Go After Your Competitors

By John Honovich, Published Jul 06, 2015, 12:00am EDT (Info+)

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.

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Comments (21)

John,

I absolutley love this post. It's something I've been thinking about for some-time. So surprising the underlining fear in this industry to stand-up and call out competition. This tatic has been done in other industry for years i.e. Pepsi Challange and most recently the Apple/Samsung battle. Manufacturer's are missing a huge opportunity if done correctly.

Expect a Scud Missile from Sentry360 in 2015!

Tom

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Tom,

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.

Make sure nobody has a Patriot missile before you launch that Scud!!!!

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Sean: Well Done - Agree 100%... I will be sure to inlist the expertise of the best wepons minds in the industry before battle plans begin.

Very important to keep your powder dry!

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Done correctly, this is all that should remain of your competitor's product.

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

I remember not too long ago you saying that it didn't make sense for most security companies to pursue such stratagies because they have too many competitors to make it worth attacking any single one, or something like that.

Am I wrong or maybe thats why you are now emphasizing going against the biggest competitors?

Also, this strategy works best when some sort of material difference exists between competitors, no?

For instance Hik could go after Dahua on several points, but it is worth it to attack a rival who is perceived by the marketplace as being very similar to your own company? And be hoisted with ones own petard?

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"I remember not too long ago you saying"

Link please. Cannot admit, clarify or refute without a tangible reference.

"Am I wrong or maybe thats why you are now emphasizing going against the biggest competitors?"

Going after your biggest competitors makes sense. For instance, I think Tom Carnevale should go after Axis. He's inevitably going to get that comparison. Be proactive. Control the messaging and draw more interest.

"Also, this strategy works best when some sort of material difference exists between competitors, no?"

And therein lies the challenge. For example, how's Interlogix going to differentiate against Hikvision? If you do not truly have material differences, you have a deeper strategic problem that you need to fix.

"For instance Hik could go after Dahua on several points"

I think that's more appropriate the other way around. Hikvision is both much bigger and a much more established brand than Dahua, giving Dahua more motivation / upside to go after Hikvision. And it's not like they are not trying, they just are terrible at it, e.g., Dahua Attacks Hikvision.

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I was being kind by not supplying a link, I was trying to avoid having you relive what is possibly IPVM's most tedious discussion ever that I didn't comment on. :)

Btw, in general, I think it's acceptable for rivals to directly criticize each other so long as the claims made are grounded in fact. That said, the tactic does not make much sense for most in surveillance because the market is so fragmented that picking on any one competitor is wasteful.

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You're not being kind to me by leaving out the critical next sentence:

"However, Verint / March in the DVR market (especially for banks) is different. They both hold significant share (at least in NA) and are each other's clear primary competitors here."

Same basic point - if you are going to take shots, make them count. That means picking on key rivals, not random competitors.

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I left out your example because you were using it as a case of an unusually narrow exception, (Banking DVR's), as opposed to the typically fragmented marketplace in which you said it didn't make much sense in.

In case you're wondering why I would even bother bringing it up, it's because it seemed spot-on to me at the time and so it stuck with me.

I even expanded on it a bit; recently when referring to a different fragmented marketplace I said something like:

Negative, competitor targeted ads can work to harm your rivals reputation, it's true. But they don't help you as much, UNLESS eliminating that competitor narrows the field significantly.

If there are 10 other options the customer will likely choose one of them, and might perceive you slightly negatively for attacking them.

The Coke-Pepsi example is great. If Coke can convince you not to buy Pepsi, game over. If Bosch convinces you not to buy Pelco, does it really help them much? In addition, it helps all their other competitors a little, and for nothing.

I agree when you are in a situation that is very binary, then it could make sense, otherwise I'm not sure it's worth the money and the slight negative hit you take when attacking someone in public.

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"If there are 10 other options the customer will likely choose one of them, and might perceive you slightly negatively for attacking them."

If there are literally 10 other options that all have an equal chance of being chosen, I agree it does not make any sense.

But I ask the competitor question to sales people and manufacturers a lot and most are able to immediately identify 1 to 3 competitors they are engaged with regularly. In those cases, going after them makes sense.

For example, if you are a US VMS provider targeting the mid-market you are going to see Exacq and Milestone a lot, making them obvious targets.

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Great post, what is the opinion on small integrators in a small catchment area actively or aggresively highlighting your strengths over your competitors or possibly "rubbishing" them if they offer sub standard equipment or have a bad reputation that your potential customer may not know about?

I'm more of the optinion that you should talk about your own strenghts rather than lowering yourself to talk about their weaknesses..

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"if they offer sub standard equipment or have a bad reputation that your potential customer"

Great comment and question.

The main factor is how frequently they win business that you are competing for or would want.

The secondary factor is how aggressively they lie or exaggerate.

It seems every market has at least one 'guy' who does terrible work but wins a lot because he is relentless at telling the customer that his stuff is magic and will solve all their problems.

If you are dealing with a competitor like that, you have to counter if you want to stop him. You cannot expect to play nice with someone who essentially laughs at that.

Plus, you need to be proactive about these criticisms, so people hear it over time. If you bring up negative points at the very end of the negotiation / evaluation process, chances are your competitor has already convinced the buyer that his stuff is magic.

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"The main factor is how frequently they win business that you are competing for or would want. "

Over the years I have, in many occasions, outperformed the competition. I have learned this: Even though your product performs at 100% of the testing criteria and outperforms the competition, it does not mean the customer will buy the best product.

However, drinks, swanky hotel "conferences", and NASCAR tickets will win deals when their product falls short.

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"However, drinks, swanky hotel "conferences", and NASCAR tickets will win deals when their product falls short."

Sure, especially when the 'good' competitors stay quiet and let the 'bad' ones do anything they want without being called out on it publicly and forcibly.

People repeatedly do bad things because they realize there are no consequences since no one will make an issue out of it / create bad publicity / reputation for them.

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Use decent stuff, do things right, talk about how you do a decent job. THEN start talking trash about your competitor's use of default passwords and lack of firmware upgrades. And please, go ahead and compete. There's some craptastic companies out there. They deserve to be challenged.

And if you don't like that advice feel free to wait until someone does it to your...

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Very interesting post John. Very. Very thought provoking.

I wonder, not being critical, how does this series of thoughts compare with the criticism of Avigilon that I have read lately? They are frequently accused of "running down" the competition, but according to this article, they should be very busy pointing out the competitive differences. Is it the things they have to say, or is it more their tone?

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Mark, insightful comment on Avigilon.

Look at Avigilon and Genetec. Avigilon has no fear nor qualms about kicking the crap out of Genetec wherever they go. And Genetec sits on their hands, hoping Avigilon goes away. Advantage Avigilon.

Genetec has the moral high ground. Avigilon gets the business.

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I agree day-in-day-out a manufacturer should be speaking to their own strengths and not make a prominent position of constant 'trash-talking' their competitor's. It's an easy trap I've seen sales people whom lead with the comparasions instead of letting the convestation come to them. If questions or competitive situations call for specific 'us vs. them' dialog (that can be legitimized) than I feel it's more than appropriate to identify them as clear weaknesses of your competitors.

I see a clear difference between above ground (marketing) and below ground customer meeting engagment. We hear Avigilon prefers the below-ground (like most of the Industry). That being said, this post is about marketing- A very different context. Manufacturer's should in our industry call out their competitors- it creates competition and enables value propositions to be herd where they may otherwise fall on deaf ears by using 'normal' marketing methods.

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Thomas you mention manufacturers and your remarks seem to be almost totally in that context. The crux of the article was about integrators. Same rules?

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Fyi, I meant the article to be about manufacturers and integrators.

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Dont pick a fight you cant finish. Lawyers can costs lots of dollars. See silicone valleys duals. In this inudsty how mush of a performance gain will your product proivde over competition given a specific venue, or companys needs. What the ROI difference.

I have as yet seen a marketing department do a full work up of a compeitor and train the sales department when and how to do it. This iindustry is still too small and to backwards. We need more consolodation. Eat up your competitor or buy him out.

Sell all product direct, have you own installation crew and keep local warehouses and service centers. Like automotive companies. BMW agains GM? Now this would be a great battle royal.

Have an engineering crew to do shoot outs at the end users. This would put everyone on notice.

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