Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Hunting Story

Yesterday, I was meeting with one of my students, and he told me a story that so beautifully illustrated one of my core principles of internet marketing, that I asked his permission to share it here.

He told me of a friend of his that lived near him in Arizona for a number of years. He and this friend loved to go hunting, though they rarely got the chance to go together. Still, they got together socially often, and when they would, my student would admire the trophies on his friend’s wall. Magnificent examples of wildlife, of deer and antelope, the kind a hunter dreams of seeing, even more so of taking.

Time after time, my student asked his friend the secret to bagging these big bucks. His friend always demurred, preferring to keep it to himself. Year after year, season after season, my student tried to pry open this man’s mind and experiences to get at the gem that would bring him the same hunting success.

Finally, after years, the man relented and gave his secret.

“I go where the deer are.”

He continued, “If there are no deer there, I don’t hunt there.”

What profound simplicity. Hello, Mr. Obvious!

And yet, how many of us are frustrated about our failing businesses and we don’t see that one simple point. Maybe we’re hunting where there are no deer!

When I translate that into business terms, especially on the Internet, it boils down to three steps:

  1. Identify your audience
  2. Find out where they are
  3. Go there

Let’s look a little more in-depth at those.

  1. Identify your audience

This can often be the hardest part of this exercise. If you don’t know if you’re hunting deer or duck, how will you know where to go, and what kind of gear to bring? Sometimes the audience will be clear right from the start, like if you’ve got a product that’s already a niche product. Other products are more general and you might have to explore a bit and find out who the audience is. If you’re starting a business based on a hobby or interest, you also have a bit of an edge, because YOU are a part of the audience.

In some situations, you might have lots of options as to who your audience could be, and you get to choose who to go after first.

In all cases, be wary of the temptation to think, “The world is my audience!” That kind of broad market might work if you’ve got millions of dollars in your ad budget. For home business startups, I’d rethink it.

  1. Find out where they are

Once you’ve identified who you want to aim at, the next step is to find them. This may well take some time and exploration. It’ll also be an ongoing effort, throughout the life of your business.

Head out on the net and look for sites that appeal to your audience. Some will relate to your business as well, others will seem to be divergent. Still, you’ll have one thing in common with them: customers!

Look for online communities and forums. Look for subgroups within larger groups, like the message groups in What blogs, books, and magazines do your people read? Where do they shop? Where do they meet other people?

  1. Go there

Finally, when you’ve identified and found your audience, the next step is to get the word about your website in front of them. Reciprocal linking is a great way to start. Find a site that relates to your audience, and contact them. “I’ll link to you, if you link to me” is simple and clear.

Participate in the forums. Post messages in the chats and communities. Buy ads, if you can.

These three simple steps will help you bag the big business bucks!

Mark is the Director of Education for Clickincome, and a frequent contributor to e-Shop Talk Magazine.

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