There are opportunities that small businesses have that large businesses might not even considering touching, or that they may not have the ability to respond to quickly enough.
The aerospace industry uses the term “launch window” to describe the right combination of time and location for a rocket to be launched so that it will successfully go into space, and to a specific destination. The term has been adopted by the business community and changed to “window of opportunity.”
There are efforts that a small business might launch that can take advantage of windows of opportunity, and I wanted to explore a few of those within the context of internet marketing and search, specifically pointing out three areas to think about; topicality, regionality, and seasonality.
The band Radiohead recently bucked the established music industry somewhat by offering a digital download of their latest album online and letting purchasers name their own price. A button making company in Ohio decided that $1,000 was a good price to pay, to show their support of the band’s efforts to build a music business model for the digital age. They paid for the download and for physical copies of the CDs, issued a press release, and submitted a link targeting the press release at Digg.
While many others were downloading the songs for free, or for a fairly low rate, the button makers were getting almost 7,000 visitors from Digg, coverage in the news, and mentions in a number of blogs as well as on Forbes. Regardless of whether this was a publicity stunt or show of support for the band, the button makers were definitely in the right place at the right time.
So, what makes this music sale interesting to small businesses? No board meetings, no committees formed, no marketing meetings and minutes and agendas – just quick action in response to a timely event that involved an industry that the button makers were involved with. They make it easy for bands, and other folks to design their own buttons easily online, and at affordable rates. Many within the Digg community are part of their audience.
This timeliness, or topicality, in taking an action that would probably attract attention from an audience likely to be interested in what they offer is an example of where a small business has an advantage over a large one, but there are other areas that we can look at which can apply to the ways that people search online.
When I was growing up, we lived in a few different parts of the country, and I experienced cultural changes in language that were both interesting and confusing. Simple things became different from one place to another, like how what we called soda on the east coast was referred to as pop in the midwest and coke in the south. A hero, a hoagie, and a sub or submarine sandwich, were all roughly the same thing, but went by different names in different places. You went to a fish fry in Wisconsin, and ordered cheese steaks in Philadelphia, but would get funny or puzzled looks if you switched locations and sought cheesesteaks in Wisconsin and fish fries in Philly.
Just as there are often niches that are too small for large businesses to pursue and make money within, there are opportunities for using local and regional phrases and terms as keywords for items that larger businesses may not consider targeting. If your business targets local customers, the use of regional terms on your pages that those potential customers may use could be an opportunity to draw visitors that a large business might not attract.
A national site I know of were redesigning their pages and wanted to segment their offerings on their site by state and municipality, but were staggered by the thought of learning the local terms for what they offered in each location – and each location had their own unique sets of keywords that were appropriate. They decided to use more generic terms.
Related somewhat to regionality is the concept that different locations have their own traditions, their own celebrations and seasons that might be unique to where they are located. These recurring events again are something that a large business may not take the time or make the effort to learn about because the cost could be staggering, the effort immense, and the return on the effort relatively insignificant. Yet, to a smaller business with a lighter overhead and knowledge of the region, understanding seasons can be significant.
My town holds its parades for Halloween and Memorial Day usually a week earlier than the larger city a few miles to the north of us, so that the participants can take part in both. The local parades draw thousands of viewers who know that we celebrate early. We also have a couple of annual events that take place every year – a community day in the fall which may attract about 10,000 folks to town, and a block party in the middle of the summer that closes our Main Street and brings in even more people.
What periodic recurring events happen near your business, or near where your audiences are located, that you can participate with in some meaningful manner? Is there a parade, a festival that happens yearly, a unique regional holiday, or some other event that is particular to that region? Including information about these events on your web site or in Flickr photo albums, sponsoring and/or participating in them, helping to organize or create or run an event; these are all ways that can draw attention, good will, and visitors to your business and to your website.
Finding Windows of Opportunity
How do you know when an opportunity comes along? It can help to study and pay attention to news within your industry, and related industries, and the activities and interests of your audiences. Get involved with those communities, and interact in a positive manner. Learn about your region and your regional differences in language and customs. Find out about local events and get involved.
Look for ways to engage audiences that larger businesses can’t because it makes sense for them to target a much broader audience, or because they can’t react as quickly as your business can. Those windows of opportunity are out there. It’s just a matter of catching them at the right place and time.
Bill Slawski is Director of Search Marketing at KeyRelevance, Inc., blogs at SEO by the Sea, and has been one of the Business and Marketing Forum moderators at Cre8asite Forums for the last five years. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.