This morning while having my coffee, I happened upon this awesome article, You’re In Sales Too (Whether You Like It or Not) — it’s a short read with a powerful lesson:
You never know when you’re speaking to (and pissing off) a customer.
It reminded me of a tactic that a lot of people use to promote their services and I want to share it, because if you’re doing this, you might want to reconsider and you may not even realize the potential damage you’re causing.
Positioning yourself as a better solution by diminishing the value of your competition
When I was fresh out of college I did marketing for a retail store. We were starting a corporate gift program and the angle I used was to position our gift baskets as an alternative to “the tired-old branded coffee mugs, pens, and calendars”.
I sent that message out to the entire Chamber of Commerce and got SCHOOLED with an email by one of the members (who made his living selling branded coffee mugs, pens, and calendars):
“Shame on you. Marketing your business by putting down others is not classy. Do better.”
I was like, you know what?
He was absolutely right. I’ve never done it since, and I’m now keenly aware when others do it. I don’t go out of my way to say “that’s not classy, do better” … but well, I’m writing this blog post.
If you do that, here’s why you should stop:
You never know when you’re pissing off potential customers or allies
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read sales copy that starts with, “You don’t need to waste your money on a designer…”
A lot. A lot of times. And as a designer, it’s offensive — but also, it’s just lazy, shitty marketing.
In one case, I was a potential customer. I had opted-in, I became a fan, I was considering a purchase… and then when those shitty words found their way into my inbox, I unsubscribed.
I know that there are a lot of ways to get a website or brand identity design for cheap, or to do yourself… and I think that’s great.
What I don’t do is say “those other solutions are crap, you should hire me instead.”
Quite the opposite.
I’m not a great fit for everyone, but maybe I will be someday… in the meantime, I refer them on to alternative solutions.
So when people are offering those alternatives, I’m a potential ally. I may not be a direct customer, but I’m definitely someone in the position to refer business to them.
There are lots of marketers and coaches and copywriters who have the skills to build websites as part of their packages… and I think that’s great. I’m a designer who also offers marketing consulting, copywriting and even a bit of coaching.
What I don’t do is say, “Don’t waste your money on a coach/marketer/copywriter, hire me instead.”
So when they do the same only in reverse in their sales copy … those coaches, marketers, copywriters, and consultants become people I’d never hire, collaborate with, or refer others to.
Why would I help or hire someone who’s out there saying I don’t bring any value to the table? Who would?
Just this morning I read a sales page that kicked off with, “Web designers are a waste of money” and okay, annoying as always… but what was really sad? Is that I realized this was someone who’s been on my radar for awhile as someone I should reach out to for a collaboration or someone I could refer business to.
Now? No way in hell.
Focus on your own value
It’s easy to resort to putting down your competition when you’re not clear about your own value, but it’s worth figuring out because you’ll be able to make a stronger case.
Your customers are smart. They’re already comparing you to the other options they have and they don’t need you doing it for them (they won’t trust what you’re saying anyway, people see right through this tactic). They need you to make your case and demonstrate why you’re the best choice. On your own merits.
It’s completely unnecessary to put down others in order to prop yourself up, and dangerous too — you never know who’s watching.
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.