Don’t dis your competitor

There are some very practical time-tested reasons for not dissing your competitors on a personal level.

Like it or not you share a market with this person. How are you ever going to woo away his customers by saying nasty stuff about him to people who like his product? If you waste time talking about the person, people will quickly assume your product isn’t as good as his.

Instead, try saying something like this. Paul is a hell of a nice guy, and his product is excellent, but ours works better for people like you. Hell, if it were about who’s nicer, you should buy his product because he’s much nicer than I am, and smart as a whip! But as luck would have it, our product is better for you. It has more vitamins, gets better mileage, lasts longer, smells better, gets the job done faster, for you, the most important person in the world.

Now if you make it all about how the guy who makes the other product hasn’t bathed in a month, and flunked a math test in 7th grade, well that leaves people wondering why you aren’t talking about the product.

Maybe it’ll turn out that your product is better for one thing, and theirs for another, and everyone can be happy. But dissing your competitor on a personal level makes you look like a loser.

20 responses to this post.

  1. I thoroughly agree. That can be seen reflected in the results of the Canadian Election results from yesterday. Liberal ads trashed Stephen Harper to no end, and it didn’t make them look in the least bit honourable.

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  2. I think it is wise to avoid personal attacks in general, not just when you are talking about your competitors.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Mike on January 24, 2006 at 9:40 am

    I don’t know whether that particular example is true, but I’d definitely agree that politics is an interesting example here. People who are obsessed with politics and with their particular view of it, so that they find it difficult to be civil towards opponents, merely turn the less-committed off.

    In the US currently, much of the left, in fury at losing two presidential elections, uses hysterical and hyped-up language towards President Bush and the GOP. It’s bad tactics and will probably only serve to marginalize the left further. Reagan was in part successful because he had a laid-back personality and because he made it a deliberate policy never to speak ill of an opponent. About the worst he ever said to an opponent was “there you go again”. I think partly it was just how he was; but also I think he was deliberately following political tactics similar to Dave’s business tactics. Bill Clinton, similarly, knew the power of charm and was not, IIRC, one to try to scarify opponents verbally in public.

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  4. Mike, you’re doing exactly what I counseled against — you’re dissing your competitors. You’re not going to win over too many people with that kind of argument.

    BTW, I listen to conservative talk radio, as you apparently do as well. I recognize this kind of baiting, but imho it only works when you talk with people who agree with you.

    Have a nice day.

    Reply

  5. Posted by kosso on January 24, 2006 at 10:30 am

    At the end of the day : what goes around comes around.

    I suppose dissing your competitor is OK – only if you’re a boxer or wrestler. ;) Or friends – who can happily take it all on the chin and flick eachother on the ears, when they’re not looking. Then laugh. (Then do it all over again)

    When some people take this stuff too seriously, there is no competition left : these people lose immediately.

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  6. Kosso, I don’t know if it’s this way in Britain, but in the US, it’s considered impolite to make fun of other people.

    It’s usually much better to make fun of yourself, then everyone knows it’s in good spirit.

    I generally watch out for people who think their shit doesn’t stink esp when they take a dump on my front porch.

    More polite to do it in your own toilet, behind closed doors, with the fan on. ;->

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  7. I tell ye! Sometimes my own farts REEEALLY offend ME!!
    Maybe it’s all that dogfood I eat ;)

    My first ever beard looks old and grey – looks like I fell asleep leaning on wet paint.

    Roxanne is indeed a great movie ;)

    Reply

  8. Oh yes.. and we all talk like James Mason here :)

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  9. Posted by Cameron Watters on January 24, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    What’s the correct protocol when the character and/or behavior of the competitor (corporately or individually) is relevant to the decision being made by the customer? In some cases, ongoing support and relationship with a vendor is a critical portion of the package. In those cases, is it fair game to examine and discuss the bad behavior of a competitor?

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  10. Cameron, my opinion only: It’s better to let a third party be judge of such things. Your opinion of your competitor’s personality is not objective. It might be said “Of course he doesn’t like him, that means nothing. He’ll say anything to get the business.” Not good things to have people say about you if you really want the business, and not likely to sway too many minds. And if your competitor really has a flawed personality, and it’s relevant, the customers will be able to figure it out anyway. No need for you to connect the dots.

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  11. This is a great post Dave. Many times when you are insulting a competitor(esp. startups), whether or not you mean it, you are insulting them on a personal level. Someone spending their days and nights working on a project, to be insulted by some windbag or comp. looking to tickle their own ego or gain an advantage, is always going to be personal. In the age of instant publishing and company evolution I think is important that people think about the big(ger) picture when they feel they know it all.

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  12. I agree cheerfully with you on this one Dave. But how does the spat with Mitch Radcliffe and the Audible CEO look in retrospect?

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  13. Paul, I was a customer of Audible, not a competitor.

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  14. James Gross, that’s pretty convoluted.

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  15. Posted by scobleizer on January 24, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    Dave, agreed!

    Everytime I’ve dissed a competitor I’ve come out the loser.

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  16. Posted by Ken on January 24, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    Dave,
    The reason FUD tactics are around is because they are effective. Devastatingly effective.

    Isn’t that what Microsoft did with Novell’s Netware?

    I am a commercial window cleaner in San Francisco. The owner of the biggest window cleaning company in the SF Bay Area is a master of FUD. On bid walks he will point out all the defeciencies and potential OSHA violations, etc. of the incumbent company in front of everybody, fellow window cleaners as well as the building managers. He is very good at this and it is difficult to argue with him in real time. He is a master of arcane rulings, some of which seem to come from case-law. He is also a great networker, so he knows more people in the industry than anyone else, which is also a source of his knowledge.

    I have been on bid walks where the incumbent window cleaner left, halfway through the bid walk, because the FUD master was hammering the incumbent so bad that it was embarrasing.

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  17. As a designer says in this piece about Quark’s fear of inDesign http://quarkvsindesign.com/news/archives/2005/03/quarks-postcards-from-the-edge/

    “Childish and immature. Like kids who stick their tongues out at others while hiding behind their mother, knowing that they’d lose in an actual face to face battle.”

    You can be a grandparent and still act like a baby.

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  18. Go ahead and run an campaign like John Kerry and John Edwards talking about you are not going to diss your opponent. Meanwhile, your oponent is doing every dirty, personal attack in the book from portraying you as a exaggerating coward while saving comrades lives in Vietnam, create images of a trial lawyer clogging up our court system, portray wife as an ultra-liberal ketchup billionaire out of touch and then slap a tape of Osama days before the election.

    Then you realize people in this world like personal attacks, dirty politics and underhanded tactic against a straight-and-narrow entity. This world loves it when some celebrity make a fall from grace or is on trial..it’s breaking news with daily special coverage.

    Sun Tzu teaching advises leaders to preach the orthodox while practicing the unorthodox. Blue Ocean also teaches that you must find hardliners for your cause that will outdo the hardliners on the other side.

    With that said, I’ve gotten down and dirty before and it didn’t matter one bit, what really matter is who stood when the dust cleared. And the last I’ve check, John Kerry and John Edwards are not sitting in the White House.

    Reply

  19. Totally! Not only that but this years competitor is next years business partner. I’m friends with most of Rojo’s competitors and now they’re allies :)

    Kevin

    Reply

  20. My competitor is not very nice, hasn’t bathed in a month, and flunked a math test in 7th grade! Don’t buy his product!

    Reply

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