Marketing Tips: Yes, You Have Competitors (Even if You Think You Don’t)

Dear Copy Bitch: I have a copywriter working on my website copy, and she recently asked me who my competitors are. Here’s the thing: I know it’s a standard question, but we really don’t have competitors. No one does the work as well as we do. We really are different. How do I explain this to the copywriter? Her copy should be focusing on what makes us so great, right?

—Awesome Company, Boston

Answer: Sure, from your perspective your nearest competitor is so far behind you that there’s no way anyone would possibly opt for said competitor over you, right? That’s a fine and dandy attitude to have if you’re, say, eight and still thinking the world revolves around you. But how ’bout putting on your big boy or big girl pants and looking at it from your prospects’ perspectives?

Your prospects don’t know you’re the be-all end-all in your industry, and they certainly won’t “get” it just because you tell them so on your website. Your copywriter is smart for asking about your competitors. Why? Because it’s important to look at how your competitors are positioning themselves, their services, and their products so that you can figure out what they’re doing right (because they will be doing something right, I guarantee it), what they’re doing wrong (ditto), and how you’re really going to demonstrate your company’s unique qualities (i.e., your unique selling proposition).

Remember, your website (and any other marketing vehicles) should be about your customers and prospects first. Acknowledge their needs, worries, fears, and pain and then demonstrate how your company fulfills those needs, relieves their fears and worries, and eliminates their pain.

There’s an adage in creative writing: show, don’t tell. The same is true here. Telling me you’re the greatest and that any “so-called” competitor is a lying heap of horse manure won’t be as effective as showing me how well you take care of your current customers and what makes you different from the competition.

Pretending the competition doesn’t exist or isn’t good enough or is too far behind you to catch up is dumb-ass marketing. Don’t do it.

Why I (Sometimes) Hate Writing Websites

This might sound weird coming from a copywriter, especially since I have a whole page devoted to my website copywriting clients. Especially since I’m knowledgeable about SEO copywriting (not all copywriters are). Especially since website writing tends to bring in the big bucks. (Reminder: SEO = search engine optimization.)

But when the web project isn’t set up right from the get-go, well…let’s just say they aren’t my favorite thing. (Note: I have gotten better at sniffing out the projects that aren’t the right fit.)

So how do web projects fall apart before they even start? Please know that this isn’t ego talking, but an SEO copywriter should be involved in the project from the very start. Yeah, even before you find a web developer. Why?

Simple.

Many web designers and developers don’t know the ins and outs of SEO. Designers are focused on creating engaging designs. Developers are often excellent programmers and coders. Both probably know something about SEO (it’s hard not to, at least today). But do either stop and think deeply about marketing? About messaging? About who the audiences are? About the keyword phrases people will use to get to the site? A good SEO copywriter will likely have strong marketing chops and think about these things and talk about these things first. And guess what? The answers to the messaging and audience questions will affect both design and site architecture (if you want the site developed correctly, that is).

Most of my website clients come to me as an afterthought. They think, “Oh, we need a website, so let’s find a web developer.” It’s usually the web developer who makes the referral to me, but by then, too much has happened. While it might seem logical to start with the web developer, it’s not an effective strategy.

If you’re building a new site, start with an SEO copywriter first.

Buy her expertise for 2-3 hours and have her work as a consultant. She’ll pick your brain on marketing messages, goals, expectations, competitors, keyword phrases, audiences–in other words, ALL the things you need to know before you can really do anything else.

Once all this info has been researched and digested, you should hire someone to do the keyword phrase research based on your keyword seed list (some SEO copywriters do this; others will refer you to search engine optimizers). Your keyword phrases will influence site architecture, the site map, and the design. At the same time this research is being conducted, you can begin talks with web designer/developers.

If you’re re-launching or revising your existing site, start with an SEO copywriter or SEO first.

Same thing. Buy the copywriter’s expertise or the SEO’s expertise FIRST. In fact, I’d say you should start with the SEO first, in this situation, even before turning to the writer (SEOs will review technical stuff; not all writers–even the good ones–are well-versed in that).

Note: there are web developers who really know SEO and tout this as one of their offerings. Still, most of these will involve a writer from the start, or close to it. There are also developers who say they know SEO, but it’s more cursory knowledge (which isn’t necessarily bad or misleading…after all, they’re developers, not SEOs). And there are a lot of indy developers who rely on writers and SEOs for the optimization part. Do your homework. Good developers will welcome working with writers from the get-go and/or respect the fact you’ve started your website project with a writer. Beware of the ones who don’t “get” this.

If you’re at the beginning of your web marketing project and need some advice, let’s chat. (Or check out my web writing portfolio to see examples of my work.)

“Make Your Mole Famous” – A Word on Compelling Headlines

So I just saw an interesting banner hanging over a heavily-traversed street in town:

MAKE YOUR MOLE FAMOUS.

Certainly got my attention. The first thing that flashed through my mind was Cindy Crawford’s mole and then the actual animal, even though I soon realized I don’t really know what a mole looks like.

Anyhow, the headline was in bold, and, of course, I needed to know what the heck it was about. Apparently, it’s for a new research study (the sub-headline following the headline indicated as much, but I couldn’t get all the info without causing an accident).

It’s a great headline, much more exciting than: Be Part Of a Mole Study or Be Part of a Research Study. So kudos to the person who came up with the headline.

However, boo to the follow-up. I’m pretty sure the research study is being sponsored by an organization called “SMOC.” However, upon googling things like “mole research study” + “SMOC” + my town’s name, I got nothing. Same if I googled the headline alone. Same if I simply googled “mole research study Massachusetts.”

So, dear banner-sign-creator, what if someone sees the banner and wants to be part of this study but doesn’t have time to risk getting into an accident to see if said banner has contact info? Shouldn’t there be something online–something that people can easily get to via a search on the phrase that he or she will likely remember, like “Make Your Mole Famous”? Why, yes. Yes, indeed that’s the way it should be. Ideas:

  • Create a web page on your site dedicated solely to the mole research study. In the title tag, you should use the headline: Make Your Mole Famous – Mole Research Study – Massachusetts. That should cover a variety of searches.
  • See if makeyourmolefamous.com is available (that would be a good URL to have on literature around town–fairly easy to remember).
  • Buy PPC ads on “Make your mole famous” and “mole research study” — I bet the cost won’t be prohibitive.

Lesson: think through every step your prospect/customer needs to take in order to complete the task at hand (be it a sale or sign-up for a research study). Do NOT make these steps hard. Make it as easy as possible.