Why it makes sense for the underdog to compare himself against established competitors

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Differentiate with featuresWe can all thank the internet for the fact that business is more competitive than ever. Recent studies show that 42% of consumers perform cross-analysis on companies before making a final purchase decision. Some of the best marketing campaigns in recent years have taken a pretty direct dig at the alternatives, like Apple’s infamous PC man versus Mac man advertising.

Direct comparison in marketing isn’t always the right move, and if you’re well-established in your subscription business space it can make you appear unsportsmanlike. Here are some reasons why you should or should not address your competition:

1. If You Weren’t First

There’s obvious benefits to being the first company in a saturated subscription industry space, which is known in the traditional business realm as “first mover advantage.” You set the standards, and become the norm for customers who might not put the energy into seeking alternatives.

However, if you’re entering a saturated space, you need to define why you’re different and seek acceptance of the new features your product offers.

2. You’re Not a Thought Leader

No one is arguing that Marc Benioff knows quite a bit about cloud computing and the SaaS industry, because he’s gained a position as a thought leader over his time in the business.

If your CEO or brand’s names carry little weight, it will behoove you to address the competition directly in marketing. Intelligent comparison and discussion of your space can show your expertise and help you build thought leadership.

3. Your Competition Retains Based on Customer Service

Some studies on customer loyalty and customer service indicate that relationships have less bearing on retention than originally thought. 40% of satisfied customers would be willing to change brands without hesitation based on products.

If you have key differentiating factors, your competitors record of stellar customer service may matter less.

4. Your Competition is Missing the Problem

For many consumers, Google and other major search engines are essentially a tool for discovering solutions. They have a problem, and the head online to find subscription business products that can improve organization, product management or any other number of issues.

According to business consulting firm Mars, the way companies address an issue can offer a key opportunity for competitors to differentiate. Address the issue, comment on your competitor’s solution, and highlight why your product offers a more-advanced and comprehensive answer. If their product is missing the boat, you should definitely compare yourself against established competitors.

5. If You Already Have the Edge

By all accounts, it’s just plain tacky for a company that owns a given subscription business space to compare themselves to their competition in marketing. If you own the first page of Google, the chances that your newer competition will be catching your customers’ eyes are significantly lower.

We’re not saying you should ever ignore your competition entirely, but your customers don’t need to know about how much time you spend researching their solutions. Keep the comparison under wraps, and focus on fielding a product with much better features than anyone else in your niche.

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Posted on March 8, 2013

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