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  • Writer's pictureAlex McEachern

Building loyalty by focusing on what your competition doesn't

Building a hoard of raving fans starts with focus. A focus on what truly sets your product or business apart from the competition. If you are trying to compare your product line by line to the competition you are going to be selling yourself short, and star to look like everyone else on the market.

But how do you figure out what to focus your marketing on? How do you decide on your position? In this article I am going to focus on a position you can take by evaluating what your competition is doing and well doing the opposite… mostly!

How to navigate the competitive landscape

In order to follow this model you are going to need to have a decent understanding of what your customers are looking for in your industry. I am going to assume you have a good handle on that customer information, but recommend using these three customer questions to further that understanding.

There are four important areas of this diagram that we need to cover that will help you position your product effectively and build marketing that sets you apart.

Customer values it, you have it and your competition does not


This is where you want to be devoting the majority of your marketing efforts and focus. These are the features and benefits that truly set you apart, the things that make you different from everyone else.

You need to focus your marketing, positioning, and messaging on these benefits. If there are multiple things that fall into this category you should try to focus in on one or two. The more you try to talk about the less you actually end up saying about each.

Let’s go with the same example as the last section (email app). Our key benefit is beautifully designed templates. We know customers love being able to create an on brand experience and hate spending time building out emails for themself. They would much rather start with a beautiful template and make a couple tweaks.

If beautiful design and a large template library are the benefits that the competition does not have, we need to build a community of people who believe that design is the most critical part of an email. Build a group where people can share designs, a library where the community can upload their favourites, and website that highlights a ton of examples.

Will there be people who hate you for being too design focused and not paying attention to the need for powerful workflow builders? You bet there will be, but your competition is already the best at that. Instead of trying to be like the others, double down and market the crap out of the things in this category. Be Different, which is also a fantastic read on capitalizing on your best advantages by Youngmoon.

People will hate you for focusing so much on one thing, but it is also what builds rabid fans. Sitting on the fence will not create haters, but it also won’t get you loyalty!

What to do with features in this category:

  • Build your website to highlight this benefit

  • Make sure all of your marketing at least alludes to it

  • Know how to position these benefits in response to your competitors key benefits


Customer values it, you and your competition both have it

Check the box

These are the products or features that have become commonplace in the industry. The market has made it very clear that the want and value this, but it also means that yourself and every competitor has made it clear that it is part of their offering.

Trying to communicate these benefits through your marketing efforts is not worth your time or money. If this is something that truly all competition has, your marketing efforts will be reinforcing the market category rather than pushing do define your individuality.

Over time, customers will just associate these benefits with the industry. It would be like a cell phone company saying that you can browse the internet. Super useful, everyone wants to do that, but not needed in any marketing communication at this point.

What to do with features in this category:

  • Be aware of all of them (your customers still see these as valuable)

  • Show that you have these on your website

  • Do not put an emphasis on it (these are just checkbox items)

  • While they are not great to market, they are still critical for the sale

Customer does not value it, you and your competition both have it


Pretty obvious that these types of features just don’t matter. IGNORE THEM!

Even bringing these up in a sales call will just cause unneeded confusion.

You may be asking yourself, how would this ever happen? This usually happens when something fell into the first category once upon a time ago. You and your competition raced to add it in, but over the years it fell out of favour. You both still have it left over from the past but no one really cares.

What to do with features in this category:

  • Nothing

  • Stay away

  • Ignore

Customer values it, you don’t have it and your competition does


These are the features and benefits that are most dangerous to you. You know that your customers want it and they will not be able to get it from you. If your competition is smart they will be focusing their marketing around these, but you are not helpless.

These are where you need to set traps. Traps are things that you put in your marketing communication or arm your sales teams with that get a customer thinking in a way that makes the benefit of the competitor seem less appealing.

As an example, say you are an email app and your competition has a powerful workflow builder that allows a customer to build flows on any trigger they choose. You do not have this functionality and in fact you only have 2 pre-set workflows to choose from. Seems like you are outmatched, but not if you set the right traps.

Instead of talking about the power of that solution start talking about the simplicity of yours. Talk about how busy your customers are and that they do not have time to set up complicated workflows, or to maintain them over time. Simplicity makes it easy to maintain and allows any member of the team to jump in and create emails.

Will this tactic work every time… no but if you talk about your highlights while setting a trap you put yourself in the best position to win.

What to do with features in this category:

  • Talk about the negative side of competitive benefits

  • Set traps in your marketing and sales process

  • DO NOT try to compete head to head here


The key takeaways

The above was a lot, I get it! That is why I will always include the key takeaways for you to grab at a glimpse.

The easiest way to evaluate the competitive market is with the landscape venn-diagram

  • Customer wants

  • Competition capabilities

  • Your capabilities

Once you have evaluated your competition:

  • Your ability to build loyalty comes from focusing your marketing on the areas where the competition does not want to participate

  • Find ways to set traps and change the frame of reference for your competition's focus features

  • Don't devote marketing budget to anything that benefits the entire market

  • Sitting on the fence will prevent haters, but will not generate any loyalty either



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