Be Different - Lessons of Digital Marketing

Being Different online isn't easy. The online world is obsessed with being "better is better", copying what one website does 'because it works' and hoping it will serve your website well, copying meta tag formulas because you see someone in your industry do really well with it, copying content style because it is engaging, copying social media style because they see that brands engagement increase - well I've got news for those who follow the "better is better" ideas - you are failing yourself and your customers. The idea of "better is better" is flawed, putting aside that no two website and no two audiences are ever the same, its a complete and utter mirage which "keeps you thinking the same way as your competition" (Sally Hogshead).

The idea of "better is better" is at best temporary, because your competition will always move on but you are stuck behind them. Striving to be on the level with competition or to iterate on the work they've done is a losers game, it's a waste of time and resource, to be blunt - its bonkers for any business to do this.

I know from recent experiences with clients (across various industries) that being different pays dividends with traffic and leads constantly improving as clients set themselves apart from the competition. Weeks and months later that competition follows the "better is better" ideology, they copy formatting and styles, they begin to use the same plugins, they show their face in the same online realms - it's copy cat styling at it's best and its bonkers.

Not a single one of those copy cat styled websites outranks client sites, not one of them is likely to see an increase in leads generated. Instead they clog-up search rankings with results that look the same across the industry, in the hope they will see improvement - forgetting that in almost every industry being different, standing out, is really how you engage and get leads.

different is better online marketingSally Hogshead, Author of the NY Times and WSJ bestseller, How the World Sees You (and much more) spoke recently at #Authority2015 and spoke about how "different is better than better", outlining the above in her own way and explaining that personality and differentiation is how to grow yourself and your business - simply iterating on competition's work is setting yourself up for failure and is also likely to be damaging your industry as a whole.

And let's be clear, I am not the first to point out the all websites are becoming the same - Mashable published an article last year which highlighted how many a news site design were converging, NoVolume (Dave Ellis) wrote about the onset of all sites being 3 cols and HappyCog (a world leading web design company) spoke last year about how every company website looks the same.

Let us be clear...

Being The Same SUCKS!

We Are All Different! Show It!

Sally's speech was all about how we are all different ourselves, our businesses are unique even though some of those factors can be copied and improved upon. But our difference is who we are, its who and how people engage and it's why your business online should not be the same than your competitors.

Having the same website design or even the same meta tag style is a dumb move, it highlights you and your company are 'style over substance' - and it's why you will never be top dog in your niche.

The reality of life and work is not that you get hired because you are balanced or offer something another company does, you get hired because you are different, because you offer something beyond everyone else (even if that is just a friendly face and chat instead of a formal consultation).

Sally says that online we have around 9 seconds to engage users and pull them into your site, 9 seconds to be remembered (this has been touted at 17 seconds previously but is shrinking as the web gets faster). The only way to do that is to be different, not just design of your site, not just your content but how you present yourself across the web. That 9 second rule is one which applies everyone online and on mobile - that tweet, that image, that title tag and that social media button that is always "just in the way" - they effect how your users and potential customers engage, so be different be memorable. STOP COPYING!

Still think that being the same, but better - is (well) better? Think Again.

If everyone in an industry was the same, offered the exact same product or services, then those products become a commodity - they get traded as such as the value diminishes. Prices decrease and whilst this may mean more customers it ultimately means more man-hours and less profit for you and your company.

If everyone was different, everyone a specialist in a given niche, every site different, every company standing alone and standing out - the opposite happens.

Not sure if you are just being "better than better" or being "different" - here's some clues:

You are following better than better traits if you:

  • Copy design aspects from another website entirely (and then iterate it).
  • Copy content style (textual, imagery or meta data).
  • Copy social media output and engagement.
  • Publish the same kinds of content and blog posts.
  • You chase search rankings.

You are (probably) being different if you:

  • Create unique and engaging styles of content.
  • Create a website based on your own user's experiences.
  • Perform outreach to your individual audience & not your industry audience.
  • You don't do something "because amazon does it like that" (or another big player).
  • You put your user at the top of your priority list, not your search rankings.

Want to hear more from Sally Hogshead? Check out this podcast interview by Lewis Howes.

Think you are different? Leave a comment below and let us know how you are unique in the online world.