Expo2008: Squared & DiagonalYou have a product. It’s an awesome product. Thousands of people use it; share its strengths; promote the heck out of it; evangelize about it to anyone who has a question about that product.

It becomes  a benchmark. When someone mentions the service or platform your product is built for, it’s almost the de facto recommendation.

Truth: pretty much everyone in your niche loves your product.

Then a new player comes into town.

They’ve seen what your product can do. They know its strengths, yet they know it’s one key area where improvement could happen – user-friendliness. While your product is unquestionably solid and respected, it’s not the easiest to use for the everyday person on the street.

It needs extra work that not everyone can afford to put the time into. It needs skills that not everyone has, or can learn. That’s not a weakness; just reality. The new player has seen that, and has released a product that makes it just as easy for Joe Average to use as Joe Expert. Everybody’s happy. Experts can still use your product, while the average consumer can use your competitor’s – there’s room for everyone, after all.

Except there’s not, according to you. Instead of relishing the challenge, and letting your product speak for itself, you decide it’s more productive to put down your competitor instead. You talk about your competitor’s design knowledge and denounce it by saying, “Company X don’t know jack about it or care, either.” Despite the clear opposite.

You publicly call your competitor’s promotional plans “lame, uninspired and barnacle marketing”. Even though the competitor’s marketing has so far been purely from user recommendation – much like the users of your product recommend yours (and rightly so).

Is this the new form of product selling? Putting down the competitors in public? I was curious, so I asked the question whether you should put competitors down or let your product do the talking. The responses were pretty unilateral.

Kevin Richard says you should wow your customers and let them do the talking. Arik Hanson advises that disrespect can have a long-term impact on your reputation. Justin Levy thinks you should save time and effort by not dissing your competitors and use it instead to make your company and product better.

There are numerous  other examples from Rebecca Leaman, Peter Hodges, PRDude, Tina Marie Hilton, Mike Smith, Ari Herzog, John Haydon, Tim Jahn, David Holliday, Andi Narvaez, Leona Skene, Nan Palmero, Jenn Mattern, Al Tepper and Michael Pearson.

Seems pretty simple – your product is your response to competition. Anything else is just poor form.

Of course, you might not even care anyway. Your sales pitch points to the high profile users that your product resonates with. The popularity of these guys will continue to sell your product for you.

But will it? Reputations take a long time to build but they can fall in seconds. Will the high profile customers persuade the general public to buy your product when that same public starts to notice the conversations taking place about competitor respect? Will they want to risk their own brand by supporting yours?

Maybe. Maybe not. But is it a question you’re willing (or can afford) to find out the answer to?

Creative Commons License photo credit: tochis

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