Most of you know that executing an effective search marketing strategy is important to a business. However, have you ever stopped to wonder how businesses that aren’t adapting to a search marketing centered business world are faring?
Some aren’t doing so hot. Some are actually going out of business!
Earlier this year, I was invited to do a keynote speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The organizer asked me to sift through the southeast Wisconsin newspapers to see if I could find any stories that might make good talking points for the local media.
Little did I know that this exercise would yield one of the best search marketing case studies that I’ve ever discovered!
Furniture Stores: A Search Marketing Case Study
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran two stories about local furniture store chains, one going out of business, Porters of Racine, and the other more fortunate, Steinhafels, announcing a new store.
Porters of Racine had opened 1857, before Abraham Lincoln was president, and was going out of business after 153 years. The article stated, “Porters has been struggling with slow sales for several years.”
Most new search marketing clients tell me variations of things like this. When I looked at the web site, I found a thin website that at the time had “Porters of Racine” as the title tag of every page.
This web site wasn’t designed to showcase the high-end fine furniture brands that Porters sold, the service area that Porters once served across the Midwest reached effectively by television advertising, or structured to index well in Google.
Search Marketing Destroyed What Fire, The Depression Couldn’t
Interestingly, Porters of Racine wasn’t your typical, ordinary furniture store. Opened in 1857 by William Allen Porter, the business thrived until it was destroyed by a fire in 1866. Porter overcame this obstacle and ran the business until his death in 1888.
His nephews ran the store until it was sold to the Gottlieb family in 1919; they guided the business through the Great Depression and started to display the world’s finest high-end furniture displayed in magnificent museum-like period rooms in Porters of Racine’s Guild Gallery. According to Porter’s website, the Guild Gallery opened to lines around the block in 1939 and hosted 40,000 visitors that year.
Make no mistake, Porters of Racine was more than a high-end furniture store. It was once a destination in its own right.
Porters was located 75 miles north of Chicago and 25 miles south of Milwaukee. When television came along, they advertised on both Chicago and Milwaukee TV outlets and reached the entire service area.
The store has amazing name recognition with senior citizens due to this previous television advertising, but had almost non-existent recognition with younger generations.
As the Porters of Racine search marketing strategy issues raced through my mind, I sat down and wrote “Brand Marketing Channel Business Budgeting Strategy Misfortune: Porters of Racine.” I asserted, backed by extensive keyword research, my strong belief that Porters didn’t go out of business due to cheap Chinese imports or the housing bust as the owners advocated. Porters went out of business because they didn’t successfully migrate their website to match how the customers using Google might find them via local search queries such as [Milwaukee furniture” and [Wisconsin furniture store” and internationally for the high-end brands that Porters carried. If the store had been in Milwaukee instead of Racine (i.e., Porters of Milwaukee), it might still be in business today by default!
The relevancy and commercial intent of these queries is literally off the chart and to not rank for them was suicidal in nature. Furniture purchases are highly infrequent in nature. New generations of furniture buyers making plans to visit stores never even put Porters on their list because it was invisible in search for every Midwest local qualifier other than Racine itself.
Even when the query volume is reduced to compensate for potential overcounting, Porters of Racine missed out on at least 10,000 relevant search engine results page (SERP) mention opportunities. Over the course of seven years, that it is likely over 840,000 missed SERP mentions.
You can check the Internet Wayback machine if you want to look at the history of Porters of Racine’s websites — and there were many. However, none ever engaged the core issue: ineffective search marketing content aligned with their business strategy to effectively acquire customers.
Bottom line: if you don’t rank for core terms that matter to your business, you may find yourself going out of business! There is indeed a cost to doing nothing and those costs and risks are exponentially growing.
A Balanced Multi-channel Marketing Strategy
Conversely, rival upscale furniture store Steinhafels ranks number one for search terms like Milwaukee furniture and Wisconsin furniture, has their flagship store right alongside the interstate on I-94 where is seen by tens of thousands each day, and when I checked into my hotel in to do that keynote speaking engagement Steinhafels had a TV commercial on the 10 p.m. local newscast.
They understand that marketing strategy is about balanced multi-channel marketing strategy. That is why Steinhafels is opening new stores. In the New Normal, what matters most is to acquire relevant customers at a marginal cost that is lower than your competitors.
It’s nothing short of amazing that Porters of Racine survived rebuilding after a great fire and the Depression of the 1930s didn’t survive the transition from media buying in a brand marketing arena to effective search marketing in the search engine migration. Sadly, the previous success of a strong brand marketing driven organization appears to make them resistant to change. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Why is it so Hard to Migrate to Effective Search Marketing?
Before we attempt to address that, let’s first revisit the Industrial Revolution, where machines over time were able to mass produce what humans had made by hand. The Wikipedia entry states, “Some twentieth century historians such as John Clapham and Nicholas Crafts have argued that the process of economic and social change took place gradually and the term revolution is not a true description of what took place. This is still a subject of debate among historians.”
Does this sound familiar to you? It should comfort search marketers to know that historians can’t agree on the effects of the Industrial Revolution even today. Your pioneering hard work in search marketing likely won’t be fully understood for decades.
Search marketing is rapidly becoming the lead strategic marketing process as brand creative diminishes in importance in a content driven world. We must demonstrate to business leaders across the globe that is the current reality.
We can do this by sharing this article and related blog posts with as many people as possible and talking about the serious business strategy implications and opportunity costs of doing nothing that could possibly be fatal to a business.
Please consider analyzing the following:
- Educate business leaders, not only in marketing but across the organization, about the importance of search marketing strategy and its impact on business performance.
- Demonstrate how marketing budgets aren’t yet in alignment with the realities of usage and performance of marketing channels.
- Learn how to discuss search marketing issues in terms of business performance and taking the technology out of the equation. It’s about effectively aligning the organization with the customer in real time.
Repeat the above steps until we succeed in our mission of successful organizational transformation. For more information, you may listen to Peter Clayton’s podcast where he recently interviewed me on this and related subjects. It brings the issues to life in a way text simply can’t do.