What Mattresses Have Taught Us About Marketing

The curve of consumer product adoption is used to describe how products, interests, and consumer spending evolves. New products often launch with only moderate interest, some find peak interest shortly thereafter, and most eventually plateau. Mattress brands are one of the newest such cases to illustrate this phenomena and I’m here to tell you how the lessons learned there can help any business, including your own.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

The curve of product adoption is a general distribution graph to illustrate different segments of consumers. Each of these segments can be further segmented if one feels pedantic, but I’m going to keep it simple for discussion’s sake. The five stages of product adoption are as follows (in order):

  1. Innovators
  2. Early Adopters
  3. Early Majority
  4. Late Majority
  5. Laggards

These might seem like common-sense distinctions but they can actually be leveraged to help businesses predict future revenue, time product launches, and even roll out product updates. There’s few times in business when less information is better. See the chart below for a visual explanation.

Image from CrazyEgg

Spotting Consumer Crazes

Tree leaves are all very similar relative to other biological structures in the world yet they are also each quite unique. Consumer trends are much the same: they can be used to predict but are rarely 100% accurate (read as never 100% accurate.) Still, having something to go on is better than nothing, right?

In the world of investing, there’s a phenomena called a bubble. These are periods of rapid, wide-spread adoption that spike market prices. Inevitably, this gives way to a market correction which, in many cases, results in a market crash. One of the most famous examples of such happenings is the case of Tulip Mania.

This phenomenon is modeled as a function defined by several phases, similar to the product adoption model. The phases of this model are as follows:

  1. Smart Money (IPO Investors, Relatives, Insiders, VCs)
  2. Institutional Money (Big banks, Hedge Funds, Market Capitalists)
  3. Public (Often on the coat tails of viral news)

The public (read as majority) is what inevitably causes the market to collapse. The price of something can only rise so much before even the most naive investor holds up their hands. The chart below illustrates this method of modeling markets and consumer spending.

Image from TradingFloor

What’s That About Mattresses?

We started out talking about how mattresses, of all things, are a modern spotlight of study among marketers. Using the above two concepts of modeling data I believe it’s easy to understand how, at least partially. The entire discussion starts on the recent dawn of Bed in a Box mattress brands. These products weren’t new per-se, but they offered a new version of an existing product. They also offered a new solution to an age-old problem: the frustration of spending too much.

Let’s say you want the best mattress possible for your budget. You’ve read the guides, know the features you’re looking for, and even know the best mattress brands. What’s your biggest pain points, regardless of which mattress you buy? Getting the mattress home and returning it if it’s defective. Let’s consolidate those into a single issue: moving the mattress. Mattresses are heavy and no one likes to move them any more than they have to. Their big, heavy, and you have to be super careful not to drop them or get them dirty. All around, their a hassle.

Bed in a Box

Image from Home Refinery

Mattress brands like Casper and Tuft & Needle came out of the gate swinging around 2014. They were out for blood and had their cross-hairs focused on big brands like Sealy, Serta-Simmons, and Sleep-Number. They used social media and modern digital marketing techniques to create viral campaigns that burned one thing into consumer’s minds: we’re all paying too much for mattresses.

Their pitch revolved around the fact that buying a mattress in a store allowed consumers to fall prey to unnecessary markup. That’s no secret though, so why all the fuss? These brands were claiming that consumers were spending thousands of dollars more than necessary. All that markup was from transportation costs, warehousing, and home-delivery. After all, it’s not cheap to deliver something that’s 6-feet x 7-feet and weighs 200 pounds. It all came down to moving the mattresses, and these brands had a solution.

These brands designed their mattresses out of memory foam, separate microcoils, and other materials that could be squished, folded, rolled, and vacuum-packed into boxes that carries like UPS could deliver. Overnight, mattress prices were halved, buyers could order online, have the mattress delivered to their home (for free in most cases), and were even given crazy-long warranties to top it all off. These mattress brands killed it.

Mattress Mania

Using the above-mentioned consumer modeling, we can predict where the mattress market is moving. The early adopters were those that saw Casper as the innovative genius they were. The next wave were those that recognized their success, found value in newer competitors, and never looked back. After them, there was a similar wave of consumer interest which was backed by second generations of product designs, IPO’s being launched, and Venture Capitalists rushing to get in on the party.

We’re now several years into the late majority phase of brand interest (that is, new brands trying to get in on the action) and the public phase of market interest (that is, consumers rushing to replace their mattresses.) What this circumstance brings about is an abundance of mattress brands offering a silly amount of options to an ever-swelling group of interested consumers. We’re approaching mania status, though nothing can be said for sure other than that the Golden Days are likely behind us.

Applying Models to Your Business

Illustration of business ideas and meeting
Image from iStock

All this type of data, concepts, and methods of analysis can be useful to businesses of all sizes. Knowing how to gauge which stages certain products or markets are currently in can help you spot a good investment opportunity—or know when to run.

When it comes to mattresses, we’ve recently seen the big brands like Serta-Simmons and Sealy launch their own spinoff brands, buy-up successful brands, and recycle the original practices of price markup that launched the “revolution” to begin with. These brands are going to be successful because they carry the weight of multinational marketing departments behind them. These companies already know how to sell a mattress. There’s not likely to be anymore Caspers pop up though.

Final Thoughts

When you see a new or revitalized market receiving widespread adoption from corporate interest you should ask yourself if the opportunity for small business entrance has already passed. In most cases, it has. There’s always a way to get a foot in the door but if the room is already overcrowded it might not be worth the effort. If you’re still staring at the drawing board and, all things being equal, spot this type of situation it’s probably best to move onto the next idea.

How to Successfully Market Your Business Online

Business marketing covers a wide spectrum of approaches. There are simple approaches, complex ones, traditional ones, and those that scare upper management! Each of these have their time and place but several have been battle-tested and are known-performers.

Setting your business up for success starts at the ground floor. This article is about helping you learn how to envision your business’ path forward and anticipate its needs. Don’t worry, we’re not claiming to teach anyone to predict the future. More along the lines of putting gas in the tank if you don’t want to get stranded on the side of the road.

Step One: Know Your Market

The single commonest point-of-failure for new businesses is not knowing their target market. Having a great product or service still isn’t enough in most cases. People need to know how that great product or service relates to their lives. Identifying a target audience can be as complex a task as one wishes it to be. You could employ a market research firm over a course of years to collect proprietary market data—or just brainstorm on a napkin. The points of focus are remarkably similar either way:

  1. Look at Existing Customers
  2. Look at Past Customers
  3. Look at Competitors
  4. Create Lists of Target Demographics (women, husbands, newly-weds, etc.)
  5. Create Lists of Target Psychologies (fed up with work, rushed for time, etc.)
  6. Identify Pain Points of These Audiences
  7. Re-evaluate Constantly

By considering these approaches of identifying a target demographic, if only for a single afternoon, you’ll be setting your business up for success rather than ‘winging’ it.

Step Two: Communicate Effectively

Effective marketing is effective communication. What they don’t tell you is that successful businesses don’t need to create sensational advertising to be successful. For example, let’s say you’re on a desert highway and need to fill up your cars gas tank to ensure you don’t run out before reaching your destination. What more does a gas station need than to have an open sign to get your attention?

This simplistic example starts falling apart when you introduce competition but illustrates our point: don’t over-think things. Sometimes the simplest approach is the most effective approach. People want to find the answers to their questions as quickly as wholly as possible. Many businesses that create resources around answering common questions in their market find out something remarkable. Not only do their customers become higher converters but their competitors customers start jumping ship.

The formula is simple. Provide a better overall experience than your competitor. Pricing is only one variable and support, ease-of-use, and experience all play a role as well. One of the single most effective ways to get started is to start a blog for your business and discuss topics of interest to your customers. Detailed guides on how to use your products will be of great interest. Sometimes giving a potential customer an idea of what to expect is enough to win over your competitors.

Starting a blog is easier than it’s ever been before. If you have a website, the best option is to have your blog located there. This increases your chances of having a non-customer find your blog and become a paying customer. After all, they’re already on your site! Depending on how your website is built, you may need to hire a developer to get you started. These are the basic steps to start a blog from scratch:

  1. Register a Domain Name (if hosting your own site)
  2. Choose a Website Framework (Wordpres, Magento, Shopify, etc.)
  3. Choose a Webhosting Company
  4. Do Market & Keyword Research
  5. Create Quality Content (not posts about sales)
  6. Market Your Website (PPC, SEO, Forums, etc.)

To be fair: each of those steps can get pretty involved—especially 4-6. The best piece of advice we can offer is just get started. You’ll quickly find that audiences respond to content you’d never imagine them to sometimes. The quicker you get started, the more quickly you’ll be able to adapt to your target market’s preferences!

Step Three: Be Open & Honest About Your Business’ Policies

Nothing cultivates negative reviews and BBB reports faster than shady marketing. Business models that rely on customers not reading the fine print are doomed from the start. The only types of companies that can get away with this type of shady operating practice are those where no other alternatives exist. Cell phone companies, for example. What are you going to do, not have a phone?

This isn’t a piece of advice from a Boy Scouts manual either; you can apply this from the ground up. If your business has extra charges tell people about it. If your delivery times are longer to help reduce cost tell people about it. If your product’s lifespan is only 6 months tell people about it. The best approach to ensure an open and honest approach to your business is to assume your customers know nothing about your product.

This mindset of total responsibility in describing your product or service helps reduce the number of cracks in your support and marketing pipeline that could let major issues slip through. Regulatory labels are a prime example of such opportunity. Take dietary supplements for example. Herbal products that contain naturally occurring trace levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury are required by California law to be labeled as such. Not explaining this label to customers just makes it seem like the products contain lead.

This extends to other areas such as managing negative reviews, which any business is bound to get. What consumers often fail to recognize that, in many cases, the only people motivated to leave a review are those that are angry. Viewing negative reviews as opportunities to publicly showcase your customer service is good practice. Don’t cater to unreasonable requests but go out of your way to make things right. Businesses don’t often give customers enough credit for their ability to recognize someone being unreasonable in a review. If you show up with a level-headed approach you’ll walk away as the good guy.

Putting it All Together

The issues discussed here are common to all businesses. Thriving in an online market simply means applying these concepts to your business’ digital footprint. As a way to help illustrate how successful businesses tie this together, we’ll leave you with a video from Brian Dean on how to drive traffic to your business website:

Furniture Marketing

Furniture Marketing & eCommerce

Furniture marketing has seen more quick adaptation to modernized advertising methods than many industries. We’ve seen a recent eCommerce boom with the furniture industry, and have discussed laggard approaches in re-tooling for modern consumers. One area where most brands have had little issue with is in their marketing endeavors. Modern businesses operated much in the way that media companies used to—their image is as important as ever.

Getting Social

When reaching consumers on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat businesses have to cater to the native format. As the internet grows even more quickly, and smart devices become more powerful—videos and imagery are more vital to modern business than ever. The furniture industry has always held a strong favor towards the visually impactful approaches and can be compared to the fashion industry in this regard.

Big billboards, full-page spreads with nothing more than a picture—not to mention the entire furniture industry is heavily related to design’s thoroughfare to consumers. The best furniture brands have quickly adapted, while others have not, and old romantic views of business in the market have dragged them down. Furniture brands offer an illuminating sense of how many other modern businesses should approach their ad campaigns, although furniture may have only been successful by coincidence.

Modern Media Companies

If you are looking for a plumber, how do you imagine to find one? Written reviews, word of mouth, maybe just a simple local Google search with a handful of reviews—these are how most people search. However, those plumbers that show a dedication to their audience’s problems are typically the ones that get found the most easily. Maybe a local plumber has a blog about kitchen remodeling, where all they talk about is non-plumbing related topics. People that are renovating their kitchens would likely want to read it and find value in it. These same people will likely need a plumber, and if they’ve just finished an article on kitchen design that brought them value, then see your number on the site, you might just get a call. Now compare that plumber to a listing of a local guy who only pokes at advertising was to place his number in the Yellow Pages.

Waning Roles

Who the hell uses the Yellow Pages anymore? Mailmen across American are looked upon with disdain on the days they drop of these piles of soon-to-be fire starter. The point is, the first plumber is involved in his audiences perspective, while the second is simply holding an open for business sign. There’s a million plumber’s out there, and the one that’s already got your attention is more likely to get your business, all things being equal. To get a better idea of some of the best furniture brands, that all are exhibiting excellent demonstrations of modern marketing and social media presence, read this article. It does well, to sum up, most of the largest furniture manufacturers in the marketplace right now, and a quick peek at their social media pages can offer a lot of insight.

Universal Concepts

Plumbing may seem a bit tangential to Furniture, and even more so to marketing, but the same approaches can help any business succeed. First, know your customer, and know their perspective. If you’re a furniture company, the traditional perspective of the buyers have been those looking for something aesthetically pleasing, and within their budget; pretty simple right? Today anyone with a design idea and some capital can start a furniture company that contracts every aspect of its business model from factory to finish, and produce some sharp looking furniture. The best furniture manufacturers in the world utilize methods similar to this, though they’ve spent the last 100 years perfecting their supply chains and manufacturing processes.

Finding A Way In

You wouldn’t be competing well with them, but you’d be nimble and could hit the holes where they aren’t able to meet their customers. The point it—entry into nearly any market has gotten dramatically less costly since the modernization of international supply chains recent technologies. What separates success from simply having 50 dressers sitting in a warehouse is the marketing and meeting your customers demand. Furniture brands have been sensationalizing their designs for countless decades, much in the same way cosmetics and fashion have.

Furniture advertising is visual and very dramatic—often leaving you with a sense of emotion but no clear knowledge of what was being advertised. Maybe the room? Maybe the Lights? Maybe the bed? Either way, the pictures are pretty and they garner much attention from anyone passing them by. While this has been effective in the past, it has become tremendously effective now. Modern marketers stand to learn a ton from the approaches taken by the furniture brands on social media sites like Instagram, SnapChat, and even Facebook.

Respect the Platform

Nothing is more easily-dismissed than a social media page that has nothing but coupon resembling ‘ads’ from a local business trying to push their products. With the dawn of social media, businesses simply thought that by showing up to the party—they’d get all the attention. They couldn’t have been more wrong (except maybe the early adopters in some cases) and many of them never figured out they still had to dance and be merry. Furniture brands came out swinging hard, in all the right ways.

Know Your Format

Furniture manufacturers don’t typically sell furniture directly to consumers, so they had no qualms about just showing off the product. Another part of their business model over the past 50 years has to sell a lifestyle, not just furniture. Furniture’s workflow already consisted of creating elaborate interiors and design scenes for product photography, so using those pictures on social media sites was a no-brainer. Thus, their coincidental magnificence was born—little commercial vibe with a ton visual style.

People got to see pretty things and were bothered by annoying ads while they did it. That’s the secret formula—providing unadulterated value—and it comes so hard for most businesses. It’s hard to measure the effect, and if you can’t put a dollar ROI amount to it, most larger businesses won’t even consider it. For a great example, check out Bernhardt Furniture’s Instagram profile—it’s beautiful. It’s nothing but pretty pictures (that’s Instagram’s native format) and the only commercial intent seems to be to give away free furniture in contests.

Enrich User Experience, Don’t Interrupt It

The takeaway on this is that modern business has the opportunity to reach an incredibly large audience, at virtually no cost in many cases. Traditional advertising has relied on people being shown ads when the expected to see them, such as TV, Magazines, and Billboards. When people are cruising through the news feed on Facebook—they don’t expect a 3 minute sponsored interruption. Facebook knows this, and their marketing platform simply shows native post-formatted ads to users, who often don’t realize they are ads. When’s the last time you watched a TV commercial?

When’s the last time you even let one play all the way through? 80+ BILLION dollars are still spent every year on television marketing, and NO ONE is paying attention to them. When’s the last time you saw a TV ad for Bernhardt furniture though? Furniture has made no huge shift in their approach, it’s just the market that’s shifted to them. If you run a business and you aren’t  on social media right now, you are so late to the party it’s embarrassing to remind you one’s even going on.

You need to be there, you have to be there if you want to compete these days, but you have to respect the format of the platform. Rather than simply drilling out ads hoping some poor soul get sucked in, just join in conversations and help people solve problems. Make it clear on your profiles that you are a business and what you specialize in, and people will figure the rest out. If you’ve got a sale going on one day, let people know. Don’t let them know about a sale every day though—because that’s not really a sale at all is it? That’s just the goddamn price.

Closing Thoughts

Social media and furniture have come to get along famously, and any business can learn a valuable lesson. The biggest names in furniture are blasting their markets with beautiful arrays of images and lifestyle shots to help satiate their followers’ appetite for media. By providing value, they earn the respect of their followers and hopefully a note in their memory. If someone stopped to help you change your tire on the side of the road, and right when they left they handed you a business card and said: “Hey, I’m a carpenter; if you ever need help with a project just give me a shout!”—who do you think that person is going to call to help them renovate their kitchen.

The tire-changing, good-hearted, highway hero—even if he charges more than his competition. It’s not because he’s a better carpenter, it’s because he seems like a better person. If you want someone to pay more attention to your business on social media, they have to think that you provide more value to them than your competition—period. Don’ worry about selling them anything, just meet them where they already are and talk about what they want to hear about. If you’ve got something for sell at that point, and they’re interested in buying, you’re already 80% of the way towards closing the deal.

Market Segmentation Icons

Market Segmentation Part 2

This post is a continuation of our segmentation series. If you haven’t already, you may want to check out the first post—Market Segmentation—Focus Where it Counts

In our first post regarding Market Segmentation, we discussed the general idea of isolating certain portions of your customers to gain a better insight into their unique preferences. This method of qualification can be used to help you find more interested parties, more in-demand products, and also offer valuable insights into the benefit of your marketing focus and advertising investments. We left off discussing how segmentation can help understand how seemingly dismal conversion rates are really just sometimes a case of misinterpreted data, or at the very least misrepresented data.

To quickly illustrate an example of how market segmentation is applied in the real world, take a website that I recently had the pleasure to work with, The Organic Newsroom who graciously said I could use them as an example. They are a Health-oriented site, focusing on content marketing. That is to say, they market the information they produce as opposed to selling an actual product. While this dynamic is a bit different, all the principles are the same. Now, there is an ocean of Health-websites, many of which are impossible to compete against such as WebMDHealthline, and even the ever-cheesy To get around this obvious hurdle, The Organic Newsroom has focused their attention on the alternative health segment, and even further so—the treatment of health concerns with natural supplements. So they are here: Health->Alternative Health->Supplements & Dietary Nutrition.

Now, in reality, they are even further segmented than this, but that’s good enough for our discussion here. This organization, which is a for-profit outfit, has the refreshing goal of simply spreading their information far and wide. For instance, they have an article which compares 8 of the best vitamin brands available. It plunges in depth about all of them and helps any potential reader learn the pros and cons of each. They, in turn, make small affiliate commissions from any referrals they may give to supplement retailers. In essence, their goal is to help people learn, and their profit model is facilitating a way for their readers to apply that knowledge. Forgive my tangent, it’s just that in my line of work you very rarely get to work with companies with earnest missions unless you consider “helping” America’s youth find the latest pair of Jordans to be noble.

I helped the Organic Newsroom to gain a better understanding of their site’s audience, by analyzing affinity categories and interest groups (two powerful segmentations made available in Google Analytics) which can help elucidate audience interests. This helped them better understand how to reach audiences that would most benefit from their content, and enable them to focus their energy on making that content most-available there. This enables them to spend more time producing content, and less time worrying about conversion rates, audience engagement, and other aspects that can create a void of division in business directions. This type of focus also helps more people that are interested in your unique product or service find your site or store, which in turn greatly increases your organic referrals—through online links or just plain old word of mouth. Ultimately though, this method is a means of analyzing the sources of your traffic, and any additional data that is attached to that data just makes life even easier.

Traffic Sources

We’ve seen how some traffic sources can behave drastically different than others, such as one source representing a strong buyers intent while another offering nearly none. Sometimes, however, your business may not necessarily need target interest, and you’re after a strict numbers game type of consumer base. Take, for example, a small news and media organization that I recently had the pleasure of working with. Without being too specific, they were a fairly old-school Local TV news channel which had an online presence, but certainly nothing that would be considered competitive to major regional affiliate networks. They had all the tools in place, had a website just like you’d expect to see from a larger agency, but had an old school mindset and hadn’t really committed themselves to the investment of reaching out to the new iPad bearing, click-happy, techies that the entire world seems to have transformed into overnight.

They were getting roughly 80,000 visitors to their site a month when I came in, which isn’t all that bad. However, for the amount of content they generate, it was pretty dismally short of where I had a feeling they could beat. They had a presence on social networks, but it was heavily automated and didn’t really engage the audience with pictures, questions, or other methods proven to increase audience excitement. Now, before I continue you should know that the methods used here can very easily be abused, or taken to extremes, which often results in a very spammy vibe which could hurt the reputation of a business. As with anything, one should exercise a degree of caution and modestly dredge onward.

My first step was to segment out the sources of their website traffic into broad categories; Social, Referral (links from other sites), Direct, and Organic Search. These should be viewed as top-level sources, and not to be viewed as overly insightful in most cases. The breakdown was as follows: 35% Direct, 30% Referral, 20% Social and ~15% Organic Search. There are some other random source types in there, but I’m ignoring them right now. Immediately, for previous experience in this field, I knew that their social traffic had a tremendously underutilized potential. For instance, a single article on a site like Reddit can sometimes generate over 50K visitors a day. Given, that’s a black swan event; they still didn’t have many “spikes” in traffic to get everyone excited. I know these types of results peel back ears, and I wanted to get a further commitment from them, so that’s where I started. I’ll skip the numbers for now, as we’re focusing on segmentation, but within the first month with very little effort their social traffic quadrupled, and new visitor counts grew by 35%.

Referral traffic is a bit tricky to tear apart sometimes, as it represents visitors from other sites that can be tricky to find sometimes. In addition, there are often thousands of referring websites for larger sites such as the one I was working on, and data can become a bit obfuscated by its sheer volume. I approached it by taking the top 25 referring domains, by number referred, and analyzed them with a custom piece of software that counted the unique pages on each in which they were referred from, and then weighs that against the overall referred amount, returning a “friendly” figure between 0 and 1. So basically if 1500 hits came from a site that had 1500 links on 1500 pages, I’d get a big fat 0 on my number chart, which basically lets me know that for every link on that site I would only be able to expect a single person.

For a site that had 1500 hits, from 10 links, on 10 pages, I’d get a number closer to 1. Don’t worry about the math, it’s a bit relativistic and not really practical, meant only to be representative. So my end result is a list of those 25 domains I’ve chosen, with 25 paired values associated with their link “value.” While Google Analytics doesn’t really have an easy button for this, this is a type of segmentation that can show you the value of a single link from any given source. Ultimately, I found that the third site from the top of my list was a user-generated content site which was bringing nearly 1100 visits per link to my client’s site. There were only 8 links on the site in total, but I could also ensure that many more would be added at aptly timed intervals.

So, technical babble aside, segmentation of traffic sources allowed me to find a site that was bringing a lot of traffic to the site with very few links. In addition, this site offered the ability for anyone to add as many links as the wanted. This meant that I could add links to my clients’ site there as often as I wanted, and get roughly 140 visitors per link! That was nearly $75 of paid search traffic per link, FOR FREE. That adds up fast, even for a larger company like my clients.

At the end of the first month, their traffic had grown from 80,000 to over 200,000, with nearly 65,000 coming from social networking sites alone! This client’s revenue was generated by the ad spaces on their site, which gave them a tremendous incentive to get more people on site, even if it meant a less targeted amount. Now, before you think that I’m some wizard of money making, let me break down the profit increases vs. visitor increases for you. With a roughly 250% increase in overall site traffic, there was seen a 15% increase in overall advertising revenue, which can’t always be broken down as easily as other facets of this project.

The overall click-through rate of the site’s ads only dropped by from ~2% to 1.75% which is pretty good considering all the different channels that got added to the traffic flow. One of the largest factors that seems to stand out in this data is the amount of fixed price ad space that is being sold by my client. In other words, the amount of ad space they sell for a monthly rate, regardless of views or clicks. I’m assuming they’ll want to consider changing their approach, as the power of market segmentation has clearly shown that they have the potential to earn much more than they are currently.

market segmentation

Market Segmentation — Focus Where It Counts

The concept of market segmentation isn’t anything that novel, and you’re probably applying it to your business already. As with many differentiated approaches to reaching your customers, it really pays to be aware of what you are doing, so you can assess and improve. Segmentation is simply the identification of a smaller subset within a larger whole. For instance, if you are selling baseball hats, one segment of the market you are [hopefully] targeting is Major League Baseball hats. Other segments of the hat market would be kids hats, women’s hats, hunting hats, floppy hats, etc… The general idea is that by utilizing market segmentation, one is able to further target the interests of a consumer base. For example, a woman looking for an elegant sun hat would fall within the category of the hat market, but do you think she would have any interest in shopping at a Lids franchise? Ultimately segmentation is a method that can be used for helping discover and meet unique demand within your target market, and evolve your overall approach to be more beneficial for you and the consumer.

There are a ton of articles floating around the Internet regarding the theory of market segmentation, so I’ll skip trying to sound academic and simply discuss some practical examples. If you are looking for some theory, check here.

Website Traffic

Website analytical data is one of the most crucial insights that any business owner can have—capable of offering tremendous insight into the behavior and interests of customers. In the era of Google, very complex data can be gathered by even the most green of beginners, and put to practical use. I’m going to assume you don’t care about the logistics of deploying this on your website, and that you’ll most likely just forward this to your IT department. If you want to add a note though, most of these concepts are applicable to very free analytical services such as Google Analytics.


Where does your traffic come from, and how does on site activity differ between traffic sources? On the surface this may seem like a pretty general question to some entrepreneurs that are new to the world of business. However, take my word for it that these two questions represent a collective rabbit hole that many have spent entire careers attempting to determine. The crux of it all; as soon as you start to have an elucidated mindfulness, your market may change drastically overnight. Even if it doesn’t, competition may drive you out of a market leaving you with a heap of useful information you can readily apply to your business life.

Lots and lots of website traffic is generated from social websites now, with Facebook being the obvious front runner having Twitter not far behind. However, with the rise in popularity of mobile devices and social networking, many other sources such as Pinterest, Linkedin, Stumbleupon, and many many more platforms are offering robust contributions to traffic reports. While these can seem very exciting on the surface, there are often many times when the numbers rain on the parade. For example, a site I recently audited was receiving roughly 3500 visitors a week from social sources, and only about 150 from organic Google searches. Of the nearly 3650 visitors each week, they were averaging only 12 sales. They had already changed marketing firms several times and had held off on shifting a handful of part-timers into full-time positions until they felt more confident. So, by the numbers, their website had a less-than one percent conversion rate—which is pretty dismal. They had a lot of time and investment in their website and had a very professional sales funnel in place to qualify buyers to a degree. Regardless of their investment though, they just couldn’t seem to convert.

To show you the power of market segmentation in providing insight; I took their Google Analytics data and with a few clicks separated the traffic from social networks from the traffic of organic Google results.  The results? of the 3500 social network visitors, not a single one had bought a product. That sounds horrible until you consider the implication it gives towards the organic Google traffic. All 12 sales came from those 150 clicks originating from organic Google results—a whopping 8 percent conversion rate.

While the content they had invested in to get on their website certainly wasn’t free, it’s presence in the Google search results was pretty much. You don’t have to pay Google to put your site in search results, although you can utilize their AdWords service. Regardless, this company was spending roughly $1000/mo on Facebook and Twitter ads, combined with the time their part-timers were spending managing their social profiles. The company had seen the sudden spike in traffic to their website and assumed that their money was making an impact. Truth be told, their money was making an impact, just not one that was showing them a monetary return. This is a great example of how focusing on one segment of a market can help offer insights about the whole market, and help you make better holistic decisions to get you to where you want to be.

Entrepreneur LightBulb Idea

Entrepreneurial Spirit

The curse; that drive that has pushed so many of us to seek novelty—there’s no reward such as that which is given for sheer determination. Not much of a sentence, but truly a powerful sentiment. Entrepreneurs across the universe, regardless of their personal diversity, all share a very similar experience of pitting themselves against odds and driving to succeed. Some want to make money, some want independence, some even want to change the world—but they are all striving to make real an image of their own will. Often learning every lesson the hard way, being dragged through financial hardship, these rare-breeds of species possess something that other people simply do not. While this may sound like some hidden gene to those who don’t share its effect, to those serial entrepreneurs and independent business owners—it’s often regarded as a curse.

The stakes are high, and the game is ever-changing which means anyone getting their first foothold in an industry finally could still lose it overnight. It helps to find oneself in a market with high demand and low competition—but that’s usually a pipe dream unless you want to serve an isolated segment such as Amish dairy farmers from Southern Nebraska. Most companies have an online presence these days, and if possible offer their products to the widest range of people possible.

To drive improvement, to evolved understanding, to inspire interaction, and to know—even in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary—that they can make an impact on the world on their terms;

Gone are the days of being geographically isolated, but also long gone are the brigades of geo-location which helps isolate competition. The truth is, all things considered, the market is probably similar to the way it has always been. More people, more competition. More competition, more markets. More markets, shorter product lifespan. For every step forward in the business world, there is often an equal and opposing step to help maintain a zero-sum relationship between consumers and manufacturers. The trick is to live and operate within the in-betweens; to make hay before the hay-makers find immigrant labor; to sell frozen water before ice-makers hit the shelves; to push your company to the limit before your patent expires and competition explodes.

The modern world is filled with as much opportunity as there has ever been; don’t let the liberal propaganda fool you. If the entire world were to be radically socialized there would still be a tremendous amount of demand in the world waiting to be met by those willing to strive to be better. At the end of the sun’s trip around our Earth, that’s what it’s all about; the world has demanded, and among its people are those obsessed and driven to meet it. Maybe it’s for their own betterment, the betterment of the fellow man, or perhaps some very personalized subconscious web in which they find themselves sprawled upon—regardless they all share a similar experience. To drive improvement, to evolved understanding, to inspire interaction, and to know—even in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary—that they can make an impact on the world on their terms; that is the Entrepreneurial Spirit, and in those for whom it dwells life is a bit different than it is for the rest. This site is dedicated to those few that stand driven, even in the darkest of odds, to bring about their own personal vision for the world.

Market Trend Chart

Market Shifts & The Furniture Industry

Adapt or die—the credo by which success is often distilled in the marketplace. Those businesses which are able to adjust and meet shifting market demands are those which thrive. All too often, however, businesses and entrepreneurs hold on to a nostalgic sense of how their success has been found in the past, rather than focusing on how it will continue to be found in the future.

The internet has changed the way we communicate forever, and while it may seem to have encompassed our entire planet—realize it’s just now ~20 years old. Sure, scientists were sending ‘hello world’ messages on DarpaNet in the 80’s, but the average person hadn’t gotten their first AOL disk in the mail until the mid-nineties. Many people felt the internet was a trend, and many businesses resisted making the move to an online presence.

Websites were larger investments in the 90’s than they are now, and only a few retailers really went all in. Amazon, known as the world’s largest retailer, has only been around for 22 years. That’s an extraordinary number that most people simply don’t appreciate. One of the world’s largest retailers, not just online, is only 22 years old.

Big Changes

There are certainly a great many markets and industries out there that haven’t really made the transition into the digital space. One of the best examples, however, is the furniture industry, still nostalgic towards high markups and overwhelming buying processes. The majority of all United States furniture is produced overseas in countries like China and Vietnam. These countries offer manufacturers deeply discounted labor rates, and help preserve the 50-80% markups that are seen throughout the industry. A chair that costs $75 to produce in China commonly retails for more than $300 in the United States. In a world where operating margins are shrinking, it seems the furniture industry has been resisting so far. While this aspect of the industry is no doubt loved by the best furniture brands, a lot can be learned from an analysis of just how this industry has been changing recently.

In 2015, furniture retailers saw a very stagnant period of growth. Industry-wide, the majority of brands and retailers saw a +/- of ~5% in the top line revenue. However, amidst such market melancholy, saw a 60% increase in revenue. This number is astounding for several reasons, but the most amazing facet is in what it hints at. Local furniture stores, of the mom and pop variety, offer little more than a middle-man service to get furniture from manufacturers to you. Other than the giant stores like Rooms to Go, Furnitureland South, and a select few other large floor-space businesses, local furniture stores are being replaced by online shopping experiences. Online retailers such as Wayfair offer direct-from-manufacturer purchasing (they even use manufacturer warehouses) and oftentimes free delivery and assembly. If you can get a good handle on the quality offered by furniture brands, there’s really no advantage of buying from local stores—unless you just have to have that new kitchen dinette set before the end of the week.

The New Face of Salesmen

With this shift towards an online shopping experience, buyers are offered an unprecedented amount of options, variations, and opportunities for finding cheap furniture from quality manufacturers. Still, the experience of many furniture buyers needs to be guided much the way salesman have helped select purchases in the past. Imagine walking into Furnitureland South (a 1.3 million square foot furniture store) and being left to fend for yourself. Speaking from personal experience, you can quite literally get lost in there, and without someone to help direct your approach, you’ll likely never find what you came for. So if online furniture retailers are the new local furniture stores, does that make them the salesmen as well? Many of these websites offer great savings, free delivery, and excellent customer service—but don’t really get to know you as a buyer until after you’ve made your purchase. That’s the tradeoff of online buying—you save a lot, but you still lose a little. for example, has a remarkably low price on lots of furniture, but if something goes wrong with your purchase who do you call?

When people are shopping for toothpaste or a new shirt, they don’t mind paying an extra 20% to be able to try it on in the store or ask a clerk what people are saying about that product. However, when you consider that 20% of a furniture purchase can be in the hundreds of dollars, people become very willing to sacrifice the nuances of face-to-face purchases. Enter the affiliate marketer. If large retailers like Amazon and Wayfair are the new local stores then affiliate partners are the new salesmen. The internet is teeming with information; updated prices, shipping options, and return policies alike. It’s as easy to get overwhelmed when comparing online prices as it is trying to pick out a cocktail table in Furnitureland South. Affiliate marketing is nothing new and has been around long before the advent of the internet. The concept is simple, these businesses help walk you through the buying process, then refer you to the seller. Where you’d historically be walked to the checkout counter by your salesmen, online you’re simply given a link to various offers where you can purchase your goods. This linking process records the referring site, and the seller provides the affiliate with a small percentage of the sales. Amazon built their business on the backs of affiliates and has been largely regarded as the best source for passive affiliate income.

This new dynamic of the online salesman has afforded many companies the ability to develop truly exciting shopping technologies to help power the online shopping experience. Businesses such as Labdoor and The Wire Cutter are all affiliate-based websites that help aggregate and review products. Effectively, they are the new breed of online salesmen, and connect with people on channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat! These businesses help people through the purchasing process, helps them find order in the chaotic sea of available products, and will often aggregate pricing to help find the best available offer.. to see what I mean—they look like a retailer, behave like a retailer, but spend all their time and effort on finding the lowest deals and organizing products in an easily-sortable manner. Effectively what these types of businesses are doing is rising to the demand of an online salesman. Whereas local salesmen formerly would walk you around a sales floor, these sites strive to take you around the entire internet. The game has changed, and those that remain romantic towards it’s shift are going to find themselves without a lunch sooner than later.