Case Study: Website Rescues by Ethercycle

  • Category focus: Ethercycle created the new category “website rescues”
  • Service(s) provided: Web design and conversion rate optimization services for Shopify store owners
  • Current web presence:

Ethercycles Website Rescue service page as of October 19, 2015

Ethercycle principal Kurt Elster spent years doing standard website design and development work. He moved out of that highly commoditized market by first focusing on a specific audience–larger agencies that needed help executing web design projects (the Narrow Audience-Market Focus strategy). He continued to handle smaller web projects that came directly to him in addition to the larger agency projects he was a subcontractor on.

Kurt noticed that a small subset of his clients came to him with sites that were basically acceptable but could benefit from fixing some problems related to their conversion rate. He saw the opportunity to offer these clients a very fast, limited scope service that focused on fixing conversion rate problems rather than creating an entirely new design. Kurt got a strong positive response when he offered this alternative service, and over time the service was so successful that it became his primary service offering.

Kurt branded this service as Website Rescues and in the process created a divergent category. The strategy canvas below shows how the Website Rescues value curve is clearly different than the typical website re-design offered by many agencies.

The Website Rescues Strategy Canvas vs. the Traditional Agency Approach

It’s worth discussing how owning the Website Rescues category works for Kurt because if you’re imagining Shopify store owners across the world pounding their fists on their large, oak executive desks and yelling “get me a Website Rescue!”, you’ve got the wrong idea of how category ownership works in the real world. After all, Kurt is spending exactly zero dollars on the kind of major television advertising campaigns you would need to create that kind of awareness.

But here’s what he is doing that is so devastatingly effective that he routinely gets 20 leads per week, 18 of which he refers elsewhere due to poor fit or a full pipeline.

Kurt gets leads through the following channels:

  • He is listed on Shopify’s site as a Shopify Expert. Getting over a certain threshold of reviews promoted his listing higher on the page.
  • He has a very well-automated, thorough content marketing program that uses his podcast, articles on his company blog, and email automation to demonstrate his expertise and keep his name in front of prospective clients and people who can refer him to others.
  • He has begun participating in Shopify-sponsored events as a featured expert and speaker.
  • He does a small amount of Facebook retargeting advertisements.
  • He also gets leads through referrals.

When those leads come to Kurt, they are aware that they need help with Shopify, but they are not usually asking for the Website Rescue service right off the bat. After a lead meets Kurt’s qualification criteria, a sales conversation begins. It is during this conversation that Kurt may offer the Website Rescue service, and this may be the first time that prospect has heard of the service.

When this happens, Kurt is offering a service that is completely unique in the marketplace. No competitor offers the same branded approach to solving the very real problem of a poorly-performing Shopify store.

In some cases a prospect has reviewed Kurt’s website and is aware of the Website Rescue service, but that pre-sales awareness is actually not a critical element of category leadership for Kurt. Instead, the power of his category leadership comes from:

  • The fact that Kurt has developed a strong source of leads
  • The alignment between real-world needs and the value curve of Website Rescues
  • The differentiation between Website Rescues and market alternatives

Not every prospect needs to already be aware of Website Rescues for Ethercycle to own that divergent category.


This is one of many case studies found in The Positioning Strategy Guide, a small book that helps you understand which positioning strategy is right for your development shop. Grab your copy now!