Business has always been about competition. Online, it is competition on steroids.

Depending on which study you read, online attention spans range from four seconds to 10 seconds. With tabbed browsing, online attention spans are getting even shorter. As a result, if your website doesn’t shout your value proposition—particularly if you’re in a highly competitive industry—your visitors are only click of the back button away from a page crammed with your competitors.

So not only do you need to get their attention fast, but also gain their trust. You must communicate who you are, what you do, and what makes you better than your competition.

There are lots of ways to differentiate your business online. Here are four you must master:

  • Have a strong, central message: What’s your elevator pitch? How can you deliver your value proposition in as few words as possible? Get to your point quickly.
  • Avoid huge blocks of text: Your home page is not the place for long, explanatory passages. It is a gateway to your primary content.
  • Avoid clutter: It is important to isolate your central message. Get rid of secondary messages that will only distract.
  • Use clear calls to action: The objective of any business website is to drive consumer behavior. Make sure it is easy and intuitive for your visitors to take the next step.

A tale of two florists

A recent Google search for “New York City florist” came up with pages and pages of results. Let’s take a look at two sites that came up high on page one of Google results.

What happens when you arrive at Big Apple Florist? You tell me. Is there anything about this homepage that makes you want to use their services?

Big Apple Florist

  • Design? On one side, dense copy in a font that’s difficult to read. On the other side? A rather unattractive photograph of an uninspired bouquet.
  • Offer? No clear offer or pricing.
  • Trust? The copy says that they’ve been in business since 1946, but that message is buried in the dense copy. That information should jump out at you.
  • Ease of purchase? It doesn’t even look like a site where you can actually buy flowers.  Most people are in a hurry when buying flowers. There is nothing here that facilitates the buying process.

By way of comparison, take a look at


They clearly get the concept of differentiation.

  • Design? Clear and clean with lots of white space. No dense copy, just clear, short offers.
  • Offer? The main image rotates showing offers for birthdays, holidays, sympathy, etc.
  • Differentiation? The 50% discount jumps out. So do the delivery fees.
  • Trust? “Safe and Secure Checkout” right at the top of the page.

Neither of these companies are the industry heavyweights, but one site has managed to get my attention, while the other is a turn-off. Great websites don’t require big budgets—but they absolutely need great messaging.