The Threat of Commoditisation

The need for an effective, well managed and SEO / SMO optimised website is a given for any serious business today and pay per click’s effectiveness is many industries is indisputable. However (well there had to be one) all these tools are nothing more than the 21st century equivalent of the good ol’ Yellow Pages and classified local press ads. In other words, these days, they are the bare minimum you need to promote your business – not as is often suggested, all you need.

A VERY DIGITAL PROBLEM

In the past year we have seen a very different problem emerge. Clients from all industries and all walks of life are telling us their prospect enquiries are nearly all judging them and making their purchase decision based on one single factor alone – price. As they say, you reap what you sow. It would appear that while the digital age has allowed us to use the Internet to reach a much wider target audience than we ever thought possible, it has also made us so time poor that we skim read everything. Consequently, AdWords and website content only work on a very simplified level to attract traffic to our websites – via those commonly used search terms. But what happens when they get there? They leave almost immediately because there simply isn’t a compelling reason to stay once they have ascertained the relevance of the product / service description and compared the price.

THE ORGANIC LIMITATION

Differentiation is vital if you are going to persuade customers not only to buy from you but also to pay more for your goods and services than they might have expected. Assuming profit is not a dirty word in your vocabulary, your organisation will only grow organically so much if SEO and PPC is all you rely on. What you really need is proactive marketing. Why? Because it will break you out of the digital / organic straightjacket to help you identify and seize significant market share from your competitors using a sustainable, affordable marketing campaign that integrates all channels together – across both digital and traditional media. The net result is a cumulative reinforced message that captures your target audiences’ imagination by clearly setting out why they should choose you and what you’re worth in their eyes.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

So why is this so important? Well, put simply we’ve been fooling ourselves into thinking our marketing just needs to consist of a website and some SEO with a bit of social media and blogging on the side. The great thing here is everyone is behaving the same, so the commoditisation is affecting your competitors every bit as much as it is affecting you. And if all our website and SEO and PPC does is encourage price comparison, then the only effect is that margins are squeezed to the point of no return and the discounted price expectation becomes the norm in customers’ minds.

The mind-boggling assumption here that we are in danger of compounding is that our customers believe all our goods and services are essentially homogenous – i.e. they basically have the same quality, functionality, longevity and performance. Therefore they believe the only true barometer for comparison is price. Value for money, build quality and even sustainability are all irrelevant. This simply isn’t true!

THE OPPORTUNITY IN DISGUISE

Ok, so enough hand wringing – how do you combat commoditisation? There is in fact a huge opportunity here. If every one of our competitors is behaving the same way, all we have to do to stand out is to behave differently and be seen to be doing so. While they are embarking on what we affectionately call RAMS – Random Acts of marketing, you can identify or create a point of difference that is so strong, your clients will pay more for your goods and services because they are provided by you. And this is where the power of having and using a brand can really kick-start your marketing. Here’s a framework we have found works very well – particularly if you have a great creative team like ours, to bring it to life.

1. The starting point is always the website. Create a volume of high quality visual and written content that screams: “Why choose us?” from every pore and demonstrates that you really do understand what the client needs rather than think they want.

2. A great hotelier sleeps in all their own hotel rooms. Why? – So they can add in all the subtle features that make a good hotel room great and remove all the niggles ensuring their guests never even encounter them. Now apply this philosophy to visiting your website as a prospective customer and refine your site accordingly.

3. Next look at your SEO again. Think laterally. SEO can be dangerous because we often miss the less obvious search or indirect search terms. Consider value and quality related search terms.

4. Now look at your Social and Blog posts and bin it all. If you were launching your company tomorrow what three fundamental facts you would like everyone to know about you and your business. Then write about it with all the passion that you can muster.

5. What relationship do you really have with your customers? Create a value added service that is second to none and devise a way to tell your target audiences about it.

6. Above all… be genuinely imaginative and creative with your marketing. Most campaigns are so dull these days, which is good in a way because it doesn’t take as much creative effort to stand out from the crowd and get noticed. More importantly, it reduces risk because distinctive, marketing has higher recall and so increases likelihood of a sale.

Commoditisation is a digital disease. No one is immune. Combating it is not as hard or as expensive as it may seem and who knows, if you address it properly, you might just catch your competitors napping.