If you have just launched a new website, you may feel like you’re the last one to arrive at the ball. Everyone’s already on the dance floor, and you’re standing in the foyer, receiving no attention at all.
Just Because You Arrived Last, You Needn’t Finish Last?
In the classic fairy tale, Cinderella, originally published in 1697, the heroine finds herself very much the underdog in pursuit of the handsome Prince’s affections. Her stepmother and stepsisters treat her as a maid. Her wardrobe consists of tattered rags. The cruel stepsisters taunt her as they make lavish plans for the ball.
On the fateful day, her stepmother bogs Cinderella down with a long list of chores, to be certain Cinderella will not provide any competition for her own daughters. Cinderella is then commissioned to help the stepsisters prepare, putting her own tasks on hold. When the time arrives, the stepsisters depart for the party, and poor Cinderella weeps over the misfortune of being left behind.
In some adaptations of the tale, the mice try to encourage her, and help their friend complete her chores. They even assist her in mending one of her plain dresses. But alas, the ball has already started, and even if she leaves now, Cinderalla will be no match at all for the other girls, clad in their pretty dresses.
And then everything changes. Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appears on the scene. “Bibbity, bobbity, boo!” Within minutes, a pumpkin is transformed into an elegant coach, the horse into a coachman, the dog into a footman; and the mice become a team of splendid white horses. When Cinderella mentions her tattered dress, her godmother waves her wand one more time, and it becomes a stunning white chiffon gown. with glass slippers.
Even though Cinderella arrives late, her entrance is so spectacular, she captures the attention of the Prince, and he dances with her the entire evening. There was still the lost slipper hurdle to clear, but Cinderella ultimately lands the man of her dreams, and a life she could only have imagined.
Winning Against Insurmountable Odds
The Internet has been around since about 1991. Some of your competitors may have sites with a twenty year track record, hundreds of quality links and a mountain of content. Can your brand new website, with perhaps a dozen pages, and a few blog posts, hope to take on such formidable competition, over the short term? Realistically… not without an edge.
1) Don’t Try to Match Your Competitors
Cinderella did not arrive at the ball with a horse and buggy that matched what everyone else arrived in. Her carriage and team of white horses were the stretch limo of the day.
Producing your own regurgitated version of the same old tired content your competitors have been putting on their websites for two or more decades is a lost cause. You can’t “out-content” them with the same stuff, or a lesser version of it. Google, Bing and Yahoo! are most likely already ranking sites in the top ten with that information, and you’re just one more “me too” author without any imagination. The status quo will definitely work against you.
You have no hope of pushing one of the top competitors out of the top 10 positions with a slightly modified version of the same old boring crap. Apple had it right, you will have to “think different” (an idea that made them the most valuable company on the planet). Contrast makes you visible, and conformity will surely bury you.
2) Make a Bold Entrance
Cinderalla wanted to capture the eye of the Prince. The Fairy Godmother enabled her to make a grand entrance and dazzle him. Had she arrived with a dress that matched all the other girls, she would not have been noticed in the shadows of the foyer.
As the last one arriving at the ball, you don’t have the luxury of being average. Make a splash. Your home page should wow your visitors. As they’re clicking their way through the first 5 results on Google, your site must stand out.
What do you do exceptionally well? What is your Unique Selling Proposition? Know exactly who you want as customers and go after them specifically. If you have an opinion, state it. Don’t try to be all things to all people. You can’t please everybody anyway. Ordinary doesn’t work for latecomers.
3) Your Own Efforts Will Go Only So Far
Cinderella realized that her dress was not going to cut it — even with the kind assistance of the mice — and she had the courage to ask the Fairy Godmother for what she needed. She recognized that even with a stunning carriage, a team of exquisite white horses, a coachman and horseman, it wasn’t going to be enough once she entered the ballroom.
Do-it-yourself marketing will only take you so far. At some point, you will probably need an expert or two in your corner. So get someone that specializes in small business marketing on your team.
4) If You Encounter a Benefactor, Accept The Assistance with Gratitude and Humility
Cinderella did not argue with the Fairy Godmother. She didn’t turn her nose up at the dress she received and demand another in keeping with her personal tastes. She didn’t ask for the horses to be replaced with black ones, new fabric on the seats in the coach… or freak out on her godmother for putting a time limit on the gifts. When blessed by fortune, she graciously accepted the gifts, under the terms they were provided, without becoming demanding.
She was concerned about the impression she was going to make at the ball, and frustrated by a very disappointing day. It would have been embarrassing to find herself in her lowly station, accepting kindness from the old woman, but she didn’t become snippy or abusive with her godmother because she felt uncomfortable accepting help. She had a very good thing going, and recognized that. She chose to trust her benefactor, and landed the role of leading lady in the kingdom as a result.
Many new businesses, or those starting out with their first website, will have a very limited marketing budget. They require more marketing than they can afford. It means they will often find themselves the recipient of an embarrassing number of un-billed hours, donated out of the kindness of marketers’ hearts, and a passion for seeing a new businesses thrive. The agency may even choose to finance the new website, interest free, to make vital content marketing services affordable.
Sadly, kindness is often perceived as weakness. Almost every proven marketing strategy is challenged vehemently, quality work is harshly criticized and even the benefactor’s skills and integrity are called into question. The mere mention that the work being done is already well beyond the budget can illicit a harsh smack-down by the website owner. Waiting for results can be disappointing and frustrating, and being on the receiving end of generosity can be awkward, but it still amazes me how many times I’ve seen this scenario play out over the years.
To be fair, there are unscrupulous people that take advantage of start-ups, and their struggles, but most marketers taking on small business promotion live to see their clients beat the odds, and overlooking cost overruns is fairly common among web designer/developers and SEOs. It’s only natural for a marketing agency that’s already gone beyond revenue to realign budget dollars with expectations along the way, and put a cap on what they can afford to include gratis, and they’re not “whining” when they do so. A demanding, unappreciative attitude can destroy a very favorable arrangement quickly.
If you feel like writing a “frustration email”, criticizing a content expert that’s working tirelessly to promote your new website, consider sending a bottle of quality whisky instead. (Macallan 12, 18 or 25 are always well received in our office, or a box of Cohibas. ) Glowing testimonials also go a long way in encouraging a less vigilant eye on billable hours.
- Promoting a brand new website is very challenging, and that can be frustrating. Gaining traction against stiff, well established competition is a process, and it takes time. And you need to be prepared for that.
- If a kind benefactor takes on your cause, to help you realize your online goals, providing more value than you’re actually paying for, treasure that partnership. The universe has smiled upon you.
- As a general rule, you will succeed to the degree you differentiate yourself from what’s already out there. If that’s the advice you’ve been receiving, you should run with it.
Over to You
Do you find yourself fighting an uphill battle, promoting a new website against formidable odds? Or perhaps you have a success story to share, describing how you beat the odds, and came out on top? I’d love to hear from you.