Every once in a while, tech giants seem to wake up in the morning and go. ‘Right, how can we screw with the online marketing industry today?’
A few months ago it was YouTube’s turn. Basically, unless you’re a YouTube partner (1000 subscribers and 4000 hours watched in the last 12 months, please), then your videos are going to have ads on. Which likely means: ads from competitors appearing in your videos.
Cue a lot of video companies posting a lot of stuff about why your content should now be nowhere near youtube. And yeah, for a certain kind of content, the picture isn’t too rosy. But is there a way of presenting your content that effectively makes you competition-proof?
Well first up: competition (especially within incredibly full-featured yet ‘free’ services) is no new thing. Say someone Googles your service and you’re ranked high, well 10 other companies are still on that page, and unless that customer’s looking specifically for you, they’re gonna be clicking on another couple of companies to compare services.
And we’ve all seen those awful, agressive competition ads when you search for Company X, and the first ad is, ‘Looking for an alternative to rubbish ratbag Company X? Step this way!!’
The story is simlar on Facebook, where as soon as you give anything a like, you’re bombarded with similar companies shilling the same stuff.
There’s always going to be other people who do what you do, shouting from within your space with money to burn. In fairness the rub with YouTube is that they might literally be doing it from within your own content…but that brings us to a bit of a truth bomb.
Ultimately, these days, it’s not really enough just to do the thing you do and do it well. Even fantastically well, in fact. If you’re marketing online and aiming for growth, you’ve got to be doing more than just appealing to the top 3% of your target market who are ready to buy, and the top 17% who are comparing suppliers. If you’re only focussing on that space, you'll always be vulnerable to competition.
One way around all that is to get to people earlier on in their buying journey - in that 80% of your target market who aren’t yet looking to purchase. The idea is to hook them wherever they are (and social media’s obviously a good place to start), then from the first interaction, position yourself as being so different from your competition, that you don't have any competition.
That might sound like a pain to implement, but if you’re a certain kind of company, it’s blisteringly simple. Just use the power of your people’s personality and expertise. It’s the one thing you’ve got in your arsenal that no-one else does! Stick out loads of consistent, valuable, non-salesy video content that features your team members doing what they do best, and stick the scripts and storyboards in the bin.
Have you ever come across a company or an individual whose content just connects with you? It’s like they’re reading your mind. They seem to know your problems better than you do. After randomly catching their post on social media, you’ve given them a follow, and they’ve put out weekly videos that have been incredibly insightful and useful, and packed with authentic personality.
You really get to like this person who shows up in your life consistently, and helps you out. You feel an empathic rapport with them. In your head, you’re pretty much best pals, going on lovely days out, really getting to know each other.
Then on one of these days out, you’re in a cafe and some other guy sticks their head in the door and starts yelling: ‘DITCH THIS LOSER, AND COME TALK TO ME! NOW’
You’re annoyed, and wave him away. But he soon comes back: ‘COME ON, COME WITH ME NOW, THIS IS A ONE-TIME ONLY, SUMMER OFFER.’
This time, you throw a coffee at him, resolve never to talk to him again, and ask the manager to refuse him entry. You’ve got the friend you want, they’ve earned your trust and respect, and anyone offering something similar isn’t competition, they’re an annoyance.
Anyway, you get the point. Obviously in this wacky parallel it helps if your’e a service-based business, IE the thing your clients are buying is really the expertise of your people, rather than some conveyor-belt widget. And yeah, I’ve probably simplified things a little. Is it tough to rank or show up in search in Youtube given the sheer volume of similar videos that get uploaded all the time? Yeah, it is. Should you be embedding Youtube videos into your website? Absolutely not, but that’s always been the case; get Vimeo or something better.
But the bottom line is…people kind of expect you to be on Youtube, and will do for a while. And if you can get blitzed in a millisecond by a competitor’s ad, then you’re either selling widgets and competing on price, in which case you’ll always be vulnerable, or your positioning needs some personality injecting into it.
So take a look at your team. Do you feel a little tingle of pride as you watch them do great work day in, day out? Do you know in your heart that they’d kick seven professional bells out of any competitors, given half a chance? Then get their passion and expertise out of the meeting room and in front of potential clients, and leave the competition in the rear-view mirror.