|Need help getting to the next level|
Who, or what, should we get?
We're a 4+ year old firm/site that has enjoyed great success: we feature prominently in the SERPs; we have several programs that ensure repeat business (drop shipping, for example); have had many thousands of customers; ship worldwide; have a less-than-1% return rate; offer over 10,000 products; and have a lowest-price guarantee. In other words, we think we're great, and our customers seem to think so, too.
But we're stagnant. We enjoyed fantastic growth our first 3 years, but for the past 2 years we've flattened out. Our better-known competition grows, even though we have better prices, cheaper shipping and more-personal service.
We have everything going for us (both internally and from what the pleased new customers tell us), so our plateau must be because we're missing...something.
We participate in a couple of well-known affiliate programs, and we advertise in Adwords and Overture (although our natural SERPs are pretty darn good). We occasionally issue press releases through PR Web. Our visitor/buyer ratio is industry-standard.
What else can we do? More importantly, what sort of company/person should we engage to help us go from, say, low-6-figures to high-6-figures and beyond?
Your firm may be at its optimun size. The idea is not to be as big as possible, but to be as efficient and profitable as possible for your company size.
It may be time to put your eggs in different baskets.
Take what you have learned and build more successfull web buisnesses.
I rather have 5 businesses making six figures, rather than one business making seven figures.
|We participate in a couple of well-known affiliate programs, and we advertise in Adwords and Overture (although our natural SERPs are pretty darn good). We occasionally issue press releases through PR Web. Our visitor/buyer ratio is industry-standard. |
From your post Dec 27 2004 :
|I wish I could direct you to the best place to look for wholesale-priced drop shippers, but frankly I don't know how our drop ship customers find us. We don't advertise our drop ship services, and as far as I know we're not listed in any of the drop ship guides/Web sites. |
I'm confused. Maybe i'm reading it wrong.
I think that you need to consider moving beyond the ppc, seo, affiliate paradigm. The key, to me, is "better-known competition." We all know that the world is not a strict meritocracy. You may need to do some more conventional advertising, get industry press coverage, do something that creates buzz, etc... Become the better-known better branded company.
Yes, but branding is expensive. Why risk all your hard earn cash on an expensive advertising campaign, when you can start up another company and use the shared infrastructure from the existing company to keep overhead low.
We have reached a plateau also, and we are not fighting it, we are just branching out into different web markets.
|Your firm may be at its optimun size. |
Well, lgn1, the MARKET seems to think so! The thing is that several of our competitors are probably 50x our size (both physically and in sales). Granted, they offer a wider variety, but for the products we offer in common we should be able to eat their lunch and dessert! Again, so many customers seem excited to find us, so my impression is that it is an "awareness" problem.
|I'm confused. Maybe i'm reading it wrong. |
DonQ, I am sorry but I'm not getting your point. I've read it 10 times but can't quite figure out the message or the point of confusion. It must be because I'm up past my bedtime...
I think all of us here agree that you should go into some new waters for a change. It is alright that you are strong and efficient on your own. And have been successful for a long time. But there is a saying that being strong only on the same features in this dynamic business world does not give you any guarantee for the future.
There are other businesses in web as well,like lgn1 mentioned,and you can find them attractive because of your resourcefulness & expertise in the field.
And regarding your competitors, you must have tried to know what they are they offering which is different from yours’. There must be something which is causing you trouble despite all your efforts.
Analyze your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. and see for urself what u can do about it.& lastly for a change; change your point of view for sometime to see the things.
~Ecommerce works better if it involves reliablity~
I agree with Estoreseeker, you have to analyze your competitor's strengths and weaknesses. But this is not all, I would recommend that you do conduct some strategic planning. There is a book called "Simplified Strategic Planning" that you might want to get a hold of. I have used this book for my business and find it to be pretty useful, not only in terms of strategic planning but also putting a business case together.
To summarize, this book lays out a framwork where you can study your competitive and operating environment (basically the 5 forces of the market), both yours and your competitors strengths and weaknesses, determine areas of opportunities, examine your financial position and put some action plans together.
Do not do this alone, but have a group of high level personels to honestly brainstorm and work through it. Its not an easy task, but at least, it will should help you figure out where you want to be heading in a systematic way.
Good luck! I wish I am in your position!
BroadLea, you might want to do some thorough, unbiased research into finding additional publics for your products. Sometimes the same product will sell in higher volume if marketed in a different 'language' to a new public.
I manage several websites that sell the exact same product to law offices, hotels, and several other industries. Each website is written for its specific public. These customers actually believe they have unique needs - even though in truth there is literally no difference in the product being sold.
It sounds like your site is very successful. And I agree with you that stagnation is a bad thing. I believe that you can always get better. Try finding some new publics that will open a new source of revenue for the company.
Thank you all for taking the time to reply. Special thanks also to member "I" for his private consultations on how we can improve our site's look, feel, and rankings.
Regarding "offline" marketing: it is certainly something we've considered, but I've read articles and comments by those much more experienced than us that advertising an online business to the offline world was, for them, a waste of money. We certainly can't spend a million dollars on a "branding" campaign, and as a distributor (rather than manufacturer) it would be difficult for any branding to "stick."
|I think all of us here agree that you should go into some new waters for a change |
I'm hearing from several of you to, in essence, "be content." I don't want to give specifics, so let's use an analogy:
If you want to buy a book online, there are only a couple of places most people would think of. In addition, there are (I'm winging it) a dozen or so smaller sites that specialize in certain niches of the book market.
Now let's say that your company, through your Web site, only sells books - you don't sell videos, electronics, and all the other paraphernalia that the leaders now sell. You only offer, say 25% of the items that Amazon and BN offer, but that this 25% is the most popular and traditional of books (perhaps fiction, history, business, software, and religious) - the categories that most adult buyers want (I'm guessing; I'm not in the book business).
Further, let's assume that your prices are always 15-30% less than the big two; that you have better shipping rates; and that your return policy is more favorable to the customer. On top of that, you provide services such as anonymous drop shipping, true wholesale to qualified customers, 15-20% commissions to affilates, yadda yadda yadda.
Would you be content with a (wild guess here) 2% piece of the pie? Or would you want to figure out why you weren't tapping into the 50-80:1 ratio of customers buying from Amazon rather than your store?
In short: I really believe that we have everything going for us...what is missing?