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:

PRODUCT DESIGN

Corresponding Sample Headline Could Go Like So:

The Most Elegantly Designed Online Project Management Software

 

BUSINESS POV

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

 

EMPLOYEE PERSONALITY

Online Project Management Software Created by Paul Graham for Startups

 

CUSTOMER FOCUS

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.

~joanna