Is Your Message the Same as Your Competition's?

Feb. 1, 2006
If youre in the contracting business, you want to know what your competition is up to. You watch his ads, study his offers and if youre like a lot of

If you’re in the contracting business, you want to know what your competition is up to. You watch his ads, study his offers – and if you’re like a lot of people – you start doing the very same thing. Bad mistake.

“It must work for him,” you tell yourself, “so I’ll try it too.” But this is really not smart. The reason? It’s one of my favorite admonitions in seminars I teach: “You cannot stand out by sameness.”

That sounds pretty simple, but it’s amazing how many contractors are guided into purchasing expensive ad space or time that delivers pretty much the same message as everyone else! Worse than this, they expect different results!
There’s another truism that reflects this misperception: “Doing the same thing expecting different results is one definition of insanity.”

Industries love to feed off each other. They love to see what the competition is up to and that’s extremely valuable. But you must stop this practice before you copy their ads! If you use something just like everybody else’s lame attempt, how do you expect it to outperform theirs?

Of course, it’s not just contractors. Open up the Yellow Pages and see if you don’t find copying in nearly every industry. What a waste! All it does is dilute ad messages, waste expensive ad space, and force you to blend in . . . when you should be standing out!

The simple fact is, to stand out, you must be different. Your ad’s mission is to look, act and appear different enough to attract attention. Attention is what you want and are paying for.

Imagine your eye glancing over a stadium of people all holding up a white card, except one person is holding a red card that says, “Don’t look at me.” Even though the message is instructing you to react differently, you can’t help but notice it — and even focus on it.

A lot of people are afraid of being different. But don’t interpret it as being “weird” or “strange.” The “different” you want is better, faster, easier, more valuable than whatever you’re being compared to. You want to let customers “see” the value.

One of my favorite approaches is to send prospects a 6 X 9 postcard (to stick out of the stack) with a strong headline about energy and/or another costly “pain” the prospects want to defer. In the main text, you simply tell prospects how your service will undo the pain and emit gain. At the end, tell them why now is better than later. This quick, three-step formula works great.

What doesn’t work is a photo of a condensing unit with “We’re Really Cool” or some other pointless drivel. Let your competition use the igloos and frosty letters, and let your company stand out by being different.

FedEx was different than regular package delivery. Starbucks is different than regular coffee shops. And in their own way, the fast food franchises that lead their sector do so by being different enough to excel in the mind of the customer. That’s the difference that matters.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334-262-1115. For a FREE critique of your Yellow Page Ad, readers can fax their Yellow Page ad to 334-262-1115. You can also call Hudson, Ink at 800/489-9099 for help or visit for other free marketing articles and reports.