Is Your Website…Different?
Assume for a moment that your website is among the most (if not the most) visible representation of your company. Are you confident that it is sending the right message to your audience?
It very well might be. It might be clearly communicating your message and presenting your products and services. It might be attractive to look at and function just as you hoped it would. Perhaps it is attractive, engaging, and informative. But there is something else to consider. Is it different?
Your firm is likely very different from your competitors. You might have a different culture, a different approach, a different methodology. But if your website is not clearly drawing specific lines of distinction on your behalf, you are in danger of simply blending in with your competitors on a highly visible stage where everyone is watching.
There is a simple litmus test to see where you stand. Pull up your own website and imagine that your logo and firm name were removed. Assuming you can ignore the specifics of your firm’s employee names, services, and office addresses, imagine replacing your firm’s logo with that of a competitor. Would anyone know the difference? If not, you probably have some work to do.
Different is not new. Apple had an entire ad campaign several years ago around the theme of thinking ‘different.’ Michael Porter, the Harvard Business School Professor widely considered the leading authority on competitive strategy boiled the concept down to the idea of being ‘different.’ Different is important. And your website should celebrate the differences between your firm and its competitors.
There are numerous ways to differentiate your website as a reflection of your firm. A few examples might include:
- Developing unique content for your audience that cuts to the core of what your audience wants in a way that is not self-serving to your firm.
- Using design treatments that are consistent with your corporate identity yet very distant from those of your competitors.
- Cutting back on the depth of your content to hone in on your message; your users will feel the difference.
- Developing site functions that no other competitor has (for example, a firm that promotes personal service might give users a personal cell phone number or email address instead of a general contact form).
- Sharing content (i.e. photos, book reviews, and/or company news) that is actually interesting to people. Note: How long someone has worked at your firm or a stock photo of your city skyline does not qualify.
- Taking a position on a professional subject or idea that might generate discussion; you might have two individuals in your firm develop editorial copy about competing sides of an interesting argument (hint: as usual, avoid religion and politics).
- Share news about your philanthropic activities, but develop content around the idea of your involvement, why it is particularly important to your company, and what you hope the results of your involvement might be.
- Tell your visitors what you do not do as a firm or what types of clients might not be a fit.
The trick to all of this is to not pursue “being different” simply for the sake of being different. The result of that can be quirkiness or zaniness which comes across to the user as contrived. After all, there are times when it is important to be the same, an example being website navigation.
In the end, differences should reinforce your firm’s identity. A successful “re-take” of the aforementioned litmus test involving the inclusion of a competitor’s logo on your site should make it obvious that they are stealing from you!