Tips for a Successful Competitive Campaign

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It’s a perennial fixture in any marketer’s calendar that, every so often, the boss will decide that it’s time to drop the proverbial gloves and go after the competition.

There are many, legitimate reasons for why it may make sense to mount a concerted, integrated campaign to target a competitor’s customer base: A competitor gets acquired. Their flagship product is being end-of-lifed. The company suffered a data breach. And so on.

competitive campaignsUnfortunately, competitive campaigns tend to foster a kind of in-your-face, gloves off, no holds barred approach, and herein is where many of these same campaigns fall short in generating engagement, opportunities, and actual results.

There are 2 key truths to keep in mind when mounting a competitive campaign:

1. People don’t want to replace what they have (AKA Inertia beats Risk)

No matter how much someone might hate their current product/solution/vendor, bringing in a replacement can be a painful process, particularly for anything involving technology

2. People don’t want to be told they made a mistake.

Maybe there is a better solution out there. But telling the customer that he/she bought the wrong product will almost always backfire.

So what do most competitive campaigns do? They list every reason why one product is better than another, and what the customer can gain from making the switch.

Big mistake.

The key to success in any competitive campaign is to solicit dissatisfaction with the current solution without proposing that the solution be replaced.

Let’s say I hate my current office phone system. The thought of ripping out and replacing that phone system terrifies me. Do I want to know why your phone system is better than mine? No, I don’t. Do I want to be reminded of all the shortcomings of my current system, the one that cost me a tidy sum only two years ago? No thank you. Do I want to know how easy it is to implement a new phone system? Again, I do not.

So what are the alternatives? How about:

* a white paper on “10 Most Popular PBX Features (& Top 10 Pet Peeves)”

* a “Business Phone System User Satisfaction Survey” (with a free gift card for responding)

* a product comparison matrix or third party report comparing leading phone systems (“How Does Your Current System Rank?”)

The common thread is that these offers all serve to identify someone dissatisfied with their current system, or, at minimum, someone curious as to what else might be out there.

First rule of any competitive campaign? Don’t mention the competitor. By doing so, you put the customer on the defensive. You’re saying, in effect: you made a mistake. Instead, offer information of value. Not information on why he/she should choose your product, or why another company chose your product, but information that dangles the promise of a better, faster, cheaper, safer alternative without suggesting that the customer buy it.

The threshold for responding to a competitive campaign should not be: “I hate my current solution, and I’m interested in what you have to offer.” That’s too high a bar. The threshold should be: “I’m not happy with my current solution, and I’m curious as to what else is out there.” That’s the type of approach that generates engagement, leads, and sales conversations with people that have a genuine need for what you do. If that’s not demand generation, what is?

Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash

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