The Challenges of Comparative Marketing

One request that you’ll often hear from your customer as a Product Marketer is why can’t you help me compare your product to the competition?  You have product sheets with screenshots, cool images, value propositions, positioning statements and bullet-pointed details but I need to do a direct comparison, Mr. (or Ms.) Marketer!  

And as a customer-centric professional marketer, I’ve often scratched my head on this challenge, why don’t we do more comparative marketing?  It would help the customer, wouldn’t it?  But there are reasons why marketing professionals don’t often go down this path.

Reason 1: If you’re the leader or front-runner in your segment, why even put your competitors into the customer’s consideration set?  We are THAT good so we have no competition.  (Ok, that’s a bit of optimistic thinking).

Reason 2: I’m managing 8 (insert really large number) products in 3 categories and as an over-worked marketer, it’s hard enough to keep up and communicate the features, values and messaging of my own offering, forget keeping up with every minute detail of all of my competitors.  

Reason 3: The process of getting my comparative marketing assets and copy out into the field (editing/approvals, design, onto website, printed product sheets, sales team, partner/distributor channel) is so lengthy, that by the time it gets to the customer-facing side of my market, the information is out-dated.

Reason 4: The details within my comparative marketing go out with an error or the competitor features change making it look as if my organization, my sales team and my partners don’t know what they are talking about.  And that’s when the legal team comes in.  Also see Reason 3 for the origins of this issue.  

One example I’ll give you is a company’s aggressive comparative marketing in the IT training business.  Six months ago there was a checkbox table of features, functions and specifics of what they had and what the competitors had.  And some very unflattering statements. Fast forward to today and notice how now the comparative marketing has evolved into one or two screen shots and some subjective statements:

But at the core, the customer request is real and they need help on their customer journey .  And they’re asking how can you help them make a more honest and productive decision.  As a customer-centric marketer, my thought is perhaps provide a framework and methodology for your customers to evaluate and prioritize their needs in your product/service segment.  

In essence, teaching your customers how to fish (or evaluate) vs. giving them a fish (check list of features/capabilities in market).  In the end, the customer journey tends to be pretty unique and subjective for each organization so tools and a decision framework to reach an effective solution is really important.  And TRY not to have that decision path land directly at your door-step, Mr. (or Ms.) Professional Marketer!  You do know that your customers understand what you may try to be doing!  😉  

Ron Wen

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