Podcast Episode 2 – Avoiding Keeping Up With The Joneses Syndrome



Hello. My name is Cody Wise. My company is Sharp Tack Media, and this is the small business digital marketing and branding trends podcast. For today’s episode. I want to talk about something that we refer to internally at my agency, as the keeping up with the Joneses syndrome, as it relates to redesigns and branding redesigns. To the kind of explain what it is, 


We regularly get clients on account to us that either want their website redesigned or some does not want their branding redesigned. When they come to us we have a kind of a whole series of questions that we ask them because we really kind of want to get to the root of what it is they want, a website design, or want their branding adjusted. You know sometimes clients have really good reasons to want a website redesign. The website is lacking in a key area 


or they’re getting customer feedback that the website is not very user-friendly, or is kind of hard to find things on, or sometimes they get feedback that it’s not really prominent – how to contact them or how to process an order for eCommerce sites. Sometimes, there’s a really good reason but about 50% of the time, we get clients that want a website redesign for what we call the “keeping up with the Joneses


syndrome”. And basically what that is, is usually it’s a new competitor in either their industry or their local area that comes in with a new flashy website full of really over-the-top design, over the top effects – might have, you know, a bunch of pop ups on the site or it might have a bunch of like really flashy scrollers or sliders or


all kinds of like animated effects. And basically for whatever reason our clients start to feel that their site is inferior or boring in comparison to this new competitor and so they kind of become envious and want their website redesigned. They want to be the flashiest, most modern looking website on the block so to speak. And when that happens,


we oftentimes kind of take our clients through an education process. And a lot of times, you know, these new competitors that come into a space, a lot of times they’re their web, their initial branding and website is really their starting point. Like, they don’t have any data, that they don’t really, they may know their target audience, but they haven’t had enough experience to really know that these designs


and the style is really going to work for them. And the simple fact is that it may or may not convert. Oftentimes. These super over-the-top flashy, amazing looking modern styles just don’t convert. It really depends on the industry, depends on really nailing down your demographics and understanding who your end user really is. And that’s kind of one of the things that we try to take our clients through is just


because you have a new competitor that may look flashier, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should try to emulate them. I mean if your website is working well, You know it’s a lot of times its – by knowing your audience. I mean you could be well ahead of this new competitor just simply because you have your website dialed down from years of experience. Experience, especially in an industry often times trumps, you know style and flashiness


is just, we really try to caution our clients toward, just kind of going off the deep end and redesigning their website just to keep up with looks and you know, to kind of illustrate this point we had a, we had a client it’s been about three maybe four years ago. She was a Fitness Studio owner in a fairly affluent part of town


She had  a really successful Fitness Studio. But she started there was this new almost crossfit- style new gym that they came into town and they had a really modern really flashy looking website, they were very aggressive with Facebook ads, as well as television ads and all of their stuff was just chock-full of you know, what you would expect on kind of a high-end


technology website. Like, almost a video game-esque how their website looked and she really kind of fell into this keeping up with the Joneses syndrome and really wanted her website redone because she said that, how is she supposed to compete with that? Until we kind of took her through how our website with working, where conversion rate was and the truth is that she was growing, you know,


10 to 15 memberships a month, was she didn’t have a huge capacity. So that was more than what she could handle. She’d been working with us for quite a while, so I knew her website pretty well and I knew her client base pretty well. One of the things that I really cautioned her on is she was in an affluent part of town, her particular clientele tended to be a little bit older and I kind of told her


that it may not be the smartest option to completely revamp your website, answer really work on making it stylistically on point with this other company because what you have is working. let’s not really reinvent the wheel. We, I consulted with her for a couple of weeks until she became very clear that if I wasn’t going to help her


make this her new vision a reality that she would go with someone else and obviously we didn’t want to lose a longtime client. So we agreed and we put our graphic designers to work and we created exactly what she wanted. It was very modern, it had some cool effects, it had a really nice scroll effect on the homepage where I kind of guided the user journey. And


things had if you clicked on a different parts of the homepage, it had a kind of some jump out effects. It was exactly what she wanted. It was it was very modern and it was something that you would think of if looking at like Teslas website. I mean, It was actually you know, where she got some of her inspiration and we went through all of the testing and we launched the website.


And you know, I didn’t feel super good about it, but I did my best to educate the client and at the end of the day was what they wanted to do. But about a month-and-a-half later, she called me up and you know, one of the things she says is, I think you’re right, I think I made a mistake and it turns out that within that month. She normally had a very


kind of hands-off customer service. She wasn’t hands off but it didn’t require a lot of customer service intervention on her part for the website and if people basically went on the website to check the class schedule, to get to know the trainers a little bit better to look at, if there’s any new events they are running, things like that has more informational. But after we did the change to this new flashy kind of in-your-face


over-the-top style, she said that within that month, a month-and-a-half. She fielded 30 to 40 emails from her clients. Most of which were older just think they hated the new website. They couldn’t find anything on it. It wasn’t like, it didn’t look good on their phones. And this didn’t have anything to do with it being responsive minutes. It was perfectly responsive


and looked well on a phone. It wasn’t translating well. Her vision just did not translate well for her target demographic and basically it turned out. But it was kind of an important lesson for her to learn and that – you have to build your website in your branding with your end user in mind. It’s not necessarily what you think is looks cool or would be great. It’s how is your end user going to, how


are they going to use it and how are they going to go through your website and to kind of consume your content is, it doesn’t make sense. And in this case, it just is absolutely didn’t make sense and we ended up keeping some of the new styles, we toned everything down to where it was much more minimalist and much closer to her old site, just with a little bit updated branding. And we kind of move everything back


to where it was, the navigation items and very soon things went back to normal. But it was really kind of an important lesson for her, and that keeping up with the Joneses and updating your style to fit a competitor is not always the best way to go about it because you don’t really know if that competitor done their homework. I mean a competitor may have never done their homework. They may just


be throwing something against the wall, seeing if sticks, seeing if it works and that’s their starting point. Don’t ruin something that’s working just because you feel like it’s not as hip or as stylish as a new competitor. There are sometimes when it is necessary, a particularly entire industry shifts, or if you start seeing if you haven’t updated their website and say,


you know, 10 to 15 years something like that. I mean, then you could definitely look to maybe make a little more modern, a little more user-friendly. I mean back in the 2000s web design was not very user-friendly and it was hideous. And if you look at comparing pretty much any industry today to web design back then, it just, it did not have the end-user in mind, when I wasn’t being filthy, it was mainly just being built almost as a formality


back then. Now it’s absolutely a necessity to be online and to have information in a digestible format. And occasionally, like I mentioned you’ll see industry shifts. Now anybody who’s been in a web designer branding for the last 5 to 10 years knows that pretty cool. If you work with any insurance clients about three or four years ago, there was a big shift in the insurance industry because some usability 


studies came out that they basically suggested that you know, a growing part of their customer base that they were going online with other websites was elderly, which also happens to be their most profitable section of people or section of customers. And so three or four years ago, and anybody that was in web designer branding and took note of the studies that they have come out knows


that most insurance websites, the actual font increased, that the kind of busyness of the homepages and things died down quite a bit. Most insurance companies made it very simple and very easy to navigate their website and it was a shift. It was directly related to these usability studies. It said, older people are using your website, that’s who you should be designing for. And so, sometimes you’ll


see an industry shift, and in which case obviously you want to keep that in and update your website and it definitely don’t want to be an outlier in that regard. But this keeping up with the Joneses syndrome that there’s so many clients fall into. I mean, we probably deal with this with at least fifty to a hundred clients a year who basically, want to revamp and completely update their website because some new competitor, 


they think looks cooler than them. And most more often than not, it’s a mistake and it can be done correctly if you keep your end user in mind that you can definitely revamp and redesign your website, but I would never recommend a client just revamped their website simply based on a new flashy competitor and thinking that they need to copy that in order to stay relevant. 


Especially, if they’ve been around for a while because you’re experiencing and you knowing what works for your website is oftentimes, oftentimes trumps any new hip looking competitor and there’s other ways to get a competitive advantage. I mean obviously dumping some money into digital marketing, coming up with a strategy that way. And the simple fact is to, is sometimes flashy just doesn’t convert. When


we do a lot of work in my agency in the fitness industry. And in the fitness industry, you see websites in all different styles, all different genres. I mean, there’s most people don’t realize there’s dozens of different genres in the fitness industry from you know, people who are all about like strength and performance, people who are aspiring to be like I get into the NFL,you know that there’s a bodybuilding crowd, 


there’s the fitmom crowd. There are a whole bunch of different lists, there’s the crowd that, they’re basically, there’s entire fitness programs based around looking great naked. I mean, there are a number of different sections. So it was in the fitness industry, you really runs the gamut in terms of style and we have some clients who put out the ugliest looking that,


they  put out the ugliest looking landing pages and i’m not saying not to be critical of them. They know it and they laugh at themselves at how it converts. But some of these landing pages and websites convert it like 30 to 40 percent. It’s insane but their competitors that are putting out super flashy stuff are getting, maybe half a percent or 3% conversion rate. So often times, like the simpler, more minimalist, even you know, should I say ugly type designs convert at a much better clip 


and its really all about knowing your audience. I’m mean, this particular client who puts out these kind of, famously ugly-looking pages, I mean, he’s constantly running split test, he’s constantly asking for his customers for feedback, sending out surveys, really like he knows the pulse of his target audience and he really explicits that. Where is, there’s some other clients we have that don’t quite have his 


level of success and they still know their target audience, but their stuff tends to be much more design heavy. So definitely the other end of the spectrum, they do well. I don’t know that anybody quite does as well as he does, but you know, they know their audience are on his 10th the ones that have the really heavy design and the really flashy graphics and effects their target tends to be younger, more 


tacky types answer that can work while too. So, the main thing that I want to get across in this episode is that you know, you should know your audience and really spend a decent amount of time getting to know, getting to know your audience on a very granular level whenever we work with the client. I mean, one of the things that we do when were going to do any sort of marketing 


for them is really create a kind of a customer persona and most of the time, will even give it a name. Like if we were working with somebody who had a gym, you know, it might be Tim the gym member and you know, like we talked about how old he is. What does he do? What does he do for a job? What are his likes and dislikes and most of the time anybody who’s been in their job for, say three to five ten years and if you startup it’s a little bit more difficult because a lot of that is is market research that 


stuff. But anybody whos had a business for five or 10 years can really kind of paint this picture of exactly they are and we can actually like narrow it down to the point where we can give it a name. And we can kind of do our marketing around that, and it’s really knowing your audience and knowing how your audience is likely to take a redesign or a branding reposition should really trump anything else. Just please, never get 


caught up and try not to ever get caught up in this keeping up with the Joneses syndrome because it’s really, it’s easy to become envious and it’s easy to, you know, really kind of feel like your website sucks. I mean, thats thats what a lot of people come to us and say like my website sucks compared to them. Like, how do I know how am I ever going to compete and the fact is there’s a lot more to it then, than how then the effects your website has or how cool it looks. I mean, there’s just a lot more that goes into it and to having a successful brand and 


having a successful website. And so, I think that kind of wraps up today’s episode. But yeah, definitely important to keep in mind and important to go over as you look at any sort of a major change to your website. So hopefully todays episode was informative and it definitely gave you some things to think about because, you don’t always need 


to make full sail changes to make some, a positive impact in your business. Sometimes all you need is just tweaks here and there, but don’t let a competitor force you into making changes just because you feel like your website might be inferior to them. There’s usually a good way to go about it that doesn’t alienate your current client base and definitely set you up for success. So with that being said, I think I will end the episode and thank 


you for listening and I look forward to having you on next time. Bye for now.

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