I recently finished reading a great book called The Plantagenets, by Dan Jones. The Plantagenets were the dynasty that ruled England for centuries. King John and Richard the Lion Hearted were in this clan.
One thing you read about a lot when you read about the Plantagenet dynasty is the constant warring between England and France. France would come over to England and attack, but more often England kept going over to France and laying claims on areas like Normandy and Aquitaine. Sometimes, though, something really interesting would happen. A Plantagenet king would cross the Channel and storm into France, but the French king would refuse to fight. Instead, he would have his people hole up in fortresses and walled cities, and the English were not able to get anyone to budge. Without a fight, the English could not win (quite literally), so they had to return home, defeated morally if not on the battlefield.
Marketing is sometimes like this, I think. You have a big competitor and you may try to pick a fight with them by running an ad or writing a blog post explaining why your products are better than theirs. You might even mention their company or their brand by name if you’re feeling really feisty. But, despite your best efforts, the company won’t budge. Either they aren’t seeing your picking, they don’t know how to respond, or they don’t care to respond. How frustrating!
There is a saying that no news is good news, but let’s face it, people love a big juicy competition. Everybody knows that Coke and Pepsi are rival companies, and seeing how they compete with each other is part of the fun. What if your competitors just won’t compete with you though? What if your comparative statements go unheeded? You run the risk of just looking petty, or worse, you look like you have nothing good to say about your own products.
So, what can you do if a conflict is actually created by the lack of a conflict? You have a few choices.
• You can opt for the aggressive approach, which is to name the brands with which you compete and explain why your products or services are better. You need to make sure you have actual proof behind your statements, especially if you are facing off against bigger companies. You certainly don’t want to make the news for defamation. However, if there is a case study from a customer that explains that they started with a competitive product and then ended up turning to you, well, you’re obligated to share that, right?
• A more passive approach is just to focus on what you’ve got going at home. This would be akin to the English kings deciding to work on helping out the peasants at home instead of trying to attack France during the Middle Ages. It may not be as fun or as exciting, but you’ll be fully prepared once someone does want to actively compete with you via marketing channels.
• An even more passive approach is to listen via social media channels and forums. People tend to be extremely open when they post, especially if they have had a bad experience. See if your competitors are showing up in peoples’ complaints. Start tracking that stuff. You may not be able to use it as a weapon, per se, but it’s information you can have in your back pocket at all times.
The biggest challenge exists for companies that do not really have traditional competitors. You may ask, “What company does NOT have competition?” We actually have talked to a couple of companies who just offer such customized products that they don’t really face other companies head on. While this is good for business, it can make marketing a little challenging, because comparisons aren’t 100% relevant. Businesses in this scenario can accentuate the positive of customization. Uniqueness is a great selling point in a world of mergers, acquisitions, and mass production. Play that up and you will automatically be differentiated from other companies in your general industry.
Do you openly compete with your rivals, or do you just focus on what’s going on in your own front yard? How do you approach competition? We’d love to hear from you!
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/archeon/3335780028/ via Creative Commons