How To Do Internet Marketing For Businesses Serving Multiple Markets
GEORGE: Yeah, yeah. She's seeing this guy, Art Vandelay.
SUSAN: So what does he do?
GEORGE: He's an importer-exporter.
SUSAN: What kind of problems are they having?
GEORGE: (not happy delivering Elaine's lie) Well, he uh, he wants to uh, quit
the exporting and uh, focus just on the importing. And it's a problem, because
she thinks the exporting is as important as the importing. […]
SUSAN: So, what does he uh, import?
ELAINE: (extemporizing) Uh... chips.
SUSAN: Oh. What kinda chips?
ELAINE: (embroidering) Some corn.
SUSAN: And what does he export?
ELAINE: Diapers. […]
SUSAN: Hi. (pointedly) So, George, what does Art Vandelay import?
George looks surprised by the question, and thinks for a moment before replying.
GEORGE: Matches? Long matches.
Susan raises her arm, and delivers the second punch that George has received
today. George is thrown backwards out of the door by the blow, and Susan slams
the door behind him.
(Seinfeld — “The Cadillac, Part 2”)
Imports, exports, diapers, potato chips — how does this company convey a cohesive brand and generate leads? George Costanza’s fictitious import/export business highlights Internet marketing challenges that are all too real for companies serving multiple markets. Among the important questions such firms wrestle with:
- Should we have one website or multiple websites?
- Do we need one Internet marketing strategy or several?
In true marketing fashion, I’ll answer these two questions by saying: it depends. However, we can take a deeper look and find useful insights to help guide the decision making process.
Multiple Websites Are Expensive
Maintaining multiple websites is an expensive proposition. For starters, technical support costs for hosting, website maintenance and social media troubleshooting/updates will rise significantly. However, depending on how different and complex the websites are, there may be some offsetting efficiencies. For example, operating two unique websites on a single Drupal CMS platform can be supported more efficiently than one WordPress website for lead generation and a Magento website for e-commerce.
Perhaps more significant than maintenance costs are the SEO costs associated with multiple websites. Generally speaking, an effective SEO campaign in support of one website requires about $2500 or more — possibly much more. Every additional website will require such an investment. If SEO is a significant element of a firm’s Internet marketing strategy, which it often is, working with a single website is usually the more cost-effective alternative, by far.
The Audience Drives the Decision
For better or worse, cost effectiveness is not the driver in buttoning down an Internet marketing strategy — rather, it is the nature of the audiences a firm is marketing to. Art Vandalay is in for a tough time indeed if he goes to market with a single website for his potato chips, diapers and matches. Presumably, the buyers of these items are going to be quite different, which presents a great number of problems:
- When website visitors are confused, they click off. Usability expert Jakob Nielsen has determined the first 10 seconds of a page visit makes it or breaks it.
- Different audiences often demand fundamentally different writing styles: language with appeal to a mother buying diapers is quite different from what a wholesaler of matches would prefer. The same applies to a website’s design style and imagery.
- Website navigation becomes a terrific challenge to users. If it takes five clicks to find the potato chips, Mr. Vandalay’s potato chip prospects are going to get frustrated and give up.
All of this adds to lower conversion rates: fewer website visitors become prospects, and fewer prospects become customers. If this is the case, then gaining efficiencies for SEO and other Internet marketing campaigns really doesn’t provide much benefit: Even if the “efficient” SEO campaign is driving hundreds of thousands of visitors to the single website, what good does it do if none of them buy?
If, however, the firm’s markets and/or products are related, then a single website is definitely back in play. For instance, a company offering credit card processing solutions to local retailers, wholesalers and global enterprises can certainly market through one website, provided it is structured to let each audience segment quickly find relevant content.
Build Internet Marketing Programs Around Keywords
Whether a company settles on one website or multiple websites, keywords will be at the core of their Internet marketing strategy. Keywords, the words entered by users of Google, Bing and other search engines, are the foundation of SEO, paid search marketing (such as PPC advertising) and also influence social media marketing and content marketing.
For any of these Internet marketing campaigns, a firm must identify keywords people use to find the products and services they sell, and then determine which of them are most relevant and likely to convert into leads or customers. That list of keywords becomes the blueprint for ensuing campaigns.
Other than SEO, where activities are most efficient when directed at a single website, Internet marketing campaigns really hinge on finding the right combination of keywords that apply to a given product, service, product category or service category. Whether those products and services live on a single website or several is to a great extent immaterial.
Find the right keywords to drive leads and sales for your target products and services, and the rest of your Internet marketing strategy will fall into place.
Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of Straight North, an Internet marketing firm with headquarters near Chicago. You can learn more about Internet Marketing philosophies by reading his work on Website Magazine, Moz, and All Business.