How to slice and dice your competition

That was the name of a panel I sat on a few weeks back for the Software Association of Oregon (SAO).  I don't know that we ever got the "slicing and dicing" part but it was still an interesting discussion.  Below is the audio from the panel. 

For those not wanting to listen here was the premise of the talk and a summary of my position on the topic:

Is one of your company's competitors weakened by the economic downturn? Are their signs of a problem?

  • You hear they didn't get a second round of funding.
  • They have currently had staff reductions.
  • You're not seeing them at trade shows.
  • Their marketing engine fizzled.
  • Salespeople are calling your firm looking for a new gig.

What do you do?
1. Play the waiting game and watch from afar hoping they spiral downward and out of existence
2. Fuel the fire with an aggressive campaign of your own pointing out
the differences between your stable company and this weakened competitor

Is the law of the jungle appropriate or do we take the high road and wait it out?

In this session, you'll hear arguments for both sides. You'll hear from
marketing and sales professionals who say, "kick em while they're down"
and others who say fate will take its course – no extra help required.
What's your perspective? What are the ethical boundaries? When does
pouncing the weak make you look bad? How can you ratchet up the attack
without hurting your credibility? We'll debate how aggressive marketing
and sales people can be in today's climate of relatively
stronger/weaker competitors. Do salespeople encourage customers to ask
for financial statements? What should companies do (if strong or weak)
to defend and/or add to their market positions.

My position and answers were essentially:

  • Never badmouth your competition.
  • Always focus on the benefits of your products and services.
  • Highlight areas that play to your strengths and your competitors weaknesses.
  • Use references to speak for you, particularly if one of your references worked with a competitor or considered them and chose you instead.
  • Take a leadership position.  Produce material, white papers, blogs, etc. to communicate your message and make you stand out above your competition.

Moderator

Brian McCarthy, Adjunct Professor, Portland State University School of Business Administration + Oregon Executive MBA Program

Speaker Panel
Bill Piwonka, Sr. Director Marketing, EthicsPoint
Bill Booth, Business Development Manager, Babcock and Jenkins
Kevin Cancilla, Director, Corporate & International Marketing, Tripwire
Jason Lander, Founder, Vice President of Product & Business Development, Shiftwise

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