You Can't be Everything to Everyone
A recent interaction with a potential client made me think of this.
No matter what product you sell or service you offer, it's a mistake to claim it's the best widget in the world. Here's a piece of copy from the website of a large, production boat builder describing a particular boat model: "If you are judging a inshore fishing boat by its looks, functions and value, your search has found the right boat." That's just lazy and uninformative. Every boat (and everything else) is a compromise.
Potential buyers and clients aren't trying to determine which boat (or whatever) is the best one in the universe. They know better than that and to treat them otherwise insults their intelligence. Instead, they're trying to figure out which one is the best for their particular needs. So what you have to do is think carefully about how your product or service is different from everybody else's, what particular needs it meets best, and clearly communicate that.
The potential client I'm talking about runs a charter boat out of a very upscale golf-and-spa type destination area. There are probably a couple dozen other charter boats, but his is clearly the nicest — a big sportfisher with an air-conditioned, dark wood salon. His competition ranges from other big boats that aren't quite as luxurious to scruffy guys in 15 year old bay boats.
But none of them appear to be staking claim to any particular segment of the market. They all basically say, at least on their websites, "I run the best, most fun, fish catching-est charter in town." Instead, they should be differentiating themselves from one another, identifying and pursuing market segments.
Here's an example. Personally, I wouldn't choose to go fishing with this potential client. I'd prefer to save $100 bucks and go out with the scruffy guy on the bay boat, bait my own hooks, get a sunburn, and pee over the side. But that's me. Most people would probably prefer to go out on the luxurious yacht, have the first mate rig everything for them, relax in the air conditioning between bites, and pee in a spotless bathroom below decks.
What I told this potential client was that he was missing an opportunity by not staking out the very sizable segment of the market consisting of wealthy visitors who are looking for that upscale experience. He agreed. If we move forward, we'll be writing and building a site specifically geared toward that segment.
But I'd also tell the scruffy guy in the bay boat that he's missing an opportunity in the same way. Although at first glance his service might not look as desirable, the fact is that his charters likely meet a particular set of needs better than any other outfit in town. Rather than trying to compete on their own turf with the better equipped and "fancier" operations, he'd be well advised to differentiate himself and deliberately court the market segment his charters will appeal to.