Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When Is The Right Time To Bad Mouth Your Competitors?

Earlier this week I went to see a health practitioner, let’s call him Dr. Chris. When I mentioned that I’d previously seen a different health practitioner, let’s call him Dr. Joe, to treat my ailment Dr. Chris then proceeded to tell me that Dr. Joe was every sort of evil under the sun and had probably ruined me for life with his service.

I left with a pretty uneasy feeling about Dr. Chris – I found the talk unprofessional, unnecessary and I left feeling no less confident about Dr. Joe! All Dr. Chris did was make me feel less confident in him.

So when is the right time to bad mouth your competitors?

1. When you really really want the client?
2. When you know for a certainty that your competitor is a really dodgy character?
3. When your client starts to bad mouth them first?

In short, NO NO NO!

Even if you really want the client, bad mouthing your competitor only makes you appear unprofessional. The alternative: Just talk up your own positive points (without saying you do it better than your competitor, that still counts as bad mouthing). Check out this link to see when bad-mouthing goes to a ridiculous level http://www.designersmind.com/creative-showcase/creative-airline-advertisements/. I also saw today Virgin Blue’s rewards program Velocity entered the grey zone in bad mouthing stating something to the effect of: “the new Qantas Frequent Flyer Rewards program proudly brought to you by Velocity” which reminded me a little of these airline adverts.

Even if you are 100% positive that your competitor is a dodgy character, bad mouthing them makes you look like even more of a dodgy character! The alternative: recommend that your client asks to speak to people who’ve dealt with whichever professional they are going to do business with, this way they can get the real truth about your competitor from their previous clients (be prepared though that this also means you recommend they speak to your clients!)

If your client starts to bad mouth your competitor, even then – don’t help them get stuck in! The alternative: tell your client what you would do in any situation where they have had bad previous dealings and see if that’s how they would like to be dealt with in the future.

On the flipside… if you’re this major company – you can make an entire ad campaign with Drew Barrymore’s paramour (sorry – but I love that rhyme) bad mouthing your competitors http://www.apple.com/getamac/ads/

But without Apple’s budget and ad-guys – you’re probably going to end up no more slick than this:

My preferred method? Do the opposite and find opportunities to congratulate your competitors. This worked exceptionally well for me in real estate. I’d make sure I knew a positive point about the agents I most regularly competed with so that I could say credibly something like: “Sue’s lovely, she writes really creative advertisements and she keeps the rest of us on our toes in that respect”. Client’s don’t expect it and most respect you for taking the high road.

And back to Dr. Chris and Dr. Joe, the first thing I did when I went home was let the friend who’d referred me to Dr. Chris know what he’d said about Dr. Joe. Being that Dr. Joe’s a personal friend of hers I’m not sure Dr. Chris will be getting too many other referrals from her.

By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments


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