How Closely Should You Copy a Competitor’s Website?

Judging by the phone calls and in-person meetings we sit through, there is a certain level of ice cold dread that comes with finding out a close competitor has launched a new website. It’s not hard to understand why. Who would enjoy the thought of another company having a powerful tool to steal their customers?

Because things like income and prestige are squarely on the line, many business owners and executives will want to take immediate action when a competitor steps up to the plate. Specifically, they’ll inquire about copying certain parts of another website they have seen and liked. But is this a good idea?

Before we answer this question, let us point out that you’re always going to have competitors and it’s easy to over-react. When you see something new or interesting in your industry, try to look at it the way a customer would. Is the other company doing something valuable, or just vaguely interesting?

Once you have that mindset in place, you’re ready to come back to the original question: how closely should you copy a competitor’s website? To help you find the right answer, let’s go through a quick series of ideas…

Figure Out What You Like

Often, when a business owner tells us they “really liked” a competitor’s website, it turns out they actually appreciate a single feature or design point. This is important because you shouldn’t go and duplicate big parts of a strategy when you are actually enamored with a small part of it. It can be difficult to separate the various elements when you’re first looking at them, so break the website down into pieces and try to identify specific traits that you find engaging.

Separate Features from Gimmicks

Remember, the goal is to think like a customer. Often, the things we see on competitors’ websites seem fascinating to us as marketers but deliver very little in terms of payoff for customers. It’s important to be able to separate what is shiny from what is useful. Otherwise you could end up adding things to your website that get in the way of your success rather than adding to it.

Find Out What’s Feasible and Profitable

Suppose you determine there are elements of your competitor’s website that you really are fond of, and feel like your best customers would be impressed with. The next step is to find out whether you can add them to your own site legally, feasibly, and profitably. You certainly can’t copy word for word, but you might be able to add your own version of an app or a downloadable report. Talk to your web design team and figure out what makes sense in the context of your existing site or a redesigned page.

Put Your Own Spin and Improvement on the Idea

Rather than just copying something your competitors have done, why not take the next stepone most business owners and executives missand see if you can improve on the idea? Look for ways to put the unique spend on what your competitors have done or make it more engaging and valuable. Often this kind of brainstorming leads to groundbreaking innovations.

Get More Proactive about Web Design

Finally, regardless of whether you institute some version of your competitor’s idea or not, don’t settle for simply following their lead. Sit down with your web design team and internal staff and see if there are more ideas you can come up with that go beyond what is currently available in the market. Look for ways to give extra value to your customer base. The more often you do this the easier it will become to have the competition following you instead of needing to worry about catching up to them.

Ready to Start Leading the Pack in Your Market?

Far too many business owners feel as if they are simply following the herd online rather than leading the pack. If you want to have a website that gets your competitors worried about what they should be doinginstead of the other way aroundthen it’s time to get serious about thinking outside the box.

Effectively Marketing to Your Company’s Advantage

At The Marcom Group, we often meet business owners who have tried marketing their company on their own but never quite achieved the results they wanted. Maybe branding and marketing your business has taken a backseat to your daily operations. You want more business and more traffic to your website, but you’re not quite sure how to accomplish that. Working with a professional, full-service advertising agency like The Marcom Group can provide you with the guidance and resources you need to more effectively market to your target demographic. 

The Marcom Group: Your Marketing Partner 

Many businesses owners don’t realize just how important marketing is from the outset. They may use cookie-cutter services to create their website and other marketing materials—but these templated services are limited in how much they can personalize to your business. Do-it-yourself programs can only offer so many functions—but with The Marcom Group, your options are nearly limitless. From your website to your logo to your social media advertising, our team can help you create a cohesive brand that will be a lot more effective at bringing your business to the next level. 

When companies use professional marketing materials, it can make a big difference in how potential customers perceive them. Done properly, a custom-designed business card, logo, and website can show that you are an authority in your industry. People will be more likely to trust you than someone who has put little effort into building their brand. Our staff consists of talented graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, and digital marketing strategists. Each member of the team specializes in their area, providing our customers with a level of customer service and professional expertise that they just can’t get with ready-made programs. We pride ourselves on being able to offer a variety of creative solutions for each individual company’s requirements. 

When we meet with a new client, we ask them to think beyond their immediate needs to consider their long-term goals. This often includes utilizing social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to improve their web presence and more effectively reach their target demographic. Social media is an important component of any marketing strategy, but many business owners don’t have the time to keep up with their accounts. Our team can work with you to create the SEO-enhanced content you want customers to see, post it across your accounts, and boost the posts to reach the right customers. 

We Take a Holistic Approach to Your Branding

New businesses may not have a huge marketing budget, which can make them wary of seeking out professional help. However, The Marcom Group partners with each client to maximize their marketing budget no matter how large or how small it may be. We offer a diverse range of services customized to your business. We use a holistic approach to consider all aspects of a client’s brand, from their brochures and trade show displays to their website and social media posts. This provides for more cohesive branding across all mediums, which helps to improve your corporate identity.  

Many of our clients are concerned with ranking high in online search results. This is important to earning more business from people who are searching for a particular keyword or phrase related to your industry. After all, people are more likely to select a business on the first page of their Google search than one that’s several pages in. However, you must have the right SEO plan in place to get that kind of result. For the best SEO rankings, your website must be secure, fast to load, and easy to navigate. It should also be regularly updated with high-quality content using a variety of mediums, such as photographs, videos, blog posts, and other interactive tools. We utilize the latest SEO strategies, including Google Ads, to improve rankings for our clients. From regularly updating plug-ins and checking security features to posting blogs and other content, we can manage all aspects of your website to optimize it for PCs and mobile devices. 

A business’s online reputation is paramount to their success, so we also encourage our clients to reach out to their customers to post Google reviews. This increases your online presence via a platform that more and more people are relying on every day. Replying to negative reviews can also demonstrate that you care about customer experiences. We make providing this level of customer service easy through automated responses that help you reach customers more quickly, saving you time while also showing prospective customers that you’re responsive to their concerns.

ADA Compliance for Websites

The Supreme Court recently shined a light on ADA compliance for online businesses by refusing to hear a case that had previously ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees disabled individuals the right to access not only businesses but also their websites and web-based applications. 

The initial suit was brought against Dominos by Guillermo Robles, a blind man who was unable to order a pizza on the pizza chain’s website because it didn’t have the capability to accommodate him. He claimed this violated the ADA, which states that anyone with a disability should have full access to the goods and services “of any place of public accommodations.” While Dominos argued that this law only applied to physical locations, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it also included the online services offered by the business. 

This ruling could open the door to many other lawsuits against retailers who fail to make their websites accessible. The Supreme Court’s action implies that they are likely to apply ADA standards to web-based services in the future, leaving many business owners concerned about their ADA compliance. 

What to Know about ADA Compliance

Making your website ADA compliant is a smart business move that will not only protect your company but also help you reach more individuals with disabilities who may be interested in your services. Here are some key things you should know about ADA compliance:

  • The ADA extends to Tier I and Tier III organizations. Tier I is any business that is open at least 20 weeks out of the year with at least 15 employees. A Tier III organization applies to the “public accommodation” category, which includes businesses like grocery stores, banks, hospitals, and retailers. 
  • The ADA doesn’t have specific guidelines for websites, but the Supreme Court’s actions suggest that they should have the same level of accessibility as a brick-and-mortar location. This means using various website programming techniques to ensure a website is functional for individuals with disabilities.  
  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) is the industry standard for web developers. It consists of guidelines and techniques to ensure websites are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. These guidelines are broken up into three levels to conform to varying degrees of disability.
    • Level A: This is the lowest level of accessibility. It focuses on ways to improve navigation and translation for readers. 
    • Level AA: This level does more to account for multiple disabilities, including providing developers with direction on color contrast and identifying errors. It’s more in line with what has been considered acceptable in past court cases involving ADA compliance.
    • Level AAA: At this level, a website is designed to be accessible to the broadest range of individuals with disabilities using a combination of programming tools and elements.

4 Things Customers Want from You When the Economy Reopens

While the coronavirus pandemic is still unfolding in many ways, business owners are being confronted with new challenges and decisions as we move forward. 

In some states, the economic reopening process has already begun. In others, official start dates are still weeks away. But, regardless of where you work and live, you’re probably thinking about what you can do to hit the ground running when customers start to return in bigger numbers.

The best ideas and practices are going to vary from one industry or situation to the next, but it’s always a good idea to start by thinking of things from your customers’ point of view. With that in mind, let’s look at four things buyers are going to want from you when the economy reopens…

1. Clear Updates about Your Businesses’ Availability

As we’ve already seen in some areas, “open for business” can be a guideline rather than a practice. In other words, some companies are opening, while others are choosing to remain closed. For that reason, it’s crucial that you communicate to your customers what your policies and availability will look like. Let them know if they can take advantage of your products or services as your state reopens. And if they can’t, let them know when they can expect to see you in the future.

2. Information about Availability and Fulfillment

In the same way, being open doesn’t necessarily translate into “business as usual.” It may be that you are able to operate in an altered or limited capacity, or that some regular products or services aren’t available because of disruptions to your supply chain. Be clearon your website, and emails, and through your social accountsabout what you can and can’t provide in the coming weeks. That will save yourself, your team, and your customers from disruptions.

3. Safety Guidelines and Risk Management Procedures

In industries where person-to-person contact is the norm, you might want to communicate to buyers how your policies have changed in light of the continued coronavirus threat. If you’re taking extra precautions, or practicing social distancing measures, highlight those steps in your communications. Doing so will let buyers know what they can expect when they visit you or meet with a member of your team. It might even increase sales if it can help you draw in customers who would otherwise stay away.

4. Marketing That Speaks to Customer Needs

In many cases, business owners are going to find that what customers wanted from them a couple of months ago isn’t necessarily relevant today. Lots of people don’t have as much money to spend as they did at the start of the year, or they have different needs because of changes to their own businesses or careers. Recognize that and emphasize products or services in your marketing that speak to immediate concerns. You’ll know when things are back to normal, but most of your customer base probably isn’t there yet.

What Mobile-Friendly Web Design Means to Your Customers

You have heard hundreds of times by now that you need to have a mobile-friendly website to compete online in 2020 and beyond. However, there is some confusion amongst business owners about what that actually means. Is it enough to have a responsive website that adapts to mobile platforms, or is there more to the equation?

To find the best answer to this question, we have to stop thinking like marketers and web designers. Instead, we should approach the issue through the lens of potential customers. What would mobile-friendly mean to them?

Through years of work, study, and user testing, we’ve identified several traits that need to be present for website to be considered truly mobile-friendly. Here are some of the most important factors…

A Website That Displays Cleanly on a Small Screen

This is the most obvious definition of a mobile-friendly business website, but it’s worth spelling things out. If someone can arrive on your site via a phone or tablet and finds strange layouts, distorted images, or other obvious issues, then they are very likely to click away. This isn’t a very high bar to clear, but lacking basic mobile functionality is a good way to alienate half or more of your potential customers.

A Web Layout That Works Across Several Browsers and Devices

Of course, just because your website looks great on one mobile device doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to display perfectly on another. You can’t afford to lose a huge chunk of business just because some of your customers like iPhones and others prefer Androids. That’s why pages and layouts need to be tested on a variety of screens and platforms. 

Reasonable Page Loading Times

Most of us have been through the frustration of trying to load a website that took several seconds (three or more) to come online. Your average mobile user will simply take their time and attention elsewhere. You can speed your pages up by investing in premium web hosting and streamlining your code for fast delivery. If you are unsure about your website performance, an audit might be able to give you the answers you need.

Content That’s Optimized for Mobile Devices

It isn’t only servers that affect website speed. The content you load onto your pages (particularly images and videos) can play a big role too. For one thing, it’s important that they are formatted with the correct size and resolution to display on both traditional computers and mobile devices. And for another, they need to be identified properly with HTML5 tags to prevent delays and errors.

Fast and Intuitive Website Interaction

Have you ever tried to navigate your way through a website, or complete a purchase, only to become frustrated and leave? This is an all-too-common experience in the mobile age. Remember that many of your customers will be tapping links and prompts with their fingers. They don’t want to type in long strings of information through forms, and will appreciate simple menus, click to call buttons, and other intuitive features that make it easy for them to complete tasks.

7 Urgent Steps for Marketers in the Covid Economy

As the coronavirus has taken over first the news, then our attention, and finally the economy, clients have come to us again and again with one question: “what now?”

The answer depends of course on the situation a business owner or executive is facing. For some, a Covid recession is a major event. For others, it’s a sad reality but not a huge business concern.

If you have the kind of company that is relatively unaffected by the current pandemic, then you might not be concerned with changing strategies or tactics. For all the rest of us, though, here are seven urgent steps you might want to take today if you haven’t already:

1. Don’t Panic or Make Rash Decisions You Might Regret

One of the worst things you can do, in this crisis or any other, is complicate matters by enacting quick decisions that compound the issue. This is a time to think clearly about what’s possible, what’s likely, and which opportunities or obstacles lie ahead. Take some time to get clear about what you’re facing and what you want to accomplish. Only then should you make strategic decisions.

2. Start Using Your Email Newsletter to Communicate

This is no time to be quiet or leave your customers wondering what you can or can’t do for them. While we would encourage you to reuse any outreach tools you have at your disposal; email is particularly well-suited for fast and effective communication. Let buyers know what’s happening with your business, even if nothing has changed. That way you won’t miss out on business because they have assumed you are cutting back.

3. Reach Out to Your Best Customers through Social Media

While email will probably be the preferred method of communication for the moment, don’t overlook the power of social media to connect with your best customers, clients, vendors, or partners. Some of them may prefer to communicate through these channels. And, sending a note through Facebook or LinkedIn (as examples) is more personal than reaching them through an email blast.

4. Look for Opportunities to Sell and Serve Your Market

Don’t assume there isn’t any business to be found in your industry, or that you know exactly what your customers want. Reach out to some of them and see if there are new opportunities to make your company a more valuable partner or resource. It might be that there are lots of ways you can serve buyers, or the community, that aren’t immediately obvious.

5. Investigate New Customers and Sales Opportunities

If your customers and clients are slowing down, don’t simply take it as a given that you will have to do the same. It may be that you are able to serve other markets (for instance, hospitals or delivery companies) who are doing a thriving business right now. Often, it just takes a bit of creative thinking and investigation to identify new sales opportunities, even in a downturn.

6. Cut Off Any Non-Performing Ads or Campaigns

We started our tips by advising you not to make any rash decisions. However, that’s not the same as saying you should stay still. If there are marketing campaigns or activities that just aren’t going to work in the current economy, then this is the time to pause or discontinue them. Don’t let your money go towards projects that aren’t going to benefit your business for many months to come.

7. Take Advantage of the Downtime to Get Better

One of the things that makes marketing hard is that most business owners and executives don’t have time to read books, take courses, or think about projects like a website overhaul. If there is any small silver lining to what’s going on in the world it’s that we have the opportunity to step back and be more intentional about our plans. Where do you want to be in a few months, and what can you do to make it happen?

12 Online Marketing Tips for the Coronavirus Economy

12 Marketing Tips for the Coronavirus Economy

As it becomes increasingly clear that the global coronavirus pandemic is likely to linger for several months (and possibly longer), topics like web design and online marketing might be the furthest things from your mind. However, this global health crisis is also putting the business world in a pinch. The companies that fail to adjust their strategies today are going to be hurting tomorrow—if they don’t disappear altogether.  So, while you shouldn’t spend all your time thinking about your website, it’s a good idea to explore some options to keep your business running in the coming months. And, with opportunities for meetings, conferences, and even simple one-on-one interactions being limited, the internet is, unquestionably, your strongest remaining sales and marketing tool.  With that in mind, let’s look at a 12 marketing tips you can use to keep moving ahead in the coronavirus economy…

Marketing Tip #1 Adjust Products, Services, and Pricing

Most economists expect that current conditions will lead us into some sort of recession, at least in the short-term. At the same time, many of your customers or clients are probably feeling uncertain about their futures.

Knowing that, you might want to adjust your product and service offerings to fit the current times. Shorter contracts, flexible orders, and low-cost solutions might all be in steady demand. This will vary from market to market, of course, but your goal should be to give your buyers what they want. Now is the time to look ahead and adjust your website and social messaging accordingly.

Marketing Tip #2 Install or Upgrade Website E-commerce Features as Needed

Health officials are advising against unnecessary trips to the store, and particularly to crowded spaces. That means fewer shoppers and a big hit to retailers everywhere as customers either put off purchases or order online.

Depending on the products and services you sell, this might be the perfect time to improve your eCommerce game. Just because buyers can’t come see you in-person doesn’t mean they won’t want to order. Consider setting up faster shipping, online purchasing discounts, or even carryout-style service for those who are trying to practice social distancing. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to keep buying from you.

Marketing Tip #3 Add Online Demonstrations to Your Website

Boosting online orders can be difficult if you are used to closing sales based on the strength of live presentations. One way to overcome this challenge is to film yourself (or salesperson) giving a great demo and then putting it on your website.

This might not be quite as effective as letting a customer try out a product themselves, it can go a long way towards answering the questions they have on their minds that would otherwise stop them from finalizing a purchase. And, shooting, editing, and posting online demos is easy. You can even make customized clips for special clients or individual buyer types.

Marketing Tip #4 Increase Customer Engagement With Online Chats

The one thing that’s normally missing from eCommerce is the ability to ask good questions or get personalized advice like you would from a live salesperson or business owner. You can solve that issue and make the buying process more seamless by implementing online chat tools.

You’ve undoubtedly seen in use these already, but you might not realize just how valuable they can be. Not only can you use them to let buyers know when you are or aren’t at your desk, but you can even program automated responses to simple questions. If you want to boost online sales and conversions, integrated chat software could be the perfect solution.

Marketing Tip #5 Improve Your Hosting and Web Security

Given that your website is about to get a lot more traffic and become an even bigger part of your sales and marketing plan, it makes sense to upgrade your hosting and cybersecurity plans.

Better hosting make your pages faster and more reliable. Improved backups, encryption, and monitoring all make it harder for online thieves to break into your site and get access to data they should. These are smart upgrades in any economy, but will likely prove to be especially crucial during the coronavirus outbreak.

Marketing Tip #6 Fire Up the Home Office

The realities of social distancing mean that up to half of all Americans are going to be working from home for at least the next few months. Contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t necessarily need to involve a loss of productivity.

Besides setting a firm schedule and minimizing distractions, you can get more from your work-at-home time by utilizing remote access software such as TeamViewer and group chat services such as Slack. These tools let you tap into desktops and workstations from anywhere. That way you and your team never have to worry about missing out on important files or applications.

Marketing Tip #7 Embrace Virtual Meetings and Conferences

At the time of this writing, thousands of local, national, and international meetings and conferences have been canceled in a period of 10 days. It’s uncertain when these activities will resume, but the smart money suggests it won’t be for many months.

If your business or industry is dependent on these types of sales interactions, then it’s up to you to replace them. That’s where online meetings, videoconferences, and online presentations come into play. With the right software, some good microphones, and nice lighting in a conference room you can host all kinds of virtual events. They might not be as effective as face-to-face interactions, but you can still use them to maintain relationships and close deals.

#8 Review Your Spending on Advertising

When times are good, you may be able to get away with setting your pay-per-click ads and forgetting about them. For the next few months, though, you would do well to keep a close eye on your spending and ROI. If you’ve been benefiting prior to the pandemic then there’s a good chance that costs per clicks have decreased which means its good time to double down on your efforts.

It’s a virtual certainty that buying patterns are going to change in a lot of markets and industries. And at the same time, the potential for recession could cause the returns for certain types of campaigns to diminish. You’ll want to save every penny you can, so don’t waste any of your marketing budget on underperforming online ads that can be turned on later.

Marketing Tip #9 Stay Ahead of Supply Chains and Schedules

Some businesses are already feeling the pinch in terms of incoming inventory, particularly if it arrives from China. Whether yours is one of them or not, it’s important to update your website as details change. The last thing you want is to make a bad situation worse by taking orders that can’t be fulfilled in a timely way.

The same goes for working schedules. You & your employees might be forced to miss time because of illness. You could need time to care for others in the household. Take advantage of file-sharing apps, slack chats, and other tools for work-at-home opportunities. And, be careful not to offer customers deadlines that can’t be met.

Marketing Tip #10 Use Email to Keep in Regular Contact With Customers and Partners

Email marketing is always a crucial part of the online marketing. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s an important lifeline to your customer base. Let them know how you’re doing, offer helpful tips, and alert them to any opportunities or disruptions.

Email is fast, affordable, and targeted. Use it as your primary means of communication when you need buyers, vendors, or the general public. You can also use it to alerted to changes in your business. You can avoid the kind of uncertainty that might otherwise hurt your sales and marketing efforts.

Marketing Tip #11 Maintain Strong Social Activity

Is email serving as your primary communication with your customers? Now is a great time to keep your company active on social media. It’s completely free, plus your profiles put your business right in front of the public at a moments notice. You want to hone in on any channels that your competitors are under utilizing.

Feel free to share tips, success stories, and personal anecdotes. Don’t forget that you can lift spirits (and help your brand) by posting positive messages & updates from time to time, too.

Marketing Tip #12 Don’t Overcommit to Plans or Campaigns

Our final note of caution: preparation has to do with the unknown future. Events are unfolding quickly, especially considering that few could have anticipated how sharply life & business would change in the matter of a few short weeks.

Keep that in mind as you think ahead to future plans and tactics. Until the economy stabilizes and it’s easier to see outcomes will look like, don’t make big decisions or investments. Your main goal for the next months should be to look after your family and keep your company moving. If you manage that, you’ll have done enough to make bigger plans later.

Need Help Formulating Your Company’s Game Plan?

With new developments & information coming so quickly, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the confusion surrounding the current pandemic. This is no time to panic or take your eye off the ball, however. The future of your business – and the well-being of your customers, employees, and vendors—is on the line.

The Marcom Group’s CEO, Dave Plivelich, Talks Branding on Our Two Cents Podcast


At The Marcom Group, we know from experience that clients are best served when they can call one phone number for anything–which is why we own all of our own hosting equipment and have on-site staff ready to handle everything from design and development, to management and marketing, to the ongoing security maintenance and hosting of your website.

Why It’s Time to Upgrade Your Web Hosting

Web hosting is an easy topic for business owners to ignore. After all, most don’t really understand how it works, never see the computers where their websites are stored. Also most are easily bored by details like server speeds.

So, rather than get into the technical minutia of different web hosting packages and configurations, today we simply want to remind our clients and readers that it’s time to review your hosting package. In fact, it’s likely that you could benefit from upgrading to a better plan.

Reluctant to spend money on something you don’t quite see the value in? Let’s look at a few things you get with dedicated web hosting…

Continue reading “Why It’s Time to Upgrade Your Web Hosting”

Is Your Business Website Ready for 2020?

We’ve flipped the calendar to a new year, and that has a lot of business owners thinking about what’s ahead in 2020. Many are thinking specifically about their websites, which have become crucial to sales and marketing and our digitally-driven world.

When you have a top-notch web presence for your business, you have an advantage over the competition. When your website isn’t keeping up, on the other hand, it’s hard to keep customers coming your way.

With that in mind, is your business website ready for 2020? Here are four questions you can ask yourself to find the answer…

Continue reading “Is Your Business Website Ready for 2020?”