How to win business when you’re not the cheapest or the best

Parachuting-Dollar-SignsTo become a market leader, you can be the cheapest, you can offer the best product, or you can provide the best service.

Unfortunately for most distributors, you’re not going to be the cheapest or have the best products, because you’re selling the same products from the same suppliers at the same price.

So it’s hardly surprising that most focus on providing the best service – researching product ideas, creating virtual samples, recommending the best imprint techniques, re-drawing artwork, taking the hit if the order isn’t delivered on time / to the client’s satisfaction etc.

But here’s the snag: although providing a great service is a tried and tested way of keeping customers loyal, you have to *have* the customers in the first place. It’s not smart to rely solely on existing customers (read what industry leaders have to say about that), so how can you win new business in a highly price-sensitive market?

Niche MarketingOne answer lies in targeting niche groups.

Rather than trying to sell to everyone, being a specialist gives you the opportunity to get great visibility on search engines, and makes you a preferred choice over generic distributors.

What’s a niche group?

Simply, a group of potential buyers who share some characteristics. At a basic level, a niche group could be the companies in your local area. They could be companies within a specific industry, i.e. charities, education, professional services.

How do you identify a suitable niche?

Niche MarketingStart by looking at your current customers. Do you sell a lot to a particular industry or area?

What’s contributed to your success? Is it that you have lots of contacts in that industry? Or plenty of experience in providing suggestions that really work? Maybe they have special requirements – supply chain compliance, a preference for union-made products – that you’re well equipped to handle.

If you don’t see any similarities between your customers, reach into your own background. Your previous jobs will have provided you with valuable insights into how certain industries work.

Your circumstances – where your friends and family work, if you’re a parent or veteran or motoring enthusiast – can also help.

What you need is an understanding of the needs of your chosen niche. Whether that’s kindergartens, charities, social services, real estate, sporting clubs, transport – you need to know them better than the average distributor knows them.

What’s the competition like?

The objective of selling into a niche is to avoid the vast number of distributors all trying to win ‘promotional product’ searches on Google. But some niches are already well served – so how do you find the sweet spot of ‘popular enough to be worth the effort but small enough to be overlooked by 4imprint’?

  • Write down all of the keywords people might use to find promotional products within your niche. For example, if you’ve selected the automotive industry, your list might look something like:
    • promotional items for car dealerships
    • auto dealership marketing supplies
    • custom logo auto accessories
    • personalized vehicle products
    • personalized car items
    • personalized car accessories
  • Google them, and see who’s coming up. Don’t be too dismayed by there being 11 million results – what’s of more interest is if anyone is paying for adverts. In the below example (for personalized vehicle products), there are no paid for text adverts.

No text ads on Google

This indicates that there isn’t a lot of interest in this search term, and that’s most likely because it’s not used very often. Yep, you trade not having to fight off Vistaprint with not getting a particularly high volume of traffic, but you’re looking for quality over quantity in niche marketing.

  • Use Google’s Keyword Planner to see what it estimates are the number of people searching for that term every month. You’ll need a Google Adwords account for this – they’re free to sign up for.

Google Keyword Planner

Once you’re logged into Google Adwords, click on Tools > Keyword Planner from the menu, and you’ll have an option to ‘Get search volume and trends’. Click on that, copy in your list of keywords, and see what’s getting some action.

Don’t worry about the competition or suggested bid, as that’s to do with pay-per-click advertising which we’re not concerned with right now. Just keep your eye on Avg. monthly searches. You want there to be some volume in there, however low – if it’s zero, it’s not really worth pursuing further.

If all of the keywords you thought up result in zero, you can also use the keyword planner to come up with new phrases. Again you’re looking for something which has some search volume, but not a lot of competition from sponsored adverts when you google it.

So you’ve found a niche that’s worth pursuing… Now what?

Bland-websitesThe next step is to start positioning your website, or at least part of your website, to appeal to the niche. This means building search engine optimized pages which utilize the keywords you’ve researched.

This article will guide you through the steps of creating search engine optimized pages on your website from a practical perspective.

If you follow the guidelines, you’ll start to get increased visibility on Google for your keywords, but I’m afraid it doesn’t stop there!

Driving visitors to your website is half the battle; the other half is persuading them to *do* something when they get there. It’s about building credibility, and giving them a reason to choose you. We’ll be following this article up with suggestions soon.

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