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The success rate for founding a Minor League baseball team is much greater than it is for a Major League team. The reason is obvious. The barrier to entry gets significantly higher from the Minors to the Majors. And, in that sense, baseball is not unlike other businesses.

Entering a well-established, price-sensitive market has a high entry barrier. The current players are entrenched and well known. The operating costs are high.

Despite such obstacles, people with passion will persevere. When faced with an obstacle, what kind of marketing and selling activities can a company launch to get into the game?

If baseball isn't your game and you're not concerned about tearing down walls, what other barriers are preventing you from stepping up to the plate? A crowd of 100,000 “MarketingProfs Today” readers is available to cheer you on and give you the support you need. You will receive a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

This Week's Dilemma

Marketing in a tough niche field

I have a new product for an old marketplace. This market is tough and highly price-sensitive, with many world-renowned players who have established business. I know my product will run circles around the competition. What marketing and selling activities will help me play in a tough niche field? What tactics would help me take off and sustain this challenging niche market for the long run?

—Stephen, Director of Product Marketing

Previous Dilemma

Winning ideas needed for marketing site extreme makeover

We're going to redo our marketing Web site that targets marketing professionals. Obviously, it's important to consider our clients' needs when working on the requirements. However, I am sure all marketing companies share a few common elements as to what works and doesn't work on a marketing business Web site. We're avoiding the “brochure-style” Web site in favor of a more dynamic model. What have you found that gets the attention of your target audience and helps develop a two-way relationship?

—Michael, Marketing Manager

Summary of Advice Received

It's cliché… but remains true: content is king (or queen, if you prefer). Do you think commercials would be talked about if products were just plopped on a TV screen and sat there? Instead, a script, music and visuals surround the product to get viewers more interested; otherwise, they tune out. Readers suggest three ways to make over your Web site:

1. Provide lots of content.

2. Communicate through email newsletters and blogs.

3. Study your Web site's stats for makeover ideas.

1. Provide lots of content

Search engines love it. Potential customers love it. Current customers love it. The press loves it. What do they all love? Content. Anything to feed their thirst for knowledge and keywords is a boon. Alan K'necht of K'nechtology Inc. provides a variety of options for putting content on a Web site:

One of the biggest bangs for the buck that continues to generate leads from content-driven sites is the white paper. When properly configured, the user/Web site visitor is required to register (provide name and email address as a minimum, and where possible, a phone number, job title and company name) prior to downloading the white paper. This is a sure winner for gaining leads from a Web site. Old sites may have given this information away for free; the smart Web site now requires the user to leave behind some valuable information.

A variation on this theme for marketing books is to provide a free chapter under the same conditions as above.

With this information in hand and a proper marketing strategy, automatic and personalized emails can be sent to the person as follow-up correspondence and other teasers to help convert them into customers.

As part of establishing online credibility, there is nothing like customer testimonials. A good Web site testimonial not only includes the customers' comments, but also their full name, their company name and location plus a link to their site. If you're proud enough to post the testimonial, show that it is real by giving a bit more information.

In addition to white papers, consider articles, tips and case studies. If you offer books, research papers or any other reports for sale, offer a sampling of them to your Web visitors. This whets the reader's appetite and shows that you have enough faith in your product to let them see a little before they buy. Also, it puts the search engines on the alert to help your site from a search engine optimization and keyword perspective. Read on for more content ideas.

2. Communicate through email newsletters and blogs

Email newsletters and blogs are content, but they're special content and deserve a category of their own. They connect the company with its clients and potential customers. Email newsletters go to the customers' email boxes, and they should also be archived on your Web site for more... you got it: search engine happiness. Having archives is important for convincing new visitors to subscribe, as many won't without a sample.

Successful newsletters involve the readers by inviting them to submit questions, complete polls and surveys, enter contests and take action on offers or links listed in the newsletter. Pam Granzin of marketing communications with Transamerica Reinsurance shares her experiences in a marketing department for a large company:

Our B2B communications efforts target a select group of US insurance companies. We have published a quarterly newsletter for many years, which features stories about current industry issues and our company's solutions. A couple of years ago, we started an electronic newsletter, which is published on average six times a year for more timely delivery of company news, promotions and speaking engagements.

We've had a tremendous and unexpected boon to our Web site usage stats by publishing the printed newsletter on the Web (after the print version has been distributed to clients) and using the electronic newsletter to promote the stories. We've also seen an increase in subscription requests for the free printed newsletter.

In months when the electronic newsletter has been published, our hit ratio and time spent on the Web site goes up by 20 percent or more. The close association and monitoring of the relationship between the electronic newsletter, the printed newsletter and the Web usage stats have helped us improve content and better meet client needs in all three.

Why stop there? Not everyone wants something by email. Cairril Mills, owner and designer of Cairril.com Design, provides more thoughts on other electronic communications:

You can do a variety of technical things to help develop trust and two-way relationships, such as blogs and e-newsletters. High-value content really *does* make a difference in terms of making you stand out from competitors. (I just had a client tell me the other day, "There's so much on your site that doesn't point to a sales pitch; you're a great information provider and that makes me trust you more than all the other firms who only post enough to tell how great they are.")

But those are mechanics, and will only go so far. You'll stand above 80 percent of your peers, but how do you become truly unique? Communicate your unique personality. That's something no other brand has. People can get good information on marketing just about anywhere, but if they can get it from a brand they *like,* they're going to be more loyal.

Marketing is an extremely competitive field and it's increasingly coming down to "Who's going to be the most fun for me to work with?" If clients can get great product anywhere, they're going to evaluate potential providers on the basis of what kind of relationship they'll have. Getting the best marketing in the world is not nearly as compelling as getting the best marketing and really enjoying the process, too!

Blogs are interactive because they offer a comments feature. They provide companies with the opportunity to let people hear the real voice behind the organization. When a new issue of the newsletter is published, announce it in the blog to attract those who would rather read it online than in an email.

3. Study your Web site's stats for makeover ideas

A treasure chest might be hidden in your own Web site. Cairril Mills reveals the secret:

Before you do anything, check your stats! A wealth of data can be gleaned from Web site logs, including how many visitors are currently coming to your site, how much traffic is driven by search engines versus other means, keywords people use to find you, the countries your visitors are browsing from and more. This is the most overlooked step in creating a killer Web makeover: fully understanding what's gone before.

Marketers love data, especially when it describes their customers. Web stats provide plenty of hints. Use the logs to help build customer profiles. Every detail is a step toward providing the right thing to the customer.

Web sites aren't about looks; they're about what's inside that's useful for visitors.

When you put many heads together, you usually get more ideas. Let the MarketingProfs team of readers turn you into a star player. Tell us what needs strengthening, and we'll work on getting a well-conditioned solution for you.

Continue reading "SWOT Team: Marketing in the Major Leagues" ... Read the full article

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.


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