Standing out from the crowd

Most successful business owners know what’s special about what they’re selling (or like to think they do)– their “differentiators” in the marketplace. But it’s amazing how often those competitive advantages aren’t clearly expressed on their websites!  Read through a few Keys sites in any business sector and you’ll have a hard time telling them apart, beyond a few different graphic designs—and even those tend to lean heavily on the same “paradise” themes (palms, bamboo, parrots, sunsets – you know the drill).

So there’s an opportunity here,  and it’s not just making sure your overall business strategy (internal strengths & weaknesses, external opportunities & threats) is expressed in your homepage welcome text. Take an hour or two to evaluate your main competitors’ sites, looking for mo’ bettah ways to differentiate your business online. Definitely check out their visual branding, usability (ease-of-use), and functionality (search, ecommerce, forms). But look very carefully at their content. Is it fresh? Credible? Relevant? Clear and concise? Easy to scan and read quickly?  And be sure check out content specific to your industry – if you’re evaluating restaurants, can you see daily specials, a wine list? If you’re reviewing hotels, can you learn about the view from each room, fees for local transportation (car & bike rentals), local attractions (both high-level and detailed information)?  The key to it all is being methodical, and yup, that probably means using a spreadsheet or at least a checklist, carefully teasing out a few things your competition does better, or isn’t doing–then tweak your site to dull their advantage or add your own to boost your business.

"Content" section of competitive evaluation spreadsheet used by a national online research agency

“Content” section of competitive evaluation spreadsheet used by a national online research agency

Section of competitive evaluation tool used by large online research agency.

Section with industry-specific items