Saturday, February 10, 2007

The niche is the trick (first part)

Small business ecommerce: it's amazing how literally hundreds of thousands of businesses all over the world, every day, sell their products and services using a tool that a decade ago virtually didn't exist. At Early Impact - the company that I co-founded several years ago - we have the privilege of seeing companies start from scratch and grow an online business, in a ton of different industries, selling all kinds of stuff, every day. It's truly fascinating... if you care at all about this ecommerce thing, that is.

This is my first post here. So let's not waste time and get right to it. The trick to being successful selling online is focusing on a niche. That's it. Focus on a niche market, and you chances of being successful go way up. Interested? Read on.

Targeting a niche means you don't sell office supplies: you sell sexy office supplies for women (in case you are wondering, that's a "real" target market: I didn't come up with it, the ladies at SeeJaneWork did - and they sell a ton of those pink binders!).

Focus, focus, focus. Narrow the list of products (or services) you want to sell. Become the expert. Become one of the gurus in your market. It'll pay off big time.

Let's dig deeper. Why is focusing on a niche so important? I'll give you 5 great reasons. Let's start with number one. Then I'm going to shut down the computer and read a book. And I'll add the other 4 (or maybe more) in future posts. No marketing trick to have you come back to this blog. I just can't write all that in one post.

ONE: Niche = SEO
What the heck is that? Target a niche, and - believe me - it'll help tremendously with your SEO efforts. SEO is an Internet buzzword that many of you know already. If you don't, it stands for Search Engine Optimization. That is: you'd better get your Web store to show up on search engines if you want to be successful.

Well, guess what? Focusing on a niche can be a crucial part of your search engine optimization strategy. Why? Because when you focus, you focus on something you know and care about.

So you'll write articles, product reviews, how-to guides, tips & tricks, frequently asked questions, maybe even a blog! And when you do that, you're working on the most important element of your SEO strategy: lots of quality, keyword-rich text for your Web pages.

Of course good search engine rankings are the result of a lot of other things. The structure of your Web site, the way your Web pages are written, the external (links from other domains) and internal (links within your site) popularity of your pages, etc. etc. But the truth is: good content triggers interest, which triggers links, which triggers visits, which trigger sales. I've seen it so many times. And even if you stop at the "trigger links" step, that's crucial, as you well know: get good quality incoming links, and your Web store will start climbing up in the search engine rankings.

Selling baby products is tough. That industry is crazy competitive. What about organic baby stuff? That sounds more doable if you are a small business with a limited marketing budget. The nice folks at Better For Babies really care about organic baby products: look at all the stuff they write on their Web site. Search for "organic diapers" on Google and they're in the top 10 results (at least when I checked :-). Can people read there and then shop elsewhere? Sure. But many will stay and shop. And the online store is very likely to grow and prosper. And that's exactly what we see happen over and over here at Early Impact.

So to recap: you are a small business, you've got an online store (or starting one) and a limited marketing budget. You've got to focus on a niche. One reason is that...
  • You're likely going to focus on stuff you know and care about
  • You've got the knowledge to add lots of good information to your Web store
  • You'll naturally spend time adding all kinds of content that shows you know your stuff
  • Your store visitors will like what they see... and search engines too!
  • Niche = SEO

What do you think?

Number 2 comes in a few days...

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