What does Amazon sell? OK, books, DVDs, shoes – in fact almost anything. But everything they sell you can also buy down your local High Street. And that’s where most people go to get the stuff that Amazon sells. In spite of Amazon’s significant online success, they are a minnow in comparison with the total sales in physical, “real world” stores. The same is true for almost all online retailers. What they sell online, sells in far larger amounts in the offline world.
But what does Google sell? Sure, it sells advertising. But the kind of advertising it sells is unavailable anywhere else; it is only available online. You can’t go down to your local corner shop and buy an AdWords campaign. You can only get it online. Apple is in a similar position with iTunes. Even though it is possible to buy music in physical form down at your local HMV, you can only get digital music online.
It’s somewhat crazy, but the vast majority of businesses online are selling stuff that people can already get in the “real world”. The massive successes online are those which sell things that you can ONLY buy online. So, it begs the question, are you trying to sell products and services online which people can already buy using offline methods? If they can, you are potentially missing out.
Even if you are a business consultant or an accountant selling your services, people don’t need the Internet to buy from you – they can pick up the phone or visit your office. So, whether you are in the business to business market or the business to consumer arena, the lack of “online exclusivity” could be hampering your sales.
Here’s what to do: create something that is ONLY available online. Produce something that people cannot buy from you in any other way. For instance, if you are a consultant of some kind offer an aspect of your consultancy only online, such as in webinars or by using a membership site. Equally, if you run a bookkeeping service you might be able to use something like Google Docs to set up all the client records and get them to upload their information directly to you; in other words the entire service is provided only online. Similarly, if you are an expert and you have some books you have authored, make some of them only available as ebooks, with no print versions at all. With a bit of creative thought you can probably come up with much better ideas.
The overall aim, however, is to produce an aspect of your business which is exclusively digital and solely available online. If what you provide is available, either from you or competitors, in the “real world”, then you potentially lose custom as your prospects find alternative suppliers. If your product or service is ONLY available online, then you reduce the competition. After all, how many companies that compete with you actually offer something that is exclusively an Internet service or product that can only be found online? The chances are most businesses are merely using the Internet to market existing “real world” products. Perhaps it’s time to think of things from a different perspective; find out what you can provide that will only be digital. You could clean up.
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+