A lot of Google’s business strategy makes us angry, but I think as entrepreneurs the correct response isn’t anger, instead we should be learning from them.
When I first started in the game I ignored most forms of internet marketing aside from SEO. Firstly, I was good at SEO, so why go outside my circle of competence, and secondly, I (partially correctly) assumed other channels couldn’t touch the ROI of targeted, free search traffic. I don’t have any regrets that I followed that path: sharp SEO is still my most powerful competitive webmastering weapon, but these days I take a more holistic view.
You see, I don’t want a healthy stream of free targeted search traffic. I want a Borg.
A Borg is a large and multi-platform–but centrally managed–web presence. You can kill one part of the Borg but as long as the brain lives on it is going to survive and regenerate. A Borg’s different parts and weapons systems work together to create synergy where the total machine is much more deadly than the sum of its parts. The Borg is driven by the nerve center (you) but leverages others to do its dirty work in a dastardly Web 2.0 manner. The most powerful Borgs, Super-Borgs, have huge repositories of valuable data which they have assimilated and will use to exterminate their rivals.
The problem with your potential client base is that its made up of different species. You have your social-networking-whores and your watch-video-timewasters and your forum-dwellers and your barely-use-the-Internets. A normal Web site won’t be able to hit some of these, but a Borg can envelop and digest several different species and then have them working together, each species doing what it does best. That’s how efficient the Borg is.
The core hub of the Borg is still a domain name, Web site, and SEO. But a powerful Borg has a left arm that’s an offline conference and a right arm that is an email newsletter. The left and right arms reinforce the core hub of the Borg and also reinforce each other. They also make the core hub much more defensible from other Super-Borgs like the GoogleBorg.
The Borg realizes that many species will never accept its old platform so it assimilates these species on their own terms. The left leg of the Borg is social networking (Facebook and MySpace); entire demographics spend most of their online time on these sites so the Borg sets up a presence there and uses it to reinforce other parts of the Borg. The right leg of the Borg is multimedia, a large percentage of people dislike reading and hang out at YouTube instead. This multimedia part of the Borg became much more critical with the introduction of Universal Search.
If all you have is a nerve center and the basic hub of the Borg (site + domain + SEO skillz), building an advanced Borg can seem rather daunting. The lowest hanging fruit is probably the email newsletter, every single Web site you own should be collecting email addresses (even if it’s just a form for a fake newsletter that doesn’t exist yet, I pretty much patented that tactic), so hop over to Savicom or Constant Contact and get that rolling ASAP. Some of the other platforms might be a better fit for your business than others, but don’t take the lazy route out because each of them has something to offer if you’re smart about it; Build the obvious (and easiest) parts of the Borg first.
Here is another thing about building a Borg, you can’t spread the nerve center too thin. If you’re going to start a Facebook group you need to be active there and spend time maintaining it: send out bulletins, friend people, facilitate discussion etc. Otherwise this will just be an abandoned or even hostile part of the Borg and you won’t reap any potential synergy benefits. So add parts of the Borg once you have the necessary time and resources, but I don’t say that to give you an excuse not to act, because your competitors are going to beat you to the punch if you don’t get started ASAP.
And now I will let you in on the super secret Borg plan to take over the world. The center of the Borg’s long term strategy is the assimilation of data. Even if you’re like me–not smart enough to know how to profitably leverage all of your data–you need to at least start collecting it. You never know how you’ll be able to use it in the future but start collecting it now. I didn’t know when or for what purpose I’d ever send a newsletter for my VoIP site, but then when I did want to start leveraging email marketing, boy was I glad I’d already collected 10,000 email addresses. Email addresses are a good start, email + name + phone number + zip code is even better, offer a freebie downloadable whatever but of course the price they pay on the download page is giving over their data to your Borg.
If you don’t want to build a multi-platform Borg, fine. Just know for every dollar you make you are leaving 99 on the table. Also know that very soon my Borg will be coming into your local galaxy and will either assimilate or destroy you.
By the way thanks to Brian Provost for teaching me a lot of things which went into this post. Your knowledge has been assimilated and soon I will be the Queen of Summertime!
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