Most internet marketers who work from home cannot compare in size and revenue to internet giant Medifast. Naturally, you will ask me what does this article have to do with my internet business and what will I learn from them that can apply to my small internet operation?
Huge corporations like Medifast employ highly paid executives and consultants to provide marketing solutions. Many these solutions apply to any operation irrespective of their size. A quick study of this company could let you leverage on the experience and knowledge of these individuals for free.
Word of mouth and internet marketing – the conventional promotional methods
Since its founding in 1980, Medifast has used two marketing strategies to market its weight loss products.
- Word of mouth. Medifast’s founder, Dr. William Vitale, prescribed his meal replacements to his patients that needed to lose some weight. When those patients were successful, he often hired them as sales representatives. They became, in effect, breathing testimonials and spread the word about the product to their friends and acquaintances.
- Internet marketing. After the Internet became popular, Medifast began to market its product directly to consumers via its website by using an extremely aggressive internet marketing campaign.
Lesson 1: Why internet marketing is not enough to maximise earning potential
Medifast’s competitors, BistroMD and Diet to Go, have made their way in top of the meal replacement market through innovative marketing campaigns that include internet marketing and Social Media or even various forms of gorilla marketing. Medifast have seen their market share being under threat from smaller operations.
Because of this, they were required to reassess their marketing strategy as they realised that marketing online alone is not enough. The lesson for Medifast has been that the competition is using other ways outside the internet to maximise sales and make advances in their market share. Could that be a lesson for small internet marketing operations like you?
Lesson 2: The key to beating the competition is successful differentiation
Laura Richardson, an analyst with BB & T Capital Markets, estimates that the diet industry along with its related products, is worth approximately $48 billion per year. Within this industry, the most recognized brands like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, rake in the bulk of this profit.
The marketers at Medifast have learned that in order to be truly competitive in an industry that is so hard for by competitors that they had to really differentiate their product from their competitors so that they would stand alone and stand out. They also quickly learned that that process was not simple. In order to achieve their marketing and sales goals, Medifast has decided to go mainstream.
Part of their diversification plan includes opening clinics in strip-shopping centers across the country and selling franchises. They have recently opened nine of these new clinics in Orlando, Florida and Dallas, Texas. This indicates an attempt from a previously internet-based company to open brick and mortar outlets.
The lesson for small internet operations is that they have to keep an open mind to diversification and be really smart about what products are better marketed online and what services are better promoted offline.
While some of their services have a much wider appeal on the World Wide Web, other products, such as 1-1 consulting and personal services may be far more effective when marketed locally through a physical store.
Lesson 3: Include customer feedback in your marketing plan – not testimonials
As part of its new advertising strategy, Medifast is developing infomercials which will use feedback from clients who have been able to successfully lose weight on its products. Many of these people have become Medifast sales representatives.
The most recognizable is Becky Hora from Elkton, Maryland who touts her 65 pound weight loss using Medifast. She claims to have shed 50 of those pounds during her first three months on the program.
The lesson for small business entrepreneurs is that they should carefully collect, file, categorise their customer feedback and then include customer feedback (not endorsements) in their marketing campaigns. There is a huge difference between feedback and a testimonial.
Allowing your potential customers to view the feedback you got from existing customers is a far more powerful than a testimonial. This could mean that you could allow your customers to post and publish feedback about your services and make it accessible to the public.