How to Market Against Competitors Using Thought Leadership

Guest post by Geoff Livingston. Geoff is an author, public speaker and marketing strategist.

How do you openly market against competitors? It’s a tough question every marketer faces.

On a local, national or global scale, companies compete for customers. It’s a topic many of us acknowledge privately, but rarely talk about publicly.

Competitors often find themselves marketing similar products and services. That’s when it’s time to engage in competitive marketing to counter-differentiate, including thought leadership positioning.

Gini Dietrich and I do talk about competitive marketing quite a bit in our book, Marketing in the Round, in large part because companies over position against other brands. One of my favorite methods is to rise above the competitiveness with strong thought leadership initiatives.

To do so, you often need to develop forward positions that better your entire industry.

Marketing effectively with thought leadership demands you speak about competitors. That includes discussing your competition in white papers, blogs, and as a part of larger industry initiatives with the media. Including the larger industry picture right-sizes a company — both your and your competitor — within the context of a customer’s perspective.

You should always take a karmic approach when mentioning competitors. Industry thought leaders achieve their stature by rising above petty competitive actions like ignoring the competition – or, worse, attacking them – to serve stakeholders with valuable information.

Deference and polite respect go miles in showing character. Slamming individual brands for certain practices often reflects worse on you than the other company.

Let your industry’s pundits do that dirty work on their own without your help (sigh, bloggers).

Google does a nice job of positioning against Apple and its policy of closed standards by making a strong claim for industry betterment using open protocols. Many pundits have noted that Google’s Android system beat Apple thanks to open standards.

When a potential customer searches on Google, Bing or Yahoo! for the product or topic area, your outreach — within media, in your content, or on social networks — should get sourced in the results. Hopefully, potential customers will click through and see your offerings, but also remember that you are the one company trying to move your industry forward.

Often brands will create an industry body or name an initiative to work on such initiatives.

Last, but not least, thought leadership marketing and PR should serve your customers’ interests. This includes educating customers on issues that affect their products. Competitive thought leadership offers little for your brand if it does not resonate with stakeholders as something that will benefit them.

What do you think of thought leadership as a form of competitive marketing?

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