Go After Your Competitors

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jul 06, 2015

For an industry that's 99.9% male, there's less testosterone here than the Golden Girl's living room.

Surveillance companies are just irrationally afraid of going after their competitors. And it is a big mistake.

In this note, we explain the benefits of doing so and why the fears are far overstated.

Features and Buzzwords

Most marketing consists of features and buzzwords. We offer XYZ, ABC, IPDD and it delivers IoT, PSIM, convergence, ROI, etc.

The mentality (or hope) is that buyers will look at that and determine that the offering is good, great or at least acceptable to buy. You stay above the fray and do not 'stoop' to attack your competitors.

The meek shall inherit the Earth, but they are not going to get much market share.

They Won't Figure It Out

The problem is most marketing sounds the same. Anyone can pepper in the same buzzwords and acronyms. And so they do.

This requires the buyer to figure out why one pitch is better than the other. Rarely do people have the time and skill to do so. That is why the default option is for either lowest price or strongest brand. Unfortunately, very few companies (manufacturers or integrators) have a powerful enough brand to win on that alone.

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There's literally hundreds of manufacturers to choose from and dozens of integrators in any region, which means most companies are going to be stuck in the middle, without a big enough brand or low enough price to be the 'easy' option.

You Will Be Compared Anyway

The reality is buyers compare your marketing / offering to competitors anyway, typically the lowest cost or biggest brand ones. Failing to go after those competitors clearly and crisply makes it easier for buyers to just default to those choices.

Update: Or worse, as a commenter has pointed out, they will go for the aggressive competitor who will say anything to convince the prospect and then deliver a terrible product or service.

Attracts More Interest

Buyers who may not consider you at all, will be more drawn to consider you if you cite the rival by name, because that rival has a bigger brand. They likely will say, "We are looking at [insert Big Brand Name or Bad Competitor] but this company says there are 5 / 10 / 20 reasons they are better than them. Let's check them out."

Going After Them

Now, you probably are concerned about coming off too strong. Even if it is true, you may not want to say "Avigilon's CEO has the charisma of a cinder block."

But you can be effective by following a few guidelines:

Biggest Competitors

Pick your biggest competitors and target them (e.g., premium cameras - Axis, end to end solutions - Avigilon, mid-tier VMSes - Exacq, etc.) and make clear cases against them.

Be Specific

Do not say vague things like you are 'better' or 'care more' or 'are dedicated'. Cite specific features or elements that you have (whether it is feature sets they do not have, favorable pricing terms or warranty, etc.)

Be Accurate

You better know the details of your competitor offerings or else prospects can easily refute your claims, concluding that you are either fools or charlatans.

Bonus - You Learn

A boxer who simply lift weights and jumps romp, may look good shadow boxing but he will not know if he is any good until he has a real fight. Likewise, a company who engages in fluff, vague marketing will get very little specific feedback. However, if your marketing goes after a specific competitor, you are far more likely to learn about your true competitive positioning as prospects push back against certain elements.

This will help you better understand where you are and are not superior to your toughest competitors. Sometimes this is a very hard lesson as companies tend to overhype themselves, especially with outsider executives. But this is a reality check everyone needs.

The Exception - The Biggest

We think the benefits of going after your competitors applies to 90%+ of companies.

Of course, there are a few exceptions. Axis is likely the most notable. More important than their size is their marketing power. Their marketing is so strong that "neg'ing" a competitor is more likely to help validate and introduce the competitor than simply ignoring them. As such, it is no surprise that Axis almost never mentions or criticizes its competitors by name.

If you asked an Axis executive about Hikvision, you should not be surprised if they respond, "Love their General Tso's chicken" or "My favorite dish there is the moo shu pork." And it is a good tactic for them because even as big as Hikvision is, Hikvision's brand is far less well known or respected in the West than Axis. And why should Axis help indirectly build it up?

However, chances are, even if you are $100 million business, your brand and positioning is still not strong enough to simply rely on feature lists and buzzwords. Take a chance, take aim at your bigger brand competitors and get your word out better.

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