The Internet is NOT a Market

An all-too-common perspective

I was interviewing a new client recently and was running through the usual qualifying questions with him – the first of which was: “Can you tell me which market your products are targeting?” His response startled me. He said: “well that’s easy, it’s the Internet!” I paused, not quite sure, how to break the news to him. 

I’m sure he was thinking: wow, this guy is really lame, I offer Internet services, who did he think my market would be?

And I was thinking: No wonder he’s got no traffic to his site and he’s spending $200 a day on Adwords advertising and getting no conversions.

The problem is that his view mirrors that of many businesses – that the Internet, all by itself, is a market and all that it takes to tap it is to be present in it.

But The Internet is NOT a market.

The Internet is no more a market than a post office or television channel is. Like those, it’s a medium – it is a means of reaching a market. Potential buyers can reach through the Internet to find your products or services or you can reach through the Internet to find them. But just being on the Internet – having a website, for example – is no guarantee that you are present to your potential market. In fact, only posting a website is a bit like holding up a sign in the middle of Grand Central Station in New York City hoping somebody will stop and order from you.

Finding your market on the Internet.

So if you’re on the Internet, how do you reach into that amorphous mass of would-be buyers to find your market? It’s not as hard as you think. There are several reliable ways to do just that:

    1. Use targeted outbound marketing to drive traffic to you site. Direct marketing is more targeted than posting a website. Use direct mail or direct email to drive traffic to your site. Using banners in market-specific e-newsletters is also a good way to get market-specific traffic.
    2. Use search engines optimization efforts focused on market-specific keyword to narrow the traffic to your website more to those in your marketplace.
    3. Create carefully constructed keyword search engine PPC marketing campaigns to drive traffic to your site.
    4. Ensure that your site is listed in market-specific directory sites to pre-screen traffic to your site.
    5. Use partner and affiliate links to push pre-qualified traffic to your site.
    6. Article marketing - using market-specific content with backlinks to your site is an excellent way to drive relevant and qualified traffic to your site.

A few precautions...

Whatever form of market targeting you use make sure they include strong and market-specific offers. A weak offer or an offer with too-generalized appeal defeats your purpose. Also, in whatever you do, it’s always a good idea to construct a few test offers or test campaigns first.

Why target anyway?

Some businesses do get away with generalized marketing or poorly targeted Internet campaigns - for a while. They might get the “low-hanging fruit” but it never works in the long run. First, generalized marketing is only a symptom that the business does not really know who its market is. This means that the business will have more than selling problems to hamper their growth. Second, generalized campaigns will always prove to be more expensive than targeted campaigns and will always result in a worse ROI than market-targeted campaigns.

Get serious

Using the Internet as a medium for your market and means of boosting your sales offers many benefits. But if you are going to use the Internet as a marketing vehicle, get serious about it – make sure you don’t lose your market focus by throwing offers to the general Internet visitor. Invest in going all the way with it – carefully target everything you do on the Internet - it’s not expense and it will pay off big.