Below the Tip of the Iceberg

It’s not easy being married to a consultant and an author who travels as frequently as I do, so this Valentine’s Day I wanted to knock one out of the park. I decided to romance my lovely wife with a no-brainer: a pair of diamond earrings.

I started as any modern, connected man would; I searched on Google for “diamond earrings.” I then visited the big-brand diamond sites. After a handful of clicks, I didn’t find what I was looking for. But I did find something else: a diamond mine of e-tailing opportunities.

It should come as no surprise that I’m squarely in the uniformed category when it comes to diamond earrings. So I continued my search, clumsily clicking through category page after category page, site after site. Sooner or later I was bound to find the earrings I’d envisioned dangling from my wife’s ears. I felt trapped in my own ignorance.

I decided to expand my search with more descriptive terms. I began to lose patience. Just as I was losing hope, I found a site with the handle I needed. The style of earrings I was looking for are called drop earrings.

This cycle of ignorant buying repeats itself hundreds of thousands of times a day, in thousands of different product and service categories. Sometimes the e-tailer wins, sometimes the offline seller wins. Sometimes, nobody wins and credit cards remain sheathed in wallets. Just because prospects don’t know how to search the way you hope and expect them to doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified and ready to buy.

Let Them Buy on Their Own Terms

The Internet forces us to search in condensed terms that aren’t always an accurate representation of what we seek. Our search terms seem inaccurate from the seller’s perspective. They’re like an iceberg, only revealing a small portion at the top. The wise marketer who uncovers intent and leaves a strong scent trail for buyers wins the conversion.

Although most keyword research focuses on finding traffic, millions of dollars in sales are waiting for those willing to speak to the buyer intent underneath the terms we use and the links we click. Some call this the long tail. Whether you call it a long tail or an iceberg, it’s an incredible opportunity.

I was looking for drop diamond earrings, but I didn’t have the vocabulary. And why should I? I didn’t need to be educated; I just needed to be pointed in the right direction.

Uncovering the Entire Iceberg

The iceberg of buying intent presents plenty of opportunities for marketers, particularly affiliates. One client has used this approach for several years and set up a net of several hundred thousand landing pages, each tailored for a specific long-tail term. Each draws very small amounts of high converting traffic. The cumulative effect is resoundingly successful.

Here are few things you can do to uncover profitable icebergs in your product category:

  1. Create personas. It’s tempting to skip this and jump directly into keyword research.. Resist. Personas will help you determine the buying processes your customers are using and the angles of approach they’re taking as they consider your product. Consider terms for early, middle, and late stages of their buying process. What terms would an uninformed man buying earrings for his wife use? “Earrings that dangle,” “long diamond earrings,” “hanging diamond earrings” are terms I used. Are you beginning to see the thousands of opportunities?
  2. Create driving points (PPC, banner ads) that match the terms you uncovered. Ignore the fact some of them are low traffic. The idea is to lock up all the small entry points to a product, not to funnel huge amounts of traffic.
  3. Create funnel points (usually landing pages) that maintain a strong scent trail. If you don’t have the resources to create endless funnel points, ensure your funnel points address the intent you uncovered in the personas. In my case, a simple landing page showing available types of diamond earring styles would have allowed me to find what I was looking for sooner.

Though I was only revealing the tip of the iceberg with my first search term, with a little persuasive scenario planning, an affiliate could have easily taken credit for my lead. That didn’t happen.

Only the Tip of the Iceberg

Some romantic purists may argue a Valentine’s gift is something that should stay between a man and his lady, not a columnist and his readers. Call it unromantic if you will, but if I could help just one man easily find a perfect set of diamond earrings for his better half, my romantic karma would balance and all would be right with the world.

Better still, if I can convince e-tailers, marketers, and their affiliates to look beyond the obvious, we’d all make more money — and buy more diamonds. That’s my definition of romance.

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