think like your competition

How Would Your Competition Sell Against You?

How would you sell against yourselfI ask difficult questions when doing a brand discovery for my clients.

I force them to think about themselves in ways they probably never did before. And it never fails to capture their true essence.

One of my favorite questions to ask is, “If you worked for your competition, how would you sell against us?” Us, of course, is my client.

Try it out with one of your clients. Ask them to imagine what their competition might tell a prospect about them.

Say, “Think like someone who would like to see you fail. Ponder your shortcomings and your competitive disadvantages. Stab yourself in the back.”


The hard part

Business owners love and hate the question.

They like the “exercise” of thinking differently about themselves.

The process … that’s another story. Like being the first person on the dance floor, nobody in the room wants to break the silence. They look at one another, cautiously, as if to say, “You wanna say something nasty about our company?”

Eventually, either someone pipes up, or you have to get out on the dance floor yourself. Give them some general starter ideas, but avoid putting words in their mouths.

Someone will say, “We don’t build everything in-house,” and they quickly add, “but that’s actually an advantage, because –”

Stop them before they can spin the problem. Reassure them it’s okay to leave the bad stuff out there; you’ll go over the “here’s how you would respond” after you’re done tearing the company a new one.


The transformation

In no time, clients dish out all the dirt they can think of. They’re back to liking the process, gleefully giving their company a black eye.

“We are small.”

“We are the middle man.”

“They have better control over their costs.”

Then, you turn things around: “Why are these things actually your advantages?”

One by one, go over each weakness. The reasons why they are actually strengths will give you powerful differentiators you can use to craft their brand story.

“We don’t build everything in-house,” they’ll say, “but that enables us to source components from the best suppliers and sell a better overall product than our fully integrated peers.”

“We’re small, but that makes us nimble, faster and easier to work with.”

Sometimes, one or two of their negatives can’t be flipped into a positive. That’s equally valuable, as the company feels reinvigorated to make changes for the better. At the very least, you can write around those things to focus on the good.



Put your own business through this exercise. It’s not just fun, it’s eye opening.


A Year of Shameful Subject Lines

Shameful Subject LinesLike most inboxes, mine receives a heaping helping of spam throughout the year.

Some of my personal favorites are the offers for male potency pharmaceuticals. I appreciate the discretion some of these trustworthy wholesalers use in their subject lines. That way, my wife and kids will be none the wiser. Some real examples:

  • Fw: Fw: Love Store
  • I’ll still love you, come to me, I’m in a hotel!
  • Never pay a monthly phone bill again

It seems the flim-flammers have improved their spelling, at least. I’m seeing fewer creative typos for commonly flagged words, like VI*AGR4.

For some reason, I get a lot of offers for replica watches (Best Seller Watches : Rolex Gold = 119$ , Rolex Sport = 119$!!), penny stocks (PBGC is the King’s Special Alert- Find Out Why Inside…), and online poker (Exclusive gaming with HUGE!!! payouts!).

Do people really follow those links? I want to believe that the human race is smarter than that. And yet, someone has invested the time to produce this stuff, so logically there exists a complementary group just as dimwitted but too lazy to act as the purveyor.

I wonder where these spammers get their mailing lists. Maybe they received an email with a compelling subject line, like: Max BEST Mailing Lists will make you M1LL*IONS overnight!!!

They’ve obviously mistaken me for a watch junkie who’s looking to make a fast buck and pleasure my partner despite my dysfunctional, er, equipment.

If they had quality mailing lists, I’d be getting skillfully penned emails with subject lines like:

  • Piping hot, golden french fries – printable coupon!
  • These Multi-Billion Dollar Corporations Need Copywriters … NOW
  • Grow Your Own Gourmet Coffee for Pennies – in Your Kitchen

You know, with tempting offers like those, I’d allow a typo or two.