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Imitation, The Smartest Form Of Flattery

By David Geer
Posted Sunday, September 12, 2004

Unless you are an inventor, most likely you are selling a product or service that is being offered by someone else, somewhere, at some time. The first person to start your type of business would have gone through a lot of trial and error. Thank that person, as now you can not only profit by not repeating the same mistakes, but by learning what they do to get business.

The best way to do this is to practice what any businessperson knows: know your competition. The most beneficial thing you can do is to study what they are doing to attract customers.

Go online, do a search, pull up the web sites of your competition, and start taking notes. Here are some things to look for.

What do you like about their web site?
How can they improve upon it?
Is it user-friendly and easy to understand?
Is it too wordy or complicated?
Could someone browsing this web site learn quickly what this business actually does?
Does their web site move too slowly, due to an over-emphasis on graphics that sacrifices the actual message?

With your notes, you can begin to set up the key points that you feel your target audience needs to know about your product or service, and why it will benefit them to do business with you.

Look at these different web sites and read the headline.

Does it draw you in?
Do you care to read more?
Do you feel intrigued, or more than a little confused?

If you find one you like, there is nothing wrong with re-wording it to fit your business. Remember that we are talking about imitation, not plagiarism.

It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun. While this may be the case, at least give what your company is offering a unique slant, and make an effort to provide it in a more informative and interesting format than what your competition is doing.

====Side Bar====

This "unique slant", often called the "Unique Selling Proposition (USP)", opens the door for effective competition among businesses selling a simular product -- even the same product.

Rosser Reeves was the first to coin the phrase Unique Selling Proposition in his book "Reality of Advertising", published in 1961.

Here's Reeves' 3 part diffintion of USP:

Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer.
The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not offer. It must be unique--either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertising.
The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions.

====Side Bar====

Try to look at your competition with fresh eyes. Treat what they have to say as if it is the first time you have seen this information, because that may be the case for your target audience. Make a list of the questions that come to mind, or points that you feel you would want more information on, if you were in the shoes of your audience.

Even what your competition does wrong with the information they do or do not provide can be instructive. It serves to get you to think of all the things that you can do to sell the service better. You are building the structure of your business on what someone else has done before you, but improving the end product by going the extra distance in covering the whole story in a clear manner.

Now that is smart business.

About The Author
David Geer's Success 4U Marketing helps small business owners discover how to market any product or service online - quickly ... easily ... profitably ... successfully.


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