Stealing Ideas: Why You Don't Need to Look Like Your Competitor

Stealing Ideas: Why You Don't Need to Look Like Your Competitor
Chris Lonergan
Chris Lonergan October 29, 2013

"Can we use the same pictures that they used?"

"XXX Plumbing services the same area and they've got lots of business, so I'd like to copy their web site"

"They seem to be pretty busy, so I think we should use dark green like they do"

No. No. and No.

From original designs to current client overhauls, we get lots of questions about making a web site "more like my competitor". While it is a good idea to keep a wary eye on the other professionals in your service area, replicating their site doesn't mean you'll instantly become just as successful.

There are lots of factors that go into the success of a website. There isn't one single element that will always be more effective than others. If there was, EVERY ONE would have it, and then the trick wouldn't work anymore.

So, let's examine a couple common questions and requests that we get, what we can and cannot do, and the lessons we can learn from these questions.

"Can we use the same pictures that they used?"

The best kind of photography is original photography. We've talked quite at length about photos, including the kind of pictures you shouldn't be taking and how to use your smartphone to capture your work product. Original photography that shows off your actual work is the best way to demonstrate to your customers exactly what you do and how you do it.

Stock photography is any image that is purchased for specific marketing purposes. You can get a stock photo of just about anything, which is what makes it so convenient. All the stock photography that we use has been purchased with a specific license for a specific use type. So if you need a picture of a technician inspecting an A/C condenser, we can find a stock photo. But a picture of YOUR technician, wearing your company's uniform and logo, would look much better...

An image floating around the internet is NOT free. All images, unless specifically noted as free for commercial use, are the intellectual property of others. Thus, if you take images from a competitor's site and try to use them, you are stealing the images – which has obvious legal ramifications.

The Take Away: Instead of using those exact pictures, let's find a similar replacement. It's always better to use photos of your own work and crew, but stock photography can be used if necessary.

"XXX Plumbing services the same area and they've got lots of business, so I'd like to copy their web site"

Chances are, it's not the look of the website alone that makes that company profitable. Don't get me wrong –  the user experience, site attractiveness, and site credibility are MAJOR parts of a well-built web site. If your site isn't visually appealing and easy to use, clients will click away and find a competitor. Your competitor's website is only one part of their marketing. Even if copying and pasting was the answer, it ultimately would lead to customer confusion instead of improving leads.

Aside from their website, your competitors also most likely have past customer experiences, return clients, customer referral programs, Google advertising, social media marketing, electronic newsletters, yard signs, word-of-mouth, community involvement, and many other marketing efforts. It's all of these things in combination that help a company to be successful, not just the shape of one button or that cute dog in the banner.

The Take Away: Find multiple sites that you like with a similar design theme, and we can create a look to match the style you like without copying the look of your competition. Review your competition's entire marketing plans to see what they do differently to satisfy their customers.

"They seem to be pretty busy, so I think we should use dark green like they do"

There is no magic color that will get your phone to ring more or inbox to fill up more quickly. We've previously mentioned this recent article about color and marketing, but it's worth talking again. In the end, the article says it's not about one specific color. Specific color schemes, trends, and personal preferences make it impossible to say "red buttons always get more leads". Instead, make sure that your call-to-actions, buttons, phone number, etc have strong colors that contrast your design. Don't take that to mean that Every. Single. Button needs to be red. If you have too many instances, the strength of that contrast goes away.

The Take Away: Use a color scheme that matches your logo, offline marketing, and company personality. Use contrasting colors to call attention to specific buttons or phone numbers.

Imitate the Best? Or BECOME the Best?

We're not saying that you should never look at your competition and their marketing efforts. It's important to pay attention to all the players in motion; it's just that outright copying them isn't going to work. Instead, take a look at the scheme of things, and tailor your marketing styles and efforts to that bigger picture.

At the end of the day, your unique brand and marketing need to overcome the competition using their own inherent strengths, style, and abilities.You should be able to stand out on your own instead of relying on looking a lot like that other successful company. If that's what you're looking for, imitation isn't flattery... it's riding the coat tails of another business's success, and that ride won't last for long.

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