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Your Competitors Are Lying About You
Here’s what to do when your competitors start to tell lies about your business.
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Business is competitive. For every dollar a customer is going to spend, there will be hundreds of companies vying to earn it. Sometimes you’ll win it, sometimes you’ll lose, and then it’s off to the next customer to try and earn the next dollar.
In such a highly competitive situation, people will start to bend the rules. Competitors will start to talk negatively about you, trying to make themselves sound better in comparison. They might cite customers they won where you lost, or how their product has features yours lacks. In many cases they will push the line between truth and lies, implying negative things that are not true but never explicitly saying them.
In other cases, they will lie.
Complete, bald-faced lies.
They will tell potential customers that your company is struggling, you’re running out of money or that your product is failing. They will say you’re being investigated by the FBI, or that you sell data to criminals. I’ve heard some amazing lies in my time, things that were so far from the truth that I laughed when I heard them.
Even if they aren’t lying, competitors are telling your story for you. If they talk to a potential customer before you, they can color the first impression of you and you are behind before you even get started. They put you on the defensive and you are forced to react to the stories they are telling rather than controlling your own path. You cannot win that way.
So, what do you do when your competitors are telling stories about you?
You have to tell your own story! No, that doesn’t just mean you spend more money on marketing (although that can help). You need to build a story that breaks through their lies. And your story can be told a few different ways:
1. Storytelling Through Your Product
The easiest way to disprove a lie is with evidence. If your competitors are going to lie about your business, it’s likely going to be through your product. They’ll say your product doesn’t work, or that it doesn’t do what you say it does.
But, what if it was easy to see the product for themselves? What if your product was immediately and visibly different than what the competitors say? What if the product spoke for you?
So many companies hide their product behind “Request a Demo” links to try and increase the number of sales meetings. In doing so, they are preventing their product from speaking for them.
You want your product to be your greatest spokesperson. You want people to be able to see your product quickly, and to have your customers show it off to others. The faster and easier it is to show something impressive, the more often that will happen.
Show it off! Demonstrate it at conferences and webinars. Have demos on your website that are readily accessible. Let everyone see for themselves.
This requires that you have the best product, and that it's evident to anyone who sees it in the first 20 seconds. However, that sounds like a bar you should already be aiming for!
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2. Storytelling Through Your Customers
If you have a vendor tell you something, you will be skeptical. If one of your colleagues or partners tells you something, you are more likely to believe it.
One of the most powerful ways to tell your story is to not tell it at all, but to have your customers tell it for you. This does not mean having more video testimonials on your website, it means having your customers refer you to their network and tell their friends without you having to ask. You do that by making them extremely happy.
If you have a base of extremely happy customers, you have evangelists. Those evangelists have a stronger voice than yours in the networks they operate, and they will use it. Unfortunately, they use it fairly infrequently but it is amazingly powerful when they do.
This is a compounding advantage, as the more evangelists you have the more your base will grow and the more evangelists it will create. To do so you have to ensure the highest level of customer experience and the best product, which gets harder as your number of customers grows.
But if you can hold onto it, you will see it become a wall that defends you from those lies.
3. Storytelling Through Your Message
The way you talk about yourself matters a lot. The competition will say you’re just another tool, no different from anything else in your category. If you also say you’re another tool (even if you’re better) you are making them credible.
If you say that you’re not a new tool, you’re a new way of approaching the problem entirely then you are rejecting their framing. If you say that your tool changes the way business is done, you’re breaking free of their framing and creating your own.
This is why new companies use such aggressive, ambitious language when they position themselves. You need to break free of the constraints of your market and you don’t do that by being subtle and quiet. You do that by going big.
At the same time, you can’t go too big! If you make ridiculous claims then no one will believe them or you. The best positioning will push the envelope without setting it on fire. Be aggressive but not ridiculous and it gets harder for the competition to reframe you.
Lies, Lies, Everywhere
None of this prevents your competition from lying about you, but it does mean their lies will be less effective. At Outlier AI, we had many competitors lie about our product and how theirs compared. But, our product was so fast to set up and easy to use that they could see through the lies for themselves. Our competitors would trap customers in 2 hour long meetings trying to convince them about things that they could disprove themselves in just 5 minutes. That’s a competitive advantage!
Competition is real, and dishonest competition is everywhere. Instead of complaining that they aren’t playing fair, make sure that their unfair practices don’t work. Once they lie and it backfires, they lose all credibility and you have won a resounding victory. When those start adding up, you will accelerate while they start to shrink.
Winning is the best revenge, after all.
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