Use your competitors to your advantage

Anthony O'Brien


May 14, 2018

Unless you’re in a business with a legitimate monopoly (there are few) you’ll need to scrap with your competitors from time to time to win clients and revenue. In the midst of all this scrapping, what’s the best way to address your competitors?

It’s a vexed issue. Here are some tips to help you navigate how and when to mention competitors and on when to avoid mentioning them.

Look out for No. 1

In some industries, directly comparing your offering with that of a competitor is widespread. The telecommunication companies, for example, often offer a direct comparison of their plans with their competition’s. This strategy works well when you’re contrasting relatively low monthly costs for a highly commoditised product such as a mobile phone or internet plan.

But what about for service-based industries such as financial planning? Yes, you sell financial products, but it’s really your advice that the client is buying.

It’s generally dangerous, therefore, to reference your competitors. Often, the comparison is heavily biased or at least subjective. Without having specific, fact-based evidence against competitors, saying you’re “No. 1” in the market for estate planning is fraught with danger, from a regulatory and reputational standpoint.

My advice for financial advisers is to focus on why a client buys from you, and what is unique or different about your offering. Above all, avoid comparing your competitors’ performance with your own.

Know your enemy – well

It’s important to have a solid understanding of the market. That may sound trite but it’s critical to your marketing plans. Recognising the landscape and who the main competitors are is essential, especially in a spirited commercial environment such as financial planning, with its mix of small, medium and large firms.

Start by drilling down into your competitors’ go-to-market strategy. This process will provide an understanding of how their offerings diverge from your approach. Ask yourself the question: Why would a client choose my business over any given competitor’s? What is compelling about my offering compared with the competition’s?

Original ideas are rare

When our firm reviews the activity of a client’s competitors, we are often asked about the benefit of mirroring a strategy. As most of us know, there is almost no such thing as an original idea, so if you see a valuable campaign, article of content or any other activity, learn from it and apply it to your own marketing.

Oscar Wilde is often misquoted in relation to imitation and flattery. The rapier-witted Irish playwright once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” What is often overlooked is that Wilde finished the oft-parroted declaration with…“that mediocrity can pay to greatness”.

In other words, don’t simply plagiarise a competitor’s activity. Rather, consider ways to embed aspects of this activity into your marketing. For example, a competitor might be delivering campaigns with an impressive call to action. It might be the methodology they use in promoting an initial obligation-free consultation. If you think this attention-grabber works, then consider how you could do something similar or even improve the idea.

Borrowing ideas applies to any marketing activity, even campaigns outside your industry. If you can lift an action and include it in your thinking, then why not?

TOPICS:   anthony o'brien,  competition,  marketing blog

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