As we mentioned in Part 1 of this Comparative Marketing series, no one wants a race to the bottom with their competitors. Having the right framework when creating competitor comparisons could mean the difference between making enemies in your industry and doubling your customer base.
In Part 2, we explore 3 different strategies for approaching competitor comparisons, each level requiring more involvement and time to implement. Picking the right strategy will also depend on the number of competitors and your place in the market.
Easy Mode: Direct Comparisons
When people talk about comparative marketing, this is what they normally think about – straight-forward, no-frills competitor comparisons. But don’t be fooled; this strategy can take a lot of time to put together because it’s all about the detail. Drip and Podia are great examples.
This strategy is great for startups in markets that have very similar-looking products from the customer’s point of view. Here’s how Drip and Podia nail it:
Get the tone right – Even if your product is objectively miles better than the competition, being overly braggy about it will be off-putting and could have an adverse effect. That’s why the best approach to direct comparisons is framing it as benefiting the end-user. Podia starts its comparisons by saying “We want you to choose the best platform for you, even if it’s not us.” Drip’s comparisons are titled “Comparisons Worth a Darn” as a way to respect the competition. This will ensure you come across as genuinely helpful, rather than an arrogant asshole.
Be comprehensive – In order to make your competitor comparisons worthwhile, you need to be as exhaustive as possible. Both Podia and Drip have dedicated comparison pages that branch off into individual competitors. Drip goes into excruciating detail on how they compare with others on important features. Podia, on the other hand, starts with a table summarizing features and then lists reasons why people would switch. They even include a buyer guide so that customers have a framework for how to think about its products and their competitors.
Mind the UX – Because of how in-depth and long these write-ups can be, you’ll also need to be mindful of the UX/UI. You don’t want potential customers to get lost in the comparisons. Drip solves this problem by including a glossary so that you can easily jump to sections that matter to you. Podia has an Intercom chat feature that prompts conversations based on what page you’re on. For example, if you’re on Podia vs. Teachable page, this automated message pops up:
Hard Mode: User Feedback
User feedback-based comparative content is a more indirect way of addressing competitors but are just as effective, if not more so, than direct comparisons. A perfect example of this is Basecamp. You may be thinking, “this looks way less complicated than direct comparisons – how is it harder?” Sure, Basecamp’s competitor page may look shorter than Drip’s or Podia’s, but generating and curating this amount of user feedback can take much longer than simply getting your team together to compare products.
The upside to this strategy is that you’re letting customers speak for you and no competitor wants to argue with that. Here are a couple of pointers if you want to go down this strategy:
Ask the right question – As with any survey for product feedback, getting the right answer requires asking the right question. Basecamp asks a specific question related to the value proposition of their product: “How did it feel to manage projects before switching to Basecamp?” and “What changed for the better since switching to Basecamp?” This allows you to highlight the limitations of competitor products and the strengths of yours. You can start this process before you even launch, during beta-testing or research for product/market fit.
Power in the masses – At the end of the page, Basecamp emphasizes the magnitude of its customer base and their opinions. They not only link to 980+ more product feedback and reviews, but they also highlight the number of companies that have signed up to their product in the last week, PLUS their growth overtime. If you’re leaning towards this strategy, it’s key to have huge numbers behind you, otherwise it feels like you’re basing your claims on a few anecdotes and outliers.
Drive it home – Basecamp balances qualitative feedback from customers with quantitative results from their surveys: “9 out of 10 Basecamp customers report having a better handle…” This helps to succinctly summarize the key points and reinforce the key differentiators between Basecamp and its various competitors.
God Mode: Product Integration
Comparative marketing doesn’t just lay out the disadvantages of your competitors, it also helps customers leave your competitors for you. The best way to facilitate this is by directly integrating a migration feature into your product. Notion does this by allowing users to import Evernote notebooks into their product, making it simple for customers to make the switch. While this isn’t exactly a new concept, many startups don’t dedicate a full marketing page to these kinds of features.
This strategy is great for underdog startups like Notion that need to face products with big names and long-standing histories (like Evernote). Here’s what you should keep in mind for this strategy:
App application – If there are a hundred ways someone can use your product, highlight how customers can use it in the same way they have been with your competitors. Notion features the 5 most common uses for Evernote (Notes, Galleries, Bookmarks, Research, Reminders) and what that looks in their own product. This way, potential customers can imagine how they can actually use your product in their existing workflow.
Make it visual – There’s always a mental hurdle when you replace a software you’ve been using for awhile with something new, especially if it’s a product with a long legacy like Evernote. Remove any fears or doubts by showcasing just how quick and easy it is to migrate. Notion does this by embedding animated GIFs of the import feature.
Don’t forget the goods – Another way to break through that mental barrier is to highlight any features from the competitor tool that you know people love and treasure. For example, Notion has a spotlight on the Web Clipper feature, something that had made Evernote very popular.
Bonus Round: Go offline
If your product is very technical or at an enterprise level, it may be worth going the distance to create a downloadable ebook or whitepaper to compliment the competitor comparison on the website. Make it a lead magnet (ask for contact details in exchange for the download) and you’ve got yourself a new lead generation tool.
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