Isn't it frustrating? All you need is a new computer desk (or whatever you may be currently shopping for), but you can't make a decision you're comfortable with. It shouldn't be this hard, should it? What's holding you back? Probably lack of information.
Here's something every web site owner should know. When visitors come to your site, they are looking for a reason to buy from you. Think that's stating the obvious? You'd be surprised! I come across countless sites every day that do everything but give the visitor a reason to buy, subscribe, click, call or otherwise take action. It's a fatal mistake in any business, but it's especially damaging for web-based companies.
Let's continue with our example of buying a computer desk. You start with the big three office-supply stores. You click the "office furniture" link, and you're faced with a barrage of links to pages about lamps, printer stands, bookshelves and more. Then you get to the desks. Computer desks, desk collections, metal desks, workstations. geez! There are lots of links, but no information. Finally, after drudging through pages of links, you find some actual copy that describes a desk you think you might want.
You look over the features. You write down the price. You gather the shipping or delivery information. Great! Now, on to the next site.
When you arrive, everything looks almost the same except the logo. Same navigation, same links, same inventory, same prices. The shipping amount is the same, and the delivery policy is identical to the site you just came from. As you click from site to site, it's like deja vu. How are you supposed to make a decision to buy when all your options are equal? What will be the determining factor between site A and site B?
If you're feeling frustrated just reading this scenario, imagine how your site visitors feel. When they come to your site, they are looking for a clear reason to buy from you instead of all the other sites. Do you give them a reason? Do you give them several reasons?
If all factors are equal - even if all factors are similar - your visitors will find it difficult to make a decision. When they start guessing at which site would be best to buy from, you start losing business. Maybe they'll choose you, maybe they won't. There is a way to ensure you are chosen over your competition. You have to clearly point out how you are different or better than every other option available.
MarketingExperiments.com recently published their findings in regards to differentiating your company from others. They reported that most companies - when asked what their most unique aspect was - answered, "Our great customer service." I have bad news for you. That won't cut it. Why? Because, in most cases, when customers are visiting sites to gather information and make purchasing decisions, they won't come in contact with your customer service department. It would be a nonissue until something went wrong.
Also, since most businesses are claiming excellent customer service, it's an overused promise that has begun to carry less and less weight. You need something solid. You need something that is persuasive. If I were standing in front of you and told you that I was considering buying my desk from you or from Vendor Z, what would you say to convince me to buy from you? Here are some things to consider when trying to discover ways to differentiate yourself from other businesses.
- Offer free shipping (on all orders or on orders over a certain amount)
- Increase your inventory
- Decrease your inventory and only carry specialty items
- Lower your prices
- Raise your prices (works well for premium goods & services)
- Increase your area of expertise (for service-based businesses)
- Specialize or narrow your niche
- Achieve ratings or rankings from well-known associations or organizations
- Apply for a patent
- Win awards
- Offer a customer loyalty program
Conduct an online survey of your visitors to ask what they want. (SurveyMonkey.com is great for this.) Look back over your complaints and other feedback for ideas about how to set yourself apart. Email existing customers (if you have their permission to do so) and ask them why they chose you. Whatever you do, don't stay in a position where you are exactly the same as (or highly similar to) your competition. The chances are far too great you'll get lost in the crowd.
Copyright 2006, Karon Thackston, All Rights Reserved