Lack of competitor comparison pages
One particular area that has caught our attention from our data collection is the use (or lack thereof) of the “us versus alternatives” page. We believe this is a reliable indicator of where a vendor and/or segment fits into our hypothetical persona model.
As we scanned the Forbes Cloud 100 when building out our very first MVP dataset, we rarely saw vendor websites that directly positioned products and/or pricing against competitors. Competitors were rarely, if ever, mentioned in any context. However, as we’ve expanded our dataset to cover a much broader cohort of vendors across categories, we’ve noticed much more active and varied uses of competitive positioning on marketing sites.
Let’s use the appointment scheduling and calendar management software category to illustrate this point. Market leader Calendly (also a Forbes Cloud 100 vendor) makes no mention of competitors and does not have a comparison page. Calendly is in pole position and is hyperfocused on driving customer usage growth.
However, fast-following peers frequently leverage marketing to position themselves against Calendly. Here’s an example from GReminders, focusing directly on Calendly, and another from Simplybook.me, which includes a competitive comparison against Calendly and a few other peers.
Here’s what we like about these types of pages:
- They acknowledge competitors exist, even if tangentially, and that customers have a diversity of choice, even if the choice is to not buy. Said more simply, they tell us that a vendor fits our “Balanced” or “Competitor Focused” persona as outlined previously.
- They reflect a commitment and investment in CI, which competitive intelligence software vendor Crayon has regularly indicated yields positive business returns.
- The best and clearest ones, like this one from ClickUp, help simplify complexity and cut through opaque marketing messaging.
Here’s what we don’t like:
- They usually don’t acknowledge any weaknesses and are biased in design. Showing a full row of green checkmarks for your product and a row of red Xs for your competitor, based on feature fields you elected to elevate your product, doesn’t help customers make a comparative decision. Clever vendors that value CI often subvert this approach, building competitive landing pages that showcase the areas where a competitor is better than them. This builds trust and solidifies value proposition and marketing positioning.
- They don’t (usually) consider differences in pricing and packaging that are integral to the comparison. These pages usually focus mostly, if not completely, on product features and don’t factor in critical elements such as product usage conditions, limits, and/or commercial packaging considerations that are central to vendor evaluation. For example, one product may have a usage limit of 1GB of storage, whereas the equivalent competitive offering may limit usage to 500MB and require add-on storage purchasing to reach 1GB. These types of considerations are often not factored into comparisons, even though they are critical to understanding total solution cost and value for prospective buyers.
- By extension of the above, they don’t message a value proposition. It’s OK to be the premium player or the cost-effective option in a competitive market space. It’s a derivative, too, of a customer segmentation focus and the key “job to be done” that a product solves. These competitive comparison pages, however, usually message something to the extent of: “We have all of the features, and our competitors don’t.” They don’t articulate where they see their product in a competitive ecosystem and what that means for the product and its pricing position.
So, what’s needed to make this type of competitive analysis better?
- Structured peer product comparisons based on industry-standard features taxonomies, not vendor-defined taxonomies
- Consideration of pricing and packaging elements in these comparisons
- Consideration of value propositions
- Comparisons that are based on data not vendor opinion (e.g., public, from review sites such as G2, analyst community, surveys)
- Substantiation of competitive comparisons using social proof, such as public customer testimonials from customers that have switched from a competitor, with reasons why they chose to do so and the ultimate value gained
- More CI resources, investment, and expertise at vendors to focus on implementing the above-listed strategies
- Enabling tools focused on these types of comparisons to help CI teams and vendors that are unable or not ready to invest in internal CI and/or or that want to augment internal CI efforts
At this stage of the game, we’re busy tearing down and grading your pricing pages via our Grade My Pricing Page service. We haven’t ventured into grading competitive comparison pages just yet. That said, if you have questions about your competitive comparison page and/or want to chat for 15 or 30 minutes to gather our impressions on how you might optimize, reach out via email to schedule a free consult.