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Don't Duplicate... Differentiate!
By Michel Fortin

In the competitive marketplace of the new millennium, the demand for specialized products or services will increase. If your site sells everything or to everyone, chances are that your audience will not perceive any greater value in shopping from you than anyone else. Keep in mind that price is *never* an issue -- what's important is the value behind the price.

Price is an arbitrary figure that merely represents the value of an offering. Here's an example: you walk to your local home furnishings store. You ask the sales clerk, "How much for that washer?" to which he responds, "$600." "Wow! That's a lot of money," you exclaim. "The price is way too high for me. I just cannot afford that." This is a typical knee-jerk response.

Moments later, you walk by a car dealership and notice that favorite new car you've been itching to buy for the last month and a half. You walk in. "It's $25,000," says the salesperson. "Wow! That's great!"

You drive it off the lot that same day.

If you could not afford the $600 washer, why could you afford the $25,000 car? So, price is never an issue. In the case of the car, the perceived value matched or surpassed the price, which wasn't the case with the washer -- i.e., the washer was too pricey based on its perceived value. Therefore, if *your* value is perceived as equal to that of others, naturally the cheapest alternative will win. Price is only a metric -- a currency to which most people can relate. Take the weather, for example. When you meet someone for the first time, the weather will likely be a topic of discussion. In terms of degrees or temperature, the weather is the same for everyone. But "hot" and "cold," however, are different.

Similarly, price is only used when there's nothing to which one can compare your value. (Of course, price is not the only metric, but it is the most common one. Most people easily understand units of dollars rather than value. Value is more subjective and personal.) Therefore, if you're too similar to your competition, price will always be (or become) an issue.


The more unique you are, the less competition you will have. And the less competition you will have, the less substitutable you are (or your product is). And the less substitutable you are, the less elastic the demand for your product will be (i.e., the less important price becomes, in this case).

The more unique you are, the less competition you will have. And the less competition you will have, the less substitutable you are (or your product is). And the less substitutable you are, the less elastic the demand for your product will be (i.e., the less important price becomes, in this case).

So, if you try to copy your competition, or trying to promote your offering as one that's better than your competition, like it or not you're only reminding people of that which you are better: your competition! So, don't duplicate. Differentiate! Or as Earl Nightingale once said, "Don't copy. Create!"

Being all things to all people will likely help you to stumble onto some people who will visit your site and respond to your offer -- it's the law of averages. Increase your hits and you will increase your sales. But that's not the problem. The problem, with such an approach, is the fact that you must generate a large quantity of hits in order to produce a certain result.

The more general or broad you are, the more you will need to paint your website or content with broad brushstrokes in order to appeal to everyone. In the end, the traffic you do generate will be just as general or broad.

Even if your product is a perfect fit for some visitors, it will only be a fit for a small percentage. Additionally, the "generalness" you project will likely convey that your value is equal to that of others and that there's no added value in buying from you than in buying from others. This is when price becomes the metric with which people will measure your value.

Additionally, out of the small handful of qualified prospects that hopefully hit your site, a large number of them -- if not all of them -- will likely leave due to your apparent lack of understanding of their specific needs, goals and concerns. In short, the more general you are, the less value you have.

However, the sales you generate will increase dramatically if your site is narrowly centered on a specific theme, product, audience or outcome. And niche marketing has an added benefit: the need to produce a sufficient quantity of visitors to produce similar results will lessen considerably.

Offline, being everything to everyone is understandable to a certain degree since, geographically, a niche will likely be small. Online, however, niche marketing can work since a market will expand, even if it is a small niche.

But it's a double-edged sword.

Since the web increases your target market, it also increases the competition as a byproduct. Thus, niche marketing is even more important online since, by narrowing your focus, you both increase your niche AND decrease your competition!

Here's an illustration: let's say that your best client is the corporate executive earning $50,000 annually or more, and that your site receives approximately 200,000 hits per month.

If your site's message aims for the public at large, you have a problem. There will only be a small percentage of that ideal market (i.e., corporate execs earning $50,000) that will hit your site. (And an even smaller percentage will genuinely be qualified for, and interested in, your offering).

For the sake of example, let's say that this percentage is around 0.1%. That means that, out of 200,000 monthly visitors, only 200 will fit your perfect customer profile (and that's a very optimistic figure). And since your site is too general or too vague, an even smaller percentage of those 200 executives -- let's say about 0.5% -- will be truly interested in your offer and eventually buy. In this case, 0.5% (of 200 qualified visitors) would equal to a mere client for an entire month.

Looking at it in reverse it means that, if you want to achieve at least a single sale per month from this ideal market, your site will thus require at least 200,000 visitors on a monthly basis. So, based on the law of averages your marketing efforts will need to multiply exponentially in order to create a high enough quantity of traffic to yield acceptable results.

Now, take the example of another website dedicated exclusively to corporate executives earning over $50,000. However, this site receives a meager 5,000 visitors per month -- admittedly, it's not a lot, especially when compared to the other. But in this case, the percentage of those 5,000 that fall into that site's target market will be 100% -- a 10,000% improvement!

Furthermore, the percentage of interested leads that are in a much better position to buy will be far higher by virtue of the fact that the site centers on their specific needs, goals and concerns. The perceived value of the site, in other words, will be greater in the mind of those specific prospects.

To be conservative, let's say that this percentage is only 5%. It means that out of 5,000 visitors per month, one can achieve 250 sales -- that's 249 more sales than the other (and, on top of that, with only a quarter of the traffic). But let's be a little more conservative for a moment. Let's say that only 1% buys. It's still a remarkable 500% improvement over the other, as 1% of 5,000 visitors equals to 5 sales per month.

Of course, the above example is when all things considered are equal -- I agree that there are many variables, here. But the spirit of this illustration is clear: it took an equal if not lesser investment of time, effort and money to achieve 250 sales per month than it did to achieve a single one.

So, there is much truth to the statement that you will get more with less. And online, where there is so much more of nothing, less is indeed more. Therefore, the paradox is true on the Internet: by narrowing your focus, you will likely broaden your chances of online success.

Jim Banks started selling carpets online in 1998. He admits that, at the time, he knew nothing about it. Says Banks: "I thought that it would be a non-competitive market ('who would want to sell carpet online?' I asked myself) and it would allow me to learn about this whole new Internet thing."

But at first, Jim floundered.

"I showed carpet on the website, sent out samples, and used a wholesaler in Georgia to deliver the goods. I made some money, but it was a lot of hard work. In fact, a lot of hand-holding of customers was required, and my time was a limiting factor in how much money I could make."

But then, Jim had an idea. He adds: "I had read one or two of your articles at the time where you stressed the importance of niche marketing. And after thinking about that, and applying it to my industry, I came up with the idea of selling carpets and area rugs with children's designs (e.g., animals, letters, game boards, etc). Today, things are going very well!"

In conclusion, here's my advice: if you're looking at starting a business online, first find a niche and fill it. But if you already are doing business online, then narrow your focus to a specific outcome, audience or product. And finally, if you do sell everything to everyone already, I suggest breaking your business down by developing several sites, which sell the same things but targeted towards different segments of your market.

Don't be the best. Be the first. Be unique. Be different!

Related Articles:

How To Create A Niche - And Grow Rich!
A niche fills an unmet customer need. Niches are at the heart of every successful industry, business, product, or service. Niche marketing is the opposite of mass (general) marketing. It targets specific people with specialized needs. Niches are what build industries, businesses, and jobs.

How to Carve Your Niche in the Marketplace
Trying to find and sell clients is becoming an increasingly difficult endeavor. What is a better, more effective, approach to generate good quality prospects? A solution to this dilemma is to generate leads (not clients) that are already pre-qualified and pre-sold, even before prospects are marketed to.

Increase Sales - By Using A "Safety" Niche!
The vital need for more safety is a daily need that never goes away. If you can show others how your product or service can add safety to their life, you’d have a powerful niche.

Narrow Your Focus to Broaden Your Sales
Today's rapidly changing, technology-driven marketplace mandates a sharper marketing aim. If your business doesn't have one, you're going to either have a really tough time or require a huge marketing budget.


Michel Fortin is a master copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. Get a FREE copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," and subscribe to his FREE monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill," by visiting SuccessDoctor.com now!

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