In Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, Brian (played by Graham Chapman), finding a huge crowd of followers outside his balcony window, attempts to persuade the people to disperse.
“You’re all individuals,” shouts Brian.
“Yes we’re all individuals,” agree the crowd in perfect unison.
“You’re all different,” shouts Brian.
“Yes, we are all different,” the crowd chirp back together.
Irony is like a spider web -- human beings can spot it from a distance, but have trouble seeing it when it is right in front of them. Many company’s, fearing being viewed as outlandish and maverick, spend too long analysing their peers, thinking that they are ‘checking out the competition’ but in reality they are just setting themselves up as another clone in the sector.
Take a look around the websites of several companies within the same industry and you will find that the main differences between them will be the logo and the colour scheme. The words all seem to have been put through a thesaurus or translated into Swahilihi and back again, just to re-arrange a few here and there.
Companies want to appear as different and unique, but seem to seek inspiration for how to do this from the very people they are trying to separate themselves from.
A: We need to make it clear how we’re different from ABC Inc.
B: Hmmm, how do we do that?
A: I don’t know.
B: So how do they handle that?
A: Let’s look. (The ABC Inc. website is loaded onto the screen)
B: Ooh, that’s quite good. I like what they have done there.
A: Yeah, me too.
B: Could we do something like that?
This seems like a scene from Ricky Gervais’s ‘The Office,’ but this conversation is happening every week in countless boardrooms.
One of the prime fears that stifles any genuine innovation in the marketing message is the belief that revealing too much knowledge leads to a loss of competitive edge. Most businesses do actually have something very unique about them, but this is largely kept under wraps as some form of secret weapon – a weapon so secret that even some in the company have no idea what it is.
This strategy of keeping something back for the follow up sales meeting is what renders the vast majority of websites as carbon copies of each other. Although all companies will possess some form of trade secret that should be kept under wraps in order to maintan a competitive edge, invariably too much information is withheld and so all that remains are the same vague sentiments promising to deliver better than the competition, just like the competition claim.
A man who does not share a good idea is only afraid he will not have another. Share your ideas, broadcast them. Some may attempt to steal them and pass them off as their own, but they will simply be left with outdated ideas, as you’ll be sharing a new set of ideas next week. But doesn’t this risk that your original ideas and concepts could end up all over the web.
Yes, this is certainly a possibility. And it is also your aim.
A company’s website should be viewed as its virtual headquarters. The sales team from a company do not sit around the office waiting for the next prospective client to wander through the door, as they recognise that their clients are ‘out there’ and so the sales team need to also be ‘out there.’
The content of your website, likewise, should not just sit around your own site, gathering dust and awaiting for people to stumble upon it. The knowledge and expertise within an organisation should be demonstrated in relevant locations across the web.
A company rich with expertise is not just in a position to talk of its own merits, it should also be analysing and commenting upon the very industry within which it resides.
Seeking to implement an effective online strategy is a big undertaking. much like deciding to become a runner, it takes dedication and continual effort, and that holds true for those simply seeking to outrun the local competition right through to those wanting to be top of the world.
But the rewards are there to be reaped too. The global reach of the internet opens up far greater markets for your products and services and a much wider audience to acknowledge and affirm your expertise.
It is time to stop hiding behind the curtain. There’s a whole worldwide web out there.
It's time to Invade!