Posted Wednesday, 02 September 2009 at 06:36 by Andrew Liu
Tagged: google | advertising | marketing | business
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If you're going to use the power of the Internet to try to find clients, you have to first understand how prospective clients are going to find you. You need to drop your preconceived notions about how you see your business, and start thinking about how potential clients are going to see your business. To do that, you need to try to put yourself in their shoes.
Understanding Web Searches
Let's suppose, for example, your business is centered around providing consulting to customers who need help with back pain in New York. When you sit down to start designing your web strategy, you might hire a copywriter to create content with the keywords, "back pain consultant," or "pain coaching." However, those terms won't likely bring you much in the way of good, solid traffic from potential clients.
In fact, the only people who are likely to search for "back pain consultant" are people like you whose business is helping people with back pain. People trying to solve a problem don't typically search for things like "coaching" or "consulting."
Instead, you need to consider how exactly those prospective customers are going to search. They might search for the rather generic phrase, "back pain," or they might be a little more specific and search for something along the lines of "back pain help" or "treatment for back pain." Other potential clients will use more of a question-based approach, such as searching for "how can I reduce back pain?" In the case of many niches, such as our back pain example, it's likely that potential clients will also use a geographic or regional term. They assume they're going to need to see someone in person for treatment. So "back pain help new York" might be a common search phrase.
From Information to Solutions
Something else you need to think about in terms of how potential clients are going to find you on the web, is what stage of searching the potential client is at. Understanding whether or not the potential client is ready to buy is key to your marketing strategy.
There are several stages a person goes through before they're ready to buy:
This is the earliest point at which a potential client can identify a felt need. It might be back pain, for example. It might be a desire to make money from home. It might be that the person wants to learn a new skill, take up a new hobby, or just improve their overall well-being. At this stage, the person isn't usually ready to buy. They're still feeling their way through the problem, and putting words to it.
Web searches at the identification stage tend to be information-based. The objective isn't to solve a problem, it's to understand the problem. At this stage, a person might search for "types of back pain" or "back pain symptoms," but they aren't as likely to search for "back pain help."
Clients at this stage are the least likely to buy. However, if you can hook a potential client at this stage, you may get her to come back later on when she is ready to buy. Many people never leave this stage; once they learn about the topic they want to learn about, they simply leave it alone forever. They decide that it's not a problem they want or need to invest any more time and energy trying to solve.
Once a person has identified a need or a problem, they usually set out to learn about it in-depth. They start seeking the advice of experts. This is a transitional stage, where it is more likely that they'll buy than at the identification stage, but where most people don't rush into anything. At this stage, web searches tend to be information-based again. However, these searches tend to focus on the other end of the need or problem: how to fix it. So here a person might search for "back pain solutions" or "back pain treatment options." This is where real value-added content comes in handy on your website.
Being able to provide usable and reliable information helps to position you as an authority in your niche. Once the customer is ready to buy, they'll remember your expertise and come back to you.
At this point, the potential client is ready to buy. They understand the problem or need, know what can be done about it, and are ready to pay someone to get their solution. These are your best prospects, and the easiest people to convert into a sale. People who are ready to buy can get very specific in their search terms. They might search "back pain treatment in New York" or even "back pain physiotherapist." Their search terms indicate that they don't just want to know about a problem or a need, but that they're ready to fix it.
Many potential clients don't search the web at this stage, however. During the first two stages of their web search process, they have probably identified a reliable source of information. At that point, they're more likely to go back to that reliable source than they are to search randomly for someone else. If that authoritative source doesn't offer a direct solution, that's when the potential client will start their search.
Marketing Across the Stages
Effective marketing for your coaching business will at least touch on each of these stages. While the details and specific tactics may vary from one niche to another, most coaches will want to spend their time in the second stage. By providing useful information to potential clients, you build your image as an authority in your field. While not every client will wind up coming to you for services, many of them will. By adding real value, you create a positive experience for the client and engender a certain degree of trust. When the time comes for a solution, they're going to come to you rather than randomly searching on Google (or flipping through the Yellow Pages, for that matter).
Source: Site Reference article by Anton Pearce.