A new client told me yesterday that he wants his website to be “Just about the same” as his competitors, “but not too much the same.”
Sounds like a good rule of thumb.
Making your website completely different from all your competitors can confuse your visitors — think how you’d feel if you walked into a hospital and it looked just like a hair salon.
But looking just like your competitors encourages visitors to conclude that you’re all pretty much the same. Our client sells church pews, a product for which, he says, consumers will choose “the cheapest they can trust.” For him to have a site that looks just like his competitors would reinforce the tendency to make decisions on price — and it could do the same in your business.
Accordingly, we had a look at his competitors’ websites. We ignored the outliers — a site that has gorgeous full-screen photos of cathedrals and one that has that “somebody sneezed” look that you get on dollar store sales flyers. We analyzed the rest for the characteristics they had in common:
- Large sliders or static photos of church sanctuaries and many smaller pictures showing individual pew styles
- Subdued colors, particularly blues and browns
- A thorough quote form with a highly visible call-out button on the home page
Churches buy new pews just about once in a generation, so the typical customer probably doesn’t have a clear mental image of what a church pew website should look like at the beginning of his or her search for new church pews, but will quickly develop a set of expectations.
Your visitors probably also have a set of expectations, and analyzing your top competitors will make those clear to you. You can then decide which of those shared characteristics you want to keep.
… but not too much the same.
Given that your website will have the primary markers of your industry’s websites, how can you make it just different enough to show what’s special about your company?
Make another list to go with your list of primary characteristics for your industry’s websites. Make a list of what’s special about your company. Then think about — and talk with your web designer about — how you can show that in your website. Some possibilities:
- Use high quality professional photos where your competitors are going with ordinary shots.
- Use extreme closeups if the rest are using middle distance shots.
- Add people to your photos if others are not doing so.
- Use a different tone in your content — more modern, more friendly, more sophisticated, or more playful.
- Integrate social media icons and your company blog for better engagement.
- Use slightly different colors — for our example, using fawn and gray-blue where everyone else is using beige and medium blue would give a subtly different, more elegant look.
- Use a different, more special typeface to change the overall effect.
You want the customer who has clicked back and forth among eight different sites comparing your shipping or your client lists to turn to the other decision makers and say, “There was one that really stood out.” And you want it to be yours.