It happens all the time. A sales rep comes back from an event with anecdotes about how the competition is sharing inaccurate information about your brand. How can you fight back? There are no official channels to “correct the record” in these situations.
If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, you know that your first instinct is to “win” this war of words. Unfortunately, that can be easier said than done especially if there might be a grain of truth in the competitive “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt” (FUD) competitors are spreading about your company. Circling back with the prospect from the anecdote can be risky, looks defensive and can potentially backfire.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
There are lots of things you can do to effectively pivot around a FUD campaign and prevent it from doing damage. First and foremost, we recommend that our clients recognize and admit to any challenges that ring true—oh, and let any anger go. The end game is a good, long-term relationship with prospects and customers. That’s where your energy needs to go.
As with any long-term relationship, it’s best to be proactive, visible, and transparent. If there is extra work that needs to be done to regain trust, acknowledge it and get to work. Here is some advice to help you figure out where to start:
Arm employees with talking points: It’s critical that employees have a strong and consistent message in response to any tough questions resulting from a competitor’s FUD tactics. This could be in the form of an employee FAQ, or a company-wide email, or a set of bullet points. The form is less important than the goal—a solid line of defense.
Think like a prospect: While your prospect doesn’t want to get stuck in the middle of a game of “he said, she said” with you and your competitor, you need to educate them about who you are and why your solution is better. Here are a couple things to consider:
- Establish a consistent company storyline - Your company storyline needs to effectively introduce the company and eliminate any confusion that prospects may be spreading in the market. Sometimes you can even take the FUD and turn it into a positive.
For example, if a company just completed a challenging merger that opened an opportunity for the competitor to dismiss them to prospect’s as essentially DOA. In response, the company should identify points of strength as a result of the merger—stronger team, more product investment, etc.—and make these points an important part of its narrative; getting ahead of rumors whenever possible. You need to tell your story very consistently across all channels: your website, sales deck, social channels, and anywhere else you engage with prospects.
- Keep your cool in the heat of battle - If you are in the middle of discovery with a prospect that is also talking to competitors, be upfront about what prospects can expect to hear about you from competitors, but never defensive.
To combat FUD, we encourage clients to speak directly, using language like: “Some of our competitors might tell you X, Y and Z but that’s not accurate and here’s why…”We also work with clients through the sales cycle to make the FUD feel predictable and like “sour grapes.” This goes back to telling a consistent story through the process. Remind them, “this is what you can expect to hear, but here’s what’s really going on...”
Don’t forget about current customers and partners: We recommend this approach to all our clients as a normal course of business, but it's especially important when there is a FUD campaign against you in the market: Make nurturing customer and partner relationships a priority. Make time to meet face to face with executives at key accounts—especially if you any reason to believe that you may need to regain trust. Build customer visits into all planned travel. And be sure to communicate regularly with both “official” company updates and softer “check-ins” with customers and partners.
Remain Visible and Promote Strength
If instincts or colleagues encourage you to go dark with marketing efforts during these (or any) trying times, by all means, resist. Remember, the best defense is a good offense, and you can’t defend your company if it’s in hiding. Issue regular press releases, stay active on social media, and leverage the voices of happy customers whenever possible.
When you’re feeling under fire it can be hard to mount an effective response but we hope this post gives you some ideas about where to start. While fighting back isn’t necessarily the best answer, it’s very important to stand up for your business and nurture your important relationships. And remember, don’t let the turkeys get you down!