Lessons from One of the Most Competitive Markets on the Internet

One of the most competitive markets on the Internet for a low cost, general interest product is the government grants information market. It’s filled with people looking for free money from the government, and the level of marketing is limited only by the FTC. This is an offer that performs incredibly well and generates very high ECPM’s across a large amount of Internet traffic. “Free money from the government” is a strong pitch, and since most people are aware that the government does give a lot of money away in grants, basing the sale in an element of realism, its even more compelling.

I don’t like this market, since selling into it generally does much more harm than good – but it can be instructive for how other markets develop. Since the grant market has such a high ECPM the most competitive marketing methods are used to make the offers work. If your market is not using some of these techniques currently, they will be in the future, so this is your chance to implement them first and profit!

Stage 1: $19.99 ebook, 50% rev share for affiliates.

In the beginning there was little competition and the Internet had not seen an offer like this, so it performed extremely well. Publishers were happy making $10/sale, and everyone made good money.

Stage 2: $19.99 ebook, $19 monthly continuity program.

As the market became more competitive, the payouts were forced to increase to continue to drive traffic. A monthly continuity program was implemented, which was “forced” continuity, meaning the customers were signed up when they purchased the ebook. This allowed payouts of $25 – $30/sale. Obviously the level of risk in this model is much higher, since the model has now gone negative at the point of sale. The typical retention for this program was 3-4 months.

Stage 3: $2.95 trial offer?

Notice how we don’t have a low price trial to low price continuity program (eg $19/month). This is because the ECPM payout to publishers will not support it, and will force the advertiser to lose money too early.

Stage 3: $2.95 trial, $199 one time billing.

This was an extremely aggressive offer put where users were charged a cheap trial, then sent a package they were billed $199 for. This offer didn’t last long since the market was not able to afford a $199 package for grants information, causing a high level of charge backs and refunds. However while it worked, it was extremely competitive.

Stage 4: $2.95 trial (free + shipping for a CD), plus multiple continuity programs.

This is where the market is today. The user pays for a free+shipping program and then is enrolled in several ongoing continuity programs. The consumer is excited because they are receiving a CD perceived to have a very high value. Then one continuity program will start initially, and another one, or more, start several weeks later, without the consumer realizing they are being billed, sometimes using different credit card descriptors.

Lead generation

In the grants market, people generally have not been successfully reselling the leads to phonerooms. This may be partially due to legal regulations, but also because the market simply cannot afford to pay for high priced coaching programs. Most leads from a grant offer don’t command a very high resale value.

What are the lessons from this?

1. If your market is undeveloped you can gain a huge advantage over others by adopting these techniques.

2. If your market is relatively poor, a high price won’t work no matter how you do it.

3. In direct response marketing, we are always going to see extremely aggressive offers implemented. So someone in your market may try to implement aggressive multiple continuity programs. This type of advertising is unfortunate because it makes it extremely difficult for everyone else to compete since the competitor can purchase more advertising. But it may well happen, enabling your competitor to buy more media than you.

Many successful offers today receiving a lot of volume don’t follow all the points above. Making some fairly simple changes will see your ECPM’s increase dramatically. Watch and learn from the most sophisticated markets!