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Improve your Web site through competitive intelligence

Let's take a closer look at analyzing a competitor's Unique Selling Proposition (USP), entry page download time, communicated credibility and how these elements affect a visitor's buying decision.

In a previous article, I wrote about how Sun-Tzu would have used the Internet to conduct his military espionage, had it been around, some 2,500 years ago. I also discussed the importance of modern day Web site competitive intelligence and how to get started.

For this article, we'll take a closer look at analyzing a competitor's Unique Selling Proposition (USP), entry page download time, communicated credibility and how these elements affect the buying decision.

Remember, a commercial Web site's primary business function is to help potential customers decide among purchase alternatives.

Let's get started...

Unique Selling Proposition

A USP is loosely defined as a statement that clearly sets a brand, product or service apart from its competition. Those proven to be powerful and effective include customer benefits or articulate a solution to a major problem. Look at your competitors' statements. Do they have one? Is it unique, benefit-laden and concise? How will you make yours better? Study as many as possible and make a list.

Strong example: "ACME Dentistry, The safe and painless road to healthy teeth"
Poor example: "ACME Dentistry, catering to all your dental needs"

Entry Page Download Time

Entry page download time is critical to Web site effectiveness. We live in a world that demands immediate satisfaction. Online is no different. If a potential customer's patience is outlived by your Web page's load time, she leaves and visits a competing site. It's really that simple. Make sure your entry page sizzles.

Excellent load time: 7-10 seconds on a 56k modem; 30-50k total file size.
Poor load time: more than 7-10 seconds on a 56k modem; 51k+ total file size.

For a "Web page load time checker" and other handy tools, check out our Web tools page. To learn how to calculate home page effectiveness, check out "Is your home page hurting your business?"

Communicated Credibility

Credibility is fairly subjective, yet extremely important to communicate. If your brand isn't well known, trusted and considered invaluable by the masses, you must do everything in your power to prove it.

Remember the phrase, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"? Well, perceived credibility is no different. Consumers recognize value, trust and buy for many different reasons. Your goal is to cater to them all, leaving no doubt in a potential customer's mind that you're the best possible choice.

Look to your competitors' Web sites to see how they communicate credibility. What methods do they use? Evaluate your risks. Where are they stronger? What can you do to improve and communicate that you are the best possible choice?

Use these sample methods to guide your analysis:

1. Testimonials from satisfied customers
2. Case studies disclosing ROI or monetary value
3. Well written copy
4. Well designed graphical interface

5. Media clippings and "In the News" articles
6. Unrestricted press releases
7. Strong privacy policy
8. Certification, industry recognition and awards

9. Prominent display of association and membership
10. Management/Employee photos and bios
11. Guarantees and warrantees
12. SSL and digital certificates (Thawte and Verisign)

Use your Web site to help potential customers decide among purchase alternatives. Convince them your brand is the best possible choice and watch your lead volumeArticle Submission, customer base and profit margins improve.

"Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril." - Sun-Tzu.

Article Tags: Competitive Intelligence, Page Download, Load Time, Best Possible

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Rick Costello, The Web Site Profit Doctor is a Chicago Area Web Designer and Internet Marketing Consultant who provides Web site help services that result in increased eCommerce revenue and more captured sales leads. Services range from basic web design help to complex Web analytics & Search Engine Marketing.

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