Surprise – Disrespecting Competitors Doesn’t Work!

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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  1. says

    As always, wise words from you, Danny! Spending time ripping on the competition just makes you look desperate AND takes away the time you could be using to perfect your own product or service. In fact, I can think of someone who could have stood to read this before trashing someone else in a blog entry today … 😉

  2. says

    Another superb post Danny,

    Your ability to consistently produce such essential content is amazing.

    I especially like “your product is your response to competition. Anything else is just poor form.”

    A great point and an extremely valuable one too!

    • says

      Thanks Jim, appreciate it fella. I think that was the key point that came over from the majority of the responses – if you're product is so cool, then it doesn't really matter what your competitors do, you'll still shine. And that's not something that you can really argue with…

  3. says

    This is really interesting and I completely agree – but the competitors name is often injected into the conversation by the buyer. From framing where you are in the market: “Ah! so, you're like xyz?” to “how do you compare to y” or the really lazy question “who are your main competitors”. Do you smile sweetly and insist on saying nothing?

    • says

      I think you can still compare without the putting down. Maybe go with, “Well, they're pretty good here but this is where we still lead the field.” It's not disrespectful; it's not putting anyone's achievements down; yet it's still saying, “We're the guys to beat.”

      And unless the competitors product can prove otherwise, then all you're doing is telling the truth. :)

  4. says

    Me thinks me knows what you're referring to ^_^

    I think the answers you'll get here will be pretty unilateral as well.

    Saying that you're better than your competitor does nothing. Welcoming the competition and proving that you're better will shine in both the short-term and long-term.

    If your competitor's product sucks, let your customers point that out. Your loyal customers make your brand successful, and they can make other ones unsuccessful. The minute you try to force their hand, however, you'll start to lose that loyalty.


    • says

      That's a solid point, David – I think even the most loyal evangelists of a product can soon tire of an approach they might not agree with. Lose the faithful, it's hard to attract newcomers.

  5. rachelakay says

    Great post Danny. One of the core teachings in media training is never to bash your competitors. Understand the features and benefits of your product or service and use those attributes to set your product apart. This should go for any marketing tactic.

  6. websuccessdiva says

    Great post Danny. Too many people get wrapped up in the idea that they need to a defensive stance or aggressively criticize the competition. In reality, like you wisely said, your product is your defense. Focusing on what you offer, rather than what others are offering (besides the obvious competitive research), is just a better way of doing business. Groovy stuff :-)

  7. says

    If you hadn't tweeted a question about “dissing competitors” but about “sending customers to your competitors,” I wonder if your responses would have been as uniform.

    • says

      If it was a case of sending customers to your competitors fairly, I'm guessing they probably still would be pretty uniform. “Never send to your competitors unless you can't help and they can.”

      There's a difference between sending to your competitors because you don't have the product your customers need/want, and sending them to your competitors through disillusionment with your approach.

      • says

        Is that an absolute, Danny? If a company in Paris visited your blog and opted to contact you with a PR project–and assuming your plate was empty and you could take on the client–would you, or would you consider recommending a European competitor?

        • says

          I'm wondering if you misunderstood my answer, Ari? My point was if you can't help, offer a recommendation for someone or something. I've done it before via Twitter and LinkedIn and I'll continue to do so. But if you or your product is right for that person, you wouldn't need to recommend elsewhere.

          By recommending someone that's better suited to the project, it's actually benefited me more in the long-term – clients tend to prefer honesty that you can't do something over BS that you can and will remember that.

  8. remarkablogger says

    Disrespecting your competitors has another unintended consequence: it will bring attention to them they wouldn't have otherwise had.

  9. DerekHalpern says

    I would have to vehemently agree. Your time is better spent developing your product instead of disrespecting your competitors.

    And if a competitor stole your product, you're still better off developing your product instead of disrespecting your competitors.

    However, sometimes you just need to call a spade a spade.

      • Derek says

        I agree. Resorting to petty cat calls is both immature and disrespectful…

        …But when you receive such a catcall, the best way to deal with it would be to listen to this priceless wisdom from Leo Tolstoy:

        “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

  10. says

    Danny you are so right. if you are always looking back at your competiton you can not be looking forward as to where you want to be going. Your customer or prospect would be wondering why you are so intent on trashing your competiton it would not give you time to say why they should buy from you.

  11. says

    Makes me think about the MAC vs. PC ads, both digging at each other rather than really showcasing the products and what they do best. Even if you're right, that self-promoting bashing just sounds bad, can be a turnoff. If you build the better mousetrap, the comparisons should take care of themselves.

    Such a good post, thanks.

  12. says

    Great post! It is so true that companies – including non-profits – can thrive by focusing on our core competency, improving our offerings, and keeping the focus on our own business. (Minding our own business?) Otherwise, customers/clients wonder whether we care about them or our competitors. It's impossible to win when we take our eye off our own game to watch someone else's.

  13. love2zip says

    My company has this problem with a competitor. We knew their business and recognized the weaknesses. Our challenge was rise above their online and very public libelous attacks. We provide excellent service and are very professional. We let our company, our professionalism, and our great customer service speak for itself. We must be doing something right because they copy almost all of our ideas. It's good to be the leader, and we stick to doing what's right for our customers. We find it's best to rise above the mud slinging. Funny thing is the customers DO notice and we are often chosen over the competition because of it.