly spent money and resources building a site around a product they love.

All they were looking for was a plan of how we were going to help them strengthen their online presence - when in fact the conversation I had to have focused on addressing the issues around the product.

Doing business online changes the playing field from doing business at a tradefair or on the high street - even if this product were to be uber optimised for search and purchasing processes were made to be the simplest and most user friendly possible, even if you dominated the top results in Google and were all over the social media platforms leveraging traffic to your site - people online are always going to check out the competitor sites and compare products and prices - all within a matter of a few minutes.  It’s just too easy to do – so why wouldn’t you.

I queried the price positioning with the company - and their reason for being so much higher than the competition was because their production costs to create the product didn't enable them to price the product in line with the competition.

So effectively they were offering a product that was expensive and widely available for much less from lots of other places which had lots of positive reviews. Er - that's not great on or off line – but online, where users can quickly browse to another site, it’s a total no no.

Just because the Internet has flattened the competitive landscape and the barriers to entry have been minimised thus opening the doors for budding entrepreneurs to set up a website and market online - let's not forget that the basic fundamentals of business still very much apply:

You still need to do your research and understand your market and competitors.

  • Your cost of goods needs to be determined so that you can clearly identify whether the business is feasible and sustainable.

Doing business online has so many positives - but remember too that ‘online’ you are also very exposed - competitors and alternative information is just a click away.

So, if you have spent time and money creating a website and getting people to click on your site - then don't lose them simply because your value proposition doesn't stack up.  The product comes first – make sure that’s great, or has something great alongside it – then take advantage of the benefits of reach the online arena offers.

Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a marketing consultancy and design services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of strategic marketing, digital marketing and graphic design covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.
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