Clustering - A Powerful Internet StrategyBy: Mary Sweeny
In the physical world, if you're looking for a new car, you can simply drive to a busy street and you'll find car dealer after car dealer. Buicks, Fords, Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles, lined up for the shopping. You can easily compare a vast array of models, and one of the dealers will get your business.
Similarly, smart restaurant owners locate themselves strategically in a cluster of other businesses. After all, which makes more sense-standing alone, in a secluded location, or being in the midst of other restaurants and stores?
Competitive nature might suggest that you stand alone, but research has consistently shown that a group of restaurants, a Chinese restaurant next to an Italian restaurant, next to a Mexican restaurant, will individually do better and have a greater chance of success located in a cluster.
Clustering represents a definite advantage on the Internet as well. Once you carve out your own piece of Internet "real estate" - your own specialty - you can virtually own that specialty. By clustering a group of related businesses on your specialty site, you'll begin to draw a crowd.
Vast numbers of Internet users will visit your site because you will become the expert in that specialty. Just as hungry diners go to "restaurant row," you'll have potentially hundreds of thousands of visits every day. The traffic you generate will result in marketing exposure and sales for you and your advertisers. This creates a tremendous advertising revenue opportunity for you, the expert in your specialty.
Clustering businesses encourages cross promotion
Let's say you've carved out a niche in golfing , for example.
Your site might consist of general information about golf. Tips on how to improve your swing, and lower your handicap, on how to select the right equipment, the "mental approach," and so on. When someone visits your golfing site, they tell their friends about it. Before long, you've got 10,000 people visiting your site every day.
Now you can attract a golf equipment retailer to your site. The retailer wants to be part of your site because you are attracting hot prospects-people with a keen interest in golf.
If you've qualified this retailer, making sure he has a good name, a good product line, and fair prices, people who visit your site and do business with the retailer will want to come back.
Now you have the opportunity to add another advertiser to your site, perhaps a golf course or two, or three, or four. These golf courses would be smart to pay you a fee, and/or even a percentage of sales, for including them in your golf specialty site. You could include diagrams of the course, rates, schedules, and phone numbers, so that site visitors can instantly reserve their tee time.
You can continue by adding a driving range, a golf instructor, and printed golfing publications. By clustering and focusing on a specific niche, your site can become world famous in a matter of a few months.
Marketing your site
The number of adults active on the Internet in the United States is expected to be 40 million by the end of this year. The worldwide number is probably double this. It's obvious, the potential for Internet marketing is tremendous. And the growth of this market is certainly not slowing!
External marketing of your specialty site will speed its growth. Once you have advertisers on your site, you'll want to work with them, so they'll include your site in all of their marketing efforts. Each individual advertiser will be helping the others, and this is a powerful part of the multiplying effect of clustering.
But in order to successfully reach this market, you must create a marketing message that sells. The rules of advertising in general, apply to Internet marketing as well-with some additions.
Change is key
In addition to creating a message that gets attention, creates interest, desire and action (the AIDA formula), you must provide variety. Constant change on a Web site is ultra-important. The only way to build a successful Internet marketing site, as with any business, is to develop repeat business.
Visitors to your site must have a reason to come back again and again. You and your advertisers must have a firm commitment to constantly improving, adding to, and updating your Internet site. If your site is constantly changing in an interesting way, your visitors will come back, and place your site in their "bookmark" file on their Web browser.
Cross linking, another advantage
Once you succeed in building a really hot Internet specialty site, other related sites will want you to provide links to them. A link lets users click on a key word or picture and move on to a different Internet site. In return for providing a link to their site on yours, they will reciprocate with a link on their site to yours.
This clustering strategy can mean that virtually anyone in the world who is interested in your specialty will be able to find out about your site and visit it with a few clicks of the mouse!
This is clustering to great advantage. It is one of the most powerful Internet sales tools.
© Copyright 2000, Mary Sweeny
The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.