If you’re serious about using your website to truly “sell” visitors and turn them into customers, then you need to “sell” them on the advantages of your products or services versus those of your competitors. Presumably in developing your business plan and thinking through your marketing, you have solid reasons why potential customers should do businesses with you instead of your competitors.

If not, you need to go rethink your business plan. If you do, then you should think about how you are going to deliver the message of your competitive advantages to prospective customers when they are on your website.

Sales Are Won or Lost at “the Comparison Stage”

In his book that I published, Streetwise Relationship Marketing on the Internet, Roger Parker calls this simply the comparison stage. Parker says your goal at the comparison stage is to show how your firm or product can better satisfy the prospect’s needs than your competitions can.

The comparison stage, he emphasizes, is where many potential sales are lost. Sales are lost during this stage when the firm does not reinvolve prospects (by attracting them back to the website) or present an effective description of its offerings compared to the offerings of its competitors. Sales are also lost when the website does not deflect the prospect’s interest away from price and toward areas where the firm enjoys a perceived competitive advantage, such as competence, professionalism, selection, or any other criteria.

Credibility, again, is the key to success. You must be able to present facts and figures that convincingly demonstrate your competitive advantages. Success comes from a three-step process:

  1. Identify and analyze your competition to better understand their strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Identify your firm’s competitive strengths so you can focus on areas where your firm offers a real (or perceived) advantage.
  3. Shift the battleground to areas where your firm enjoys the most advantages.

Information is also the key to success. All the JavaScripts and pretty design in the world aren’t as important as developing convincing arguments that show how your firm can do a better job of satisfying the prospect’s needs than your competition can.

Tools that could be used at the comparison stage include:

  • Case studies of previous successes
  • Background information about your firm and its people
  • Testimonials from satisfied customers
  • Product reviews, comparisons, or benchmarks

The problem with the above options is that they all reflect a passive or one-size-fits-all approach. They are all variations on the electronic brochure school of website design that provides identical content for every website visitor. The inevitable result of this is that many website visitors are presented with information that is not tailored to their specific needs.

It’s like being forced to wade through airfares and schedules to Reno when you really want to go to Anchorage. Although the information to Anchorage may be present, it’s difficult to locate and—once found—doesn’t create an emotional bond or satisfying experience.

That’s why, ideally, you want to develop a website or relationship with your prospect that allows you to customize your presentation for his or her particular situation.

One simple path would be to allow your customers choices of three different navigational paths on your website that best matches their situation. Another alternative would be to develop some interactive programming that delivers information and sales points customized to their situation based on their responses to particular questions. Another possibility is to load cookies onto their browser, electronically observe their navigational choices on your site, and customize your content delivery around that. And still another possibility is to offer some truly personalized interaction with the customer, such as by instant messaging, email, or phone.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • Slick design won’t matter if you don’t have a convincing argument about why your product is better.
  • Credibility is the key to success.
  • Include multiple approaches to resonate with as many customers as possible.