I know how it goes – you struggle in your online business to build readers.
You’re churning out content like a sausage grinder.
You’re bouncing all over social media
You’re working like a maniac.
And still – nobody cares about your products or services. Nobody buys what you’re selling.
I’ve been there.
It took me a long time to realize why this happens. The reality is that even with the best of intentions, you have to ask yourself one simple question if you’re trying to sell something in the marketplace…
Does this solve a big enough problem?
Allow me to explain – because I suspect you think the answer to whatever you’re doing is “yes,” and I guess the market says “no.”
In the end, you’ll find what you think is irrelevant. It’s the market that decides, not you.
Real problems that people have aren’t sweetness and light. They’re big fat hairy sweaty ones. They’re ugly. They’re sometimes things that people want to keep secret.
Those are the things that people get emotionally invested. Solving those problems is where online business success stories “crescendo.”
Consider my field – marketing and blogging.
What’s the #1 big fat hairy sweaty problem that bloggers face?
Where am I going to find READERS for my blog – so that I can build a following?
Now, how do I know this is a top problem.
I know this is true for two reasons. One, I know that blogger avatar well (I have spent a considerable amount of time studying it). Two, my suspicions are validated by the fact there are 15 million web pages dedicated to the very concept of finding readers for your blog. Most of these top ranking web pages lead to courses, coaching, and lots of other things that people are trying to sell.
All that content didn’t get created for whimsey. I know that bloggers have a hard time finding readers. As a matter of fact, most blogs get less than a thousand visits a month.
I suspect your blog is one of them.
That is a big fat hairy problem.
So you might be thinking, “Great! I’ll solve that problem!”
If I may remind you of what my second argument was, there are some 15 million pages dedicated to the big fat hairy sweaty problem.
At least one or two them must be good enough at solving it (one would think the first few Google results would be the best place to look).
Yet another blog on solving the “traffic and awareness” problem will be ignored.
Let’s be rational for a moment about that fact. If there are fifteen MILLION pages on the subject, mathematically you adding one or two or three pages of content (or more) is marginally insignificant.
So many of you trod off into solving a problem that you believe a “big problem,” and I suppose objectively it is, but since there is already so much discussion on that “big problem,” it’s a big problem that is more or less “solved.”
Your contribution to the market is going to be ignored. It’s human nature. It’s mathematics.
Ok, so what’s the solution then? (You must be asking yourself.)
Well first, you have to admit that the situation is what it is. As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes (1:9), “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
That also applies to online business.
Developing another “me too” blog is a waste of time and money.
So quite frankly, that’s probably what many of you have – a “me too” blog – that lacks personality, focus, or character.
But, here’s the thing – you know that traffic and awareness are a big problem. You know it cuts across the market, and it cuts across field. It is a fundamental challenge in content marketing – where am I going to find people to read my stuff?
There are two elements to successfully solving this challenge.
First, do you understand a market niche that has this problem?
Two, is that niche being adequately catered to – and if not – is there a reason why not?
Hence, a blog catering to “my big fat Italian middle aged married hairy male” problem.
(and by the way, for the record, I’m not hairy – I must be the only Italian male on earth who doesn’t look like a rug with eyeballs, plus I’m not particularly sweaty either).
Yeah, that guy has a problem – it’s called not having enough blog traffic.
But he’s not a millennial in his 30’s doing Snapchat and Vine.
He’s in his 40’s and 50’s, using Facebook, using Twitter, and blogging. He wants to know how is HE going to find readers for his blog.
And what he finds online is everything is geared towards millennials and techno-savvy geeks. It’s written for people who can put in 30-40-50 hours a week on building their audience. It’s organized in a way that he finds unfamiliar and confusing.
Oh, did I mention there is a million just like him out there as well?
Most business owners kill their chances because they start with a blog on a trivial topic designed to appeal to a massive number of people.
That’s a death sentence.
You have to find a high-value topic to a rather limited number of people – less than five million but more than a million people (online).
That may sound like it’s pigeon-holing you, and it is, but it’s entirely the correct strategy.
You may have a tremendous amount of fear in being so specific, but if you leverage the power of the internet, you’ll find there are potentially millions of people in little pockets all over the world that will grove on your offering.
We live in a world where it seems every insensitivity, every objection, every want, every whim, every utterance, explodes into a massive thing.
Ever ask yourself why?
I did. And I think the answer is pretty simple and pretty obvious, and highly relevant to this discussion we’re having right now. That answer is this…
Because of the Internet.
Now I realize people always throw out the internet and go “blah blah blah – changing the world… blah blah.”
Nothing but platitudes, right?
Fair enough. But I want you to understand something for a moment because this is a true phenomenon we see across society, and you can leverage it to build your online business with a relatively small niche audience.
When you look at social media in particular – what do we see?
Well if you’re like me, you see the things you think are true, amplified about a billion times by all your buddies going, “Hell yeah that’s right!” And at the same time, a situation where those who oppose you are vilified by your buddies, often going, “The other guy does nothing but eat babies, punch your grandma in the face, and wants to take away everything you know and love!”
We wonder why society is becoming increasingly polarized?
I can answer that – the internet has become massively effective at aggregating disparities around the world and joining in them in a way that turns what might be otherwise “fringe” into something we perceive as mainstream and good.
Life online is a massively distorted echoing chamber. I don’t care what sites you’re on, or what social networks your on, everything around us is caught up in this “post-truth” idiocy where few people have principles and morals, and everything else is this never ending loop of laughter, outrage, and disgust.
In a non-trivial way, all this content being put out there winds up reinforcing and propagandizing ourselves into little enclaves. Take the question of whether not aliens exist and that the government is covering it up, for example.
Whatever your view on the issue, I presume you’ve got at least three bedrock ideas in your head.
Back in the day before the internet – it was more than possible to be your little tin foil hat club. Yes, you believed that aliens existed, and the fact that your friends and family thought you were nuts while distressing to you, didn’t dissuade you that much. You did your little tin-foil hat thing… and you were largely alone.
NOW you can make a little tin foil hat club of tin foil hat people all over the world. They’re roaming around out there, like something out of Night of the Living Dead, looking for others like them to reinforce their world views.
Before you know it – there’s a website called tinfoilhat.com, and you’re all rocking out to the idea that the truth is out there.
Now, you may be laughing – but you know I’m right.
It’s why this entirety of the idea of “post-truth” is such a disturbing phenomenon that has many academics (myself included) wondering just what the hell is going on.
In the end, I think the catalyst is the aggregating ability of the internet to take disparate elements around the world and weave them into a patchwork quilt that suddenly becomes a market.
You can use this fact to your advantage in putting together your business.
This connecting ability has real business import for you and other online businesses.
Take Netflix for example. They’ve started producing their programming on par with any Network. They’re funding shows left and right. So is Amazon. As a matter of fact, as I write this, Billy Bob Thorton just won the best actor Golden Globe for his role in the Amazon Original Goliath.
How does the mechanics of that work? Why does NBC need 15 million people to watch a show to make it work – but a Netflix might only need 500 thousand?
Netflix creates a patchwork of subscribers all around the world who can watch shows on-demand. They are much more sticky than someone who watches a prime time show, and they watch more than the show they subscribed to watch.
Netflix glues together a profitable audience from people all over the world.
NBC needs an audience of people who are in the US watching between 7 and 10 PM in their markets. As a consequence, to pay for the content (which winds up being roughly the same cost), Netflix needs only 500K new subscribers to pay for a show (which it will find in 5, 10, 20 thousand viewer pockets woven together all over the world).
If Netflix can do that – find 500K people for a show – that’s going to generate 60 million dollars in revenue. Since your average show costs 20 million to make a season… you’re in the money.
NBC needs to program programming that 15 million people watching prime time will watch – or else. It charges 300K per 60 seconds for an ad. It has to collect a MASSIVE number of eyeballs to charge that amount. While it can rely a bit on the delayed on-demand viewing, the reality is, it needs to build a massive following quickly.
If I wanted to make a show – trying to compete against NBC would be insane.
I need to be Netflix. And quite frankly, if you look at all the YouTube stars online – that’s what they are… they weave together little girls who want to do makeup or gamers who like Call of Duty, or dog lovers, or whatever…. ALL OVER THE WORLD.
If you came to me and said, “You know, we think people aren’t getting drunk enough. We want to make our beer! What do you think?”
I’d look at you with a jaded eye and go, “I think Budweiser spends more money spilling beer than you’ll make in a thousand years.”
Do people need beer?
Yep. So much so, the numbers are freaking staggering.
Last year, people drank 6.4 BILLION gallons of beer in the US. That’s 18 gallons for every man, woman, and child.
Roughly 10 six packs of beer… EACH.
So clearly, not getting enough beer in our lives is a problem we’re ready, willing, and able to solve. And given you have to be 21 or older to drink, realistically, the average number of six packs consumed by everyone who is eligible to drink is about 20.
Clearly, there is a market there.
If you introduce a new beer (which millions of new brews get made every year) – you’re set, right?
Nope. When’s the last time you went to your liquor store and saw like 90 new brews on the shelf?
But I want to tell you about a ingenious beer called “Bard’s.”
Over two million people in the U.S. suffer from celiac disease. That’s two million people who can’t consume gluten, a common ingredient found in everything from cereal to salad dressing – and yes, even beer. It threatens the very idea of America to think that until recently, millions of citizens were denied the joy of pounding 20 cases of beer a year. I mean what did these people do during the Super Bowl?
For celiac sufferers, those days of social exclusion are now over, thanks to Bard’s Beer.
Gluten-free brews are popping up all over recently, and Bard’s Beer is one of the best-known. Their sorghum beer allows millions of celiac sufferers to play flip-cup or battle it out at beer pong, make beer bongs, and chug like it’s a frat house party (or you know, drink slowly like mature adults). Bard’s made a name for themselves by satisfying the needs of a true niche market. And because their product is cold, delicious beer, they top this list of the top niche prospectors in America today.
They solved a REAL problem that nobody was solving.
And it was market profitable, because, thanks to the internet – they could connect a few thousand here and there all over the US. I mean think about it – there are only two million people. That’s roughly 1 in 17 people in the US. That would not be a very big market if you wanted to just open up a shop even in the largest city in the US – New York. you would only have a potential market of half a million people, and if you only got 3% of them (which is likely), you’re having a very hard time justifying the infrastructure necessary to make the product.
But thanks to the internet – those people undoubtedly search for products that cater to their needs. They found Bard’s beer. And now they’re as stupefied as the rest of us pounding brews.
The market is awesome.
There’s a lesson to be learned from these niche-cornering success stories is this: when you are struggling to find customers, subscribers, leads, etc., unfocused marketing is almost certainly to blame.
When most entrepreneurs start out – they conclude they need to keep their options open, because they “never know who’s going to want their product.”
If that’s truly the case – then you’re screwed.
When starting out, your success is entirely determined by finding a highly qualified niche, and serving that niche better than anyone else by tackling one of the big fat hairy problems.
My guess is – you never heard of Bard’s beer. Why should you – you don’t suffer from Celiacs (most likely).
If you do suffer from Celiacs, you better bet you’re on the hunt for people who can solve your problems.
The market comes and finds YOU.
So if people aren’t finding you, paying attention to you, and connecting with you. Chances are you’re not focused on your marketing; you’re not clear on whom you serve, you’re not clear on what value you provide.
No amount of marketing can fix that. Truly.
So, I’ve given you a road map to follow. That roadmap is this:
First – get clear on whether or not you’re solving a big problem. If MILLIONS of people around the world suffer from the challenges you want to address, then you’re probably on the right track.
Second – niche down to a group that is not served or has limited options.
Third – solve the biggest fattest hairy-ist problem for that niche.
Now get out there and make something great.
Forward thinking, strategic marketing leader, driving new customer acquisition, sales and profitability for startups and industry leaders. Known for identifying and reacting to market trends and aligning sales and marketing strategies generating significant growth for premier clients including Honeywell, Hilton, Marriott, the Better Business Bureau, First Alert, and the University of Minnesota.