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May 5, 2007, 05:15 #1
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What's the "signal-to-noise" ratio of your website copy?
It has never been so easy to set up a business. The web has reduced the physical barriers to entry and the financial barriers to competition. At the same time, the digital economy swiftly put up some new barriers.
With the digital economy the one real barrier is getting your signal through the noise.
There’s a din of competitive sameness out there. Everyone says just about the same things. ....Everyone “listens” ...They “exceed customer expectations.” ...Blah ...blah ...bla
Work On Improving Your Signal, Not Copying Everyone Else’s Noise
Everyone thinks Web 2.0 is the hot trend, but Kevin Airgid has uncovered a bigger longer-running trend. “While I’m not opposed to design trends, learning from others is how designers grow. I am concerned about the stagnation of style that I see on the Web. A large e-commerce portal will launch a stylized navigation system and almost immediately after, many other sites will copy the style exactly.”
The trend Airgid uncovered is hardwired into the more primitive parts of the human brain: Monkey See, Monkey Do.
It’s far too easy to make a site blend into the noise of “imitative competition.” Monkey see, monkey do is the default setting on the web, you don’t have to concentrate to blend right in. But in a frictionless economy with competition a click or two away, not differentiating yourself is a recipe for disaster.
And it’s not just something which is cured by selecting this piece of stock photography, or that color scheme. It doesn’t matter if the site is “technically” unique just because nobody used that particular combination of elements. If the customers can’t tell one site from another, you’re not differentiating in the only place it counts -- the customer’s mind.
The customer doesn’t care that the designer spent five hours on iStockPhoto. They just look at your site against the background noise of competition. The customer doesn’t care if you hand coded the site in notepad. When a site looks as formulaic as a template -- it is a template. Copy that sounds okay in isolation can come off as trite and boring when judged against competition.
The customer’s perception is reality.
Thinking Meaningfully Different
Stop "thinking different" in the most superficially trivial way -- think meaningfully different from your customer's point of view.
First, start evaluating site designs and copy from the context of competition. That means looking at where competitor sites look alike with an eye toward differentiating yourself. Far from being artistic or outrageous, look for gaps in the services and customer focus.
A competitive gap analysis is everything being creative for the sake of artistic expression is not.
Second, information is not a four-letter word. Explain exactly how you listen in ways competitors don't. Explain exactly how you exceed customer expectations -- don't just type the empty words into a layout -- that's the noise. The signal is setting a benchmark of seven minutes to return a client call. Put a rating system on every line item of the invoice you send out.
That's meaningful. That's signal, not noise.
Lot's of people think copy means hype. Then they go right ahead and use unsupported claims like "we listen" and "exceed customer expectations." All without the help of the copywriter. Copywriters -- good ones at least -- aren't masters of hype. They are masters at improving your signal to noise ratio.
Kevin Airgid Uncovers a Web Design Trend:
Monkey See Monkey Do
How to "smash" your website and build a business identity
just went to the Dilbert Mission Statement generator, which whipped this up: "We have committed to dramatically customize prospective sources as well as to efficiently administrate low-risk high-yield deliverables to exceed customer expectations" ....Sound familiar? ...Sound about like every site on the web?
A little advice: Don't give customers the impression Dilbert wrote your copy.