Do some businesses have an obvious advantage Online vs Others?

It’s rare to find businesses that can’t succeed Online, but occasionally we find sectors that should GO large.

We’ve been working in marketing for 30+ years, E-Commerce for 25 years and online marketing for 15 years so it’s little surprise that we’ve seen a lot and learnt even more. And over this time we’ve faced many challenges and been asked to help solve a lot of Online Strategy Problems.

In all this time we’ve striven to give honest advice (not always appreciated or called for) and haven’t just been chasing increased turnover for our business. It’s what helped lead to our rebranding as Seriously Helpful.

With this DNA the pressure is on us to always ensure we try and act in our client’s best interests and we take that responsibility seriously enough to apply to prospective new clients too. With a hand on our heart, we can then justifiably say that we claim a client has an untapped online opportunity, it’s because it’s true.

And this is pretty much always the case. Each market is big enough to enable new opportunities to be unearthed in hidden corners and niches, or because competitors aren’t approaching it right.

From memory, we’ve only ever had one prospective client who had a proposition we didn’t think would work well online. It was so unusual (a new product in some niche aspect of the PR industry) that we couldn’t work out in a million years what a prospective customer might type into the internet or a search engine to find such a service. Neither could the prospective client – so we turned down the budget and they built a business using Sales Representatives door-knocking.

That then is a rare example of a business that couldn’t succeed online, at least not at the start. But is the opposite true – are there particular businesses that lend themselves to specific marketing channels?

The answer is a resounding YES and it reminds me of a mystery from my early days in Marketing.

Conventional wisdom in the late ’70s, and early ’80s was that as Print Advertising was hugely expensive (circa £20,000 for a single page advert not being unknown – that’s enough to buy a small house), then only high-value products like cars (and maybe even houses) could be sold that way. Alternatively, they’d break the page into smaller affordable chunks.

Then along comes Marketing legend Bob Scott who went on to found Scotcade and later Scotts of Stow, the Mail Order experts. Now Bob was not only a Marketing genius, he knew how to spot a Sweet Spot.

  • If my memory serves me correctly, to the amazement of the media, other advertisers, and even consumers, Bob and his Marketing agency BMP/SJIP started running full-page adverts for a £5.99 alarm clock. If you’ve read my blog about CPA you’ll understand that it’s a seemingly impossible task to recoup say £10,000 (let’s assume they bought cheap) of media cost on a product that maybe only makes £0.50 profit per unit. You’d need to sell 20,000 units from a single advert. If we assume a circulation of say 2 million for said tabloid newspaper, that’s a sales rate of 1%, assuming of course every reader sees the advert.
  • I couldn’t find an example in the archives of the cheap clock, but here is an example of a full-page advert promoting an early games console for less than £20 – with inflation it would equate to just £150 today, so was a true bargain in 1980.

Full sized avert in newspaper from the 1980s for a games console

This was unheard of and tapping this particular Sweet Spot was only possible by using an extremely compelling copywriter of the style probably most popularised by David Ogilvy. Having the confidence to identify interesting products ahead of the trend and then buy them in sufficient volume to get the costs down forms the other half of the equation to success back then.

This magic formula worked for Bob for many years, he then sold out, did something similar again, sold out again, and the new owners kept on going. They still trade today, albeit not with so much dazzle.

Can such a trick be repeated? Do Sweet Spots exist Online?

They do, and every couple of years our research either throws up one, such as a market niche, or we find a whole sector whose dynamics fit Online Marketing perfectly yet nobody is really tapping into the opportunity. And once spotted, it’s worth Going Large as fast as you can and boost your Marketing spend quickly.

  • A few years ago we identified Balance Bikes (kids’ bicycles without peddles) as an emerging trend and flagged it to a nursery client. The product went on to become a Mothercare best-seller and may even have helped said brand survive a few years longer.

The other scenario we like is when the metrics just scream out as being favourable. So let’s say for example you have a product or service that sells for £10,000+ with a high-profit margin of 20%+.

If each customer can make you £2,000 each sale, and maybe even buy more than once, you can afford to have a high CPA to win them. A long-term SEO campaign can often deliver new customers with a Cost Per Acquisition as low as £0.50…….so why would you not choose to fill your boots ahead of the competition?

They might also be acquired for £50 via Paid Search or say £15 via Social Media Marketing but often we hear of businesses that don’t do any of these types of Marketing as “the Directors don’t like Google or Facebook”. We hate to say it, but those Directors are plain wrong when you’ve found an untapped niche.

If you can spot a Sweet Spot (and we can help) and start to target it heavily before your competitors wake up to it, it really can dramatically transform a business, almost overnight, by doubling, trebling, and even quadrupling sales and all for a lot less cost and risk than might be assumed. It’s not always easy and not always possible, but in our extensive experience, it’s certainly worth looking.