Growth Marketing

Differentiation: Can Your Visitors Distinguish You from the Other Guys?

DifferentiationNone of your competitors are converting 100% of their traffic.

And none of the sites or the businesses you look up to are converting 100% of their traffic. Not even one-fifth of that.

Nobody is doing it 100% right.

So if you go out and copy what the other guys are doing with their websites… what exactly might you be copying?

If you mimic the messages that your competitors put on their pages… what exactly might you be mimicking? Could it be that you’re actually swiping crummy messages that are at the root of a conversion rate that’s lower than yours… or that’s much lower than yours could be?

Now, don’t get me wrong. At Copy Hackers, we’re all for being aware of your competitor’s content. Big time. (Check out this free worksheet and this one as examples.) But we don’t advocate that you audit their content or messaging so you can copy it; rather, you should track what the other guys are doing so you can blow their stuff out of the water.

To illustrate why you shouldn’t blindly copy your competition, check out the screenshots below.

They’re all from the home pages of project management tools that were top SERP results when I googled “online project management”. Pay attention to each headline (outlined), which, as any good copy hacker knows, is the most critical element on your home page:

Differentiation on your home pageDifferentiation on your home pageDifferentiation on your home pageDifferentiation on your home page

Allow me to repeat those insanely similar headlines in plain text:

Online project management that just works

Online project management made simple

Project management made easy

Project management software that makes your life easier

These are the home page headlines of 4 companies that are ranking high for the same keyword phrase, surely getting decent traffic and competing against each other.

And they’re all saying EXACTLY the same thing. (And the thing that they’re saying just so happens to be about as bland and purpose-less as a message can be. So that doesn’t help.) It’s as if one of them heard that people like easy software and made that their headline… and everyone else saw the change and thought, “Brilliant! We’ve got to say that too!”

When, after visiting the above home pages, I headed over to Basecamp to find an example of a project management tool that’s actually making the most of their headline, I fully expected to be wowed. I love everything 37signals does. And I know they test like mofos. So I was hopeful. And then I saw this:

Differentiation on your home page

Basecamp is differentiating itself not based on something their software or company does better than anyone else… but based on the number of people using it. Really. That’s the best, most persuasive thing they can say on their home page – that loads of people sign up to use it. That’s their headline. Admittedly, it’s a powerful message – great social proof. (At least if the number of people that keep using it doesn’t matter to you.) But is the project management software game so lacking that no one has anything unique to offer that users will care to hear about? My options, when I’m cross-shopping these solutions, are either a) to choose 1 of 4 “easy” but seemingly identical solutions or b) to choose the guys that are getting the population of small towns to sign up for their software each week? Those are my options? I’m supposed to make a decision with just that info to ground me?

As a known leader in project management software, Basecamp at least has a viable excuse for their value-free headline. They’re well-known. They don’t have any real competition to distinguish themselves from (yet). People who arrive on their site have often heard of them, used their solution or been recommended in.

But what excuse do the other guys have? Why aren’t they differentiating themselves?

Here’s the thing: Your site visitors need you to help them understand what is unique and highly desirable about your solution. That’s the foundation of your value prop, which you should read more about here and here. If your site is missing a clear value prop, it’s time to add one – and to make it your home page headline. By messaging what’s unique + desirable, you are, in fact, messaging your key point of differentiation.

Not sure how to differentiate your business?

I’m sure the 4 startups referenced above are having a bit of trouble figuring out how they might be different – so perhaps you’re also having trouble. If so, here’s a list of a few ways to differentiate yourself, complete with example headlines that would showcase these points of difference:

Differentiate Based On:


Corresponding Sample Headline Could Go Like So:

The Most Elegantly Designed Online Project Management Software



When You Choose Our Project Management Software, We Donate a User License to a Non-Profit



Online Project Management Software Created by Paul Graham for Startups



Get 24/7/365 Chat Support with Any of Our Project Management Software Plans


In Week 6 of my seconds-from-launching conversion copywriting course, I describe these and more ways to differentiate and how to use them in your home page copy. So get on the list to learn when it’s launched

In the meantime, here’s what you should do.

You should download a home page audit worksheet, and audit the copy on the home pages of, say, 3 of your competitors.

Then, using that audit, you should figure out how to distinguish yourself from the competition – and make yourself look much better (because, let’s face it, you need to be better). Come up with a handful of ideas. Then, draft some home page headlines that speak to those differences. Don’t overthink it! Don’t wordsmith. Just put it clearly on the page.What is different about you? What can you tell people – in your headline alone – that can clearly separate you from the competition, should they be cross-shopping?

Start by “knowing your enemy”. Then, differentiate yourself clearly on the page.

Be sure to test variations of your “different” headline to see which differentiator visitors respond to best.

Oh, and if you’re in the online project management space, you’re in luck! No one else is even sort of trying here… so there’s room for you to swoop in and set yourself far apart from the rest of the pack.



About the author

Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe - Copywriter and author of "Copyhackers"

  • Valentin Radu

    Joanna, allow me to point this out:
    I think is a mix over there. Is the face that is selling more than the numbers. I tend to think that based on Dan Ariely’s findings about how statistics influence compared to individuals. Take a look:

  • Carla Cacovic

    An upcoming email to my clients will read “I just read an awesome blog post by Joanna Weibe, the brilliant mind behind Copy Hackers (who is also from Victoria which makes her more brilliant 🙂 I couldn’t wait to share her ideas with you. It’s time to start making changes to your home pages – lets make them way more exciting and share your value proposition with your clients and prospects” …. well more or less. Thanks for a great post, you never fail to make my brain start whirring!!!!

    • Hey, Carla – Sorry, I totally responded to this (and to another comment here), but it seems Disqus had some sort of issue with my comment. Not sure wassup there. 🙂 Anyway, thanks muchly for your kind words! It’s awesome to hear that you’ll be working on value props with your clients —— it’s a topic that definitely deserves exploration + time. Good luck! (And see you around Victoria? 🙂 )

      • Carla Cacovic

        Thanks for responding… Grr I still haven’t written that email – Where does the time go ?… perhaps we shall cross paths one day – I frequent Starbucks a

      • Then we’ve probably already crossed paths! I live in coffee shops.

  • Josh Kellett

    Hey Joanna, totally agree with the gist of this post. I think a lot of good copywriters and CROs (and SEOs etc.) fail to acknowledge how important competitive analysis can be. I’ve definitely seen (and written) copy that isn’t inherently flawed, but that still ends up getting ‘lost in the crowd’ of competitors like the examples above.

    • Agreed – I see it all the time. It’s nothing against the peeps who write it. I know damn well how hard it is to write anything down, nevermind writing ‘great’ copy! I’ve totally been there. 🙂 But no one ever said to me, “Joanna, you need to stop summarizing the piss out of all your headlines, and you need to start injecting meaty specifics about what makes you different or unique in those headlines”. Had they, perhaps I wouldn’t’ve cried myself to sleep so many nights…

  • Aaron

    Joanna, great post. I’m writing a homepage right now so thank you for the audit worksheet link. I forgot about that resource from my Copyhackers collection.

  • Lynn Pearce

    Hey Joanna – loved these examples – now I know why it’s so hard for me to recommend project management tools for my clients to investigate 🙂 I’m also curious what you think of TeamBox (my PM tool of choice BTW).

    After I read your article I went back to their home page and looked with fresh eyes. Their focus appears to be as a collaboration tool which on the face of it sounds good. I read down the page a little further and found “Project management from start to finish”. This made me think “nothing missed” so as a risk averse person that sounded more appealing than “easy” to me.

    However, are they missing out on the folks who search for “online project management”? The provide a tool that is pretty much the same as Basecamp (variations of course) and I would have thought are looking to tap into that market. Or are they picking up on newer terminology that matches their ideal client persona more closely? Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

    And thank you to you, Patrick and Colin for a fab Email Bootcamp – I signed up at the last minute and was so glad I did – my brain was full to overflowing by the time you finished 🙂


    • I hadn’t heard of TeamBox, Lynn, and it didn’t come up in my search (prob because of the keyword difference you noted). Thanks for sharing it with me + the readers here. In comparison to the first 4 mentioned above, TeamBox seems to be doing a tad better — given that, at least, we can figure out one thing they do well: collaboration. They could certainly push it further, but I agree that it’s a step in the right direction. At least they’re saying something different (and, hopefully, high value to their target market).

      It’s really hard to say what TeamBox’s strategy might be. It’d be interesting to find out, definitely. That said, if they’re using language that’s supposed to speak more directly to a persona they’ve developed, it surely wouldn’t hurt for them to beef up that headline with language that actually speaks directly to their targets, such as, “The Most Complete Collaboration Tool for Small Businesses in Global Tech”. Or something. 🙂

      Oh, and so glad you could join us at the bootcamp!

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