How not to win friends and influence people

How not to win friends and influence people – don’t trash your competition

The 4th law of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, a book By Al Ries and Jack Trout,  is “Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions” and perception is reality, as we all know.

Over the years I’ve seen the “under-dog” in various spheres of IT solutions offering “trade-in” programs.  These trade-in programs are always aimed at the market leader.  As a market leader you only ever have one way to fall – and that is off your pedestal.  Maintaining market leadership is hard, especially when you have new market entrants whose sole goal in life is to eat your lunch.  I have never seen these trade-in programs succeed in terms of revenue generation.  However, what they do accomplish is raising company x’s profile and mind-share – i.e. they are marketing tactics not sales tactics.

The worst kind of competitive marketing has to be when a market leader feels under so much pressure that they feel compelled to trash the competition.  This is, I think, a very sad state of affairs.  In my view, you should never trash the competition – whether you’re a market leader or a market entrant.  Maintaining the high ground, proving your worth by producing solid, robust solutions and obtaining customer endorsement is the best way to win friends and influence people.

Remember, choosing IT solutions is much like choosing your friends – not everyone likes the same people as you and not everyone likes you or your friends.  We all need choice and sometimes customers will choose your products and sometimes they choose the competition.  In some cases, they’ll choose both.  But it is their choice and I can assure you, they won’t choose your products if your marketing or technical departments have embarked on a pissing contest, because that is just not perceived as professional. And perception is reality, as already stated.

My advice is that integrity must be the foundation of any marketing campaign – do not go for “quick wins” and rubbish the competition, whoever they might be.  I always advise my clients to produce comparison, not competitive, matrices.  Any practitioners of, or believers, in Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) will understand the correlation between a competitive stance and combat. Oh, so this is war then?  Well, if your marketing has sunk to those levels then I would suggest you don’t deserve to win the battle, let alone the war.

Focus on your core value propositions to customers.  Don’t give the competition “air time” by calling them competition. Market and sell your strengths not the weaknesses of your competitors. If you have good development, good technical support and good sales and marketing, then the customers will come.

Jane Rimmer is owner of hiviz-marketing , a strategic marketing consultancy servicing the IT industry, and you can follow her on twitter

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