Let’s talk about strategy for a second.
If the Internet has torn down so many of the traditional barriers that prevented businesses from becoming successful, why is making money online so much harder than doing business in “the real world”?
Well, strangely enough, the lack of barriers is actually a disadvantage since it pushes more competitors into your market. This actually makes it HARDER to do business online, rather than EASIER.
Also, you must keep in mind that if you DO become successful, other people will begin to copy you… or even automate your tactics! If you haven’t properly defended your position, they can quickly move in to drown out your lead generation channel. We see this every day with successful online start-ups.
This is especially true of business models that rely heavily on PPC, SEO and Social Media marketing.
You can protect your position by firmly establishing a sustainable competitive advantage for your company. Since most of your competitors will be mainly focusing on easy sales and low-hanging fruit, you can intentionally go after markets that offer very difficult barriers to entry.
- You might try exclusively targeting large companies. (Requires access to hard-to-reach high-level decision makers)
- You could get a celebrity to endorse your company in exchange for equity. (This would give you access to a market/fan base that your competitors can’t reach)
- You might try to get featured on national television or in major newspapers & magazines. (GoldenPalace.com has done a great job with this)
All of these strategies have 2 things in common. They are extremely difficult to implement, and nearly impossible to copy once you’ve got first-mover advantage. These are all long-term sustainable competitive advantage.
But once you attain this position, it’s very easy to keep it.
These sustainable competitive advantages are often all-or-nothing propositions. You have to commit to your plan and follow it through all the way. You either make it big or fail in spectacular fashion.
Unlike with SEO, your competitors will never be able to hire a team of off-shore workers to knock you out of your sustainable competitive advantage. You’ll be securely protected, with exclusive access to a lucrative customer base.
Let’s take a look at some online companies with true sustainable competitive advantages:
- Ebay isn’t just an online auction site. They’ve invested heavily in establishing a strong presence as a community leader in a number of niches. They don’t just build customers, they cultivate long-term relationships.
- Amazon has a patent on one-click purchasing, which prevents their competitors from offering a similar level of convenience. Also, they’ve established a strong community around the discussions and reviews of their products.
- Microsoft has locked-in relationships with computer manufacturers that have allowed its operating system to become the “industry standard” for software developers.
- Google has spent many years creating the most sophisticated anti-spam algorithms of any search engine, ensuring the best search experience and the most relevant results. IT would take many years and many millions of dollars to duplicate or improve upon what they’ve created.
Sure, all of the traditional online marketing channels are great for generating leads. But if your company is serious about long-term success, you need to pick a strong, focused position and just go for it. Throw all of your energy into being the best at something that your customers care about, and that your competitors will never be able to duplicate.
About The Guest Author: Paul Rudo has been a freelance business consultant for over 5 years. He specializes in B2B marketing for technology companies and organizations targeting geographically local clients.