This morning in the UK we hear that British Airways has sold its regional airline business, BA Connect, to its main domestic rival, FlyBe. The deal reportedly involves BA absorbing £150m of additional costs – in other words, BA is effectively paying FlyBe to take the ailing airline off its hands. So what does this mean for Internet marketing? Well, there is an important lesson in this business story. A few years ago British Airways faced sudden and huge competition on its regional (internal UK) routes from start-up airlines like EasyJet, Ryanair and a revamped British European Airways which renamed itself FlyBe. Suddenly, you could fly from Edinburgh to London for £25 or less. British Airways responded with an airline called Go. That virtually collapsed and was later bought by EasyJet. So, British Airways tried again by renaming its regional business “BA Connect”. However, there was a problem – and it’s the same problem faced by FlyBe, EasyJet and RyanAir. There are only so many people who want to fly from Southampton to Glasgow, or Manchester to Bristol, for example. In other words, there is limited traffic. Meanwhile, over at the main London airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, there are thousands of people who want to fly around the UK. What British Airways was trying to do with BA Connect was compete with small, cost efficient airlines for limited traffic. They were waving a flag, shouting out “come over here”. But largely they were ignored. The result was plenty of empty seats and high operating costs.
This is exactly what many businesses do online. They set up a business, often in competition with something successful because they see people are interested in such a service or product. Then they shout loudly with “come and look at my web site”. But the traffic is already somewhere else. If you want to succeed, you have to be where the people are. For BA Connect the bulk of the potential audience was at Heathrow and Gatwick, which meant that operating from Southampton or Bristol was doomed from the start. If you try the same as British Airways and operate your web site in areas where there are few people you will not succeed. You need to be where the traffic is.
So, if you are trying to attract people to buy a particular service, find out where those people already go – forums, blogs, web sites and so on. Then go there yourself. Don’t pitch your offer somewhere else. If you want to get run over by a flood of traffic to your web site – go and stand in front of it. Don’t expect the traffic to come to you; otherwise you could end up like BA Connect – disappearing.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+