What To Do If Your Competition
Is Lying About You

by Tom Egelhoff

Author Tom Egelhoff

This article comes from a question asked by a business owner in Taylorville, Illinois. He wrote:

Hi Tom,
I love your web site, small towns are a different animal when it comes to marketing.

Our firm is also the new kid on the block, so it will be an uphill battle at best."Just the way we like it."

I think the biggest problem we are having, is that our competition is somewhat worried about us, and are putting out a lot of negative information. We are not traveling that road, we just try to do our job.

Got any hints to turn the negative to a positive?

Tom's Answer:

As you achieve success and begin to take market share away from your competitors, some may resort to drastic measures. In many cases these measures are not always honest or ethical.

Here are some ways to combat negative advertising

The First Step to Combat Negative Advertising

The first thing to do is not to over react to the negative information. In some cases it may be a misunderstanding. Where did the information come from?

Is the source reliable? Have you heard the information from more than one credible source? Has this competitor exhibited similar behavior with other competitors?

We probably see this activity more in political campaigns than any other place. You can tell the truth, just not the whole truth.

For example: "My opponent has spent time in prison." True. In order to view prison conditions firsthand, the opposing candidate asked to be locked up overnight.

Will the voters ever believe the real story? Who knows?

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Be Sure You're Right Then Go Ahead

If you are sincerely convinced that the competitor is truly "out to get you", then it's time to take off the gloves and get serious.

First, examine what the competitor is trying to accomplish. Yes, I know the answer is to discredit you or drive you out of business. What you need to look at is how?

What areas of your business are being attacked? Are they after you or the business?

Competing businesses seldom attack an individual. An individual can always quit or sell the business to someone else leaving the competition still in place.

Ninety-nine percent of the time the business itself is the target.

Let's explore some ways to handle this problem.

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Become A Recognized Authority In Your Industry

How? By letting people know that you have the information they need before they make a decision to purchase. Customers are always looking for an authority to guide them in the decision making process. We use stock brokers, financial advisors and accountants in this way. We seek out expert advice.

Some ways to accomplish this are:

Contact your local newspaper and ask about writing articles or a column concerning your business or industry. These don't have to be about your business. You want to be perceived as an expert in the field. I write monthly articles for the local "business to business" section of my newspaper on marketing, advertising and promotion.

Do the same with radio stations. Many small town talk stations will put you on the air just for the asking. Some offer business spotlights.

Join as many local groups as possible. Chamber or Commerce, Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, Etc. These people are perceived as concerned, honest citizens of the community. That's the perception you want.

Become active in these groups, make friends, and let them know the true story. Don't have the time to get involved? Don't worry you'll have plenty of time after you're driven out of business.

Make the time. You don't have to do it forever.

Try to arrange a focus group of your best and most loyal customers. Show them what is happening and ask for their help in spreading a positive message about your business.

Ask satisfied customers for referrals. "I'm glad you're happy with the work we did for you Mrs. Smith." "Tell me, who are some folks you know that would like similar work done for them?"

"May I tell them you referred me?" Referrals will keep you in business. Learn how to get them.

Also see my previous article: "How To Make Your Business Unique."

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Customer Education That Separates You From Your Competitors

Educate your customers and/or prospects and make yourself the expert. Let's assume, for this exercise, that you have a furniture restoration business.

Create a simple, inexpensive brochure and/or mailer that educates the customer about your business.

Your brochure might be; "17 Things You Must Know Before You Restore Your Valuable Furnishings." Try to use an odd, attention getting number. Avoid "Top Ten" lists.

NOTE: The 17 things must be benefits that separate you from your competitors.

Lets assume that the best glue in the furniture restoration business is ABC glue and you use it. Your competitor uses XYZ glue which is cheaper and inferior.

One of the 17 points in your brochure might say, "Good furniture is only as good as the glue that holds it together. Antique industry experts agree. ABC glue is the finest glue available and that's why we use it exclusively."

Did I bad-mouth my competitor there? I don't think so. Is it likely the customer might ask your competitor, "What brand of glue do you use?" Yes it is.

And the great thing is the customer won't mention you but will leave because they are armed with good information. Arm your potential customer with knowledge and make yourself the expert at the same time.

Give good, honest advice but in a way that separates you from the "bad-guys."

Feature this free report in all your print and radio advertising. "Call Hidden Treasures Restoration today to receive your free copy of, "17 Things You Must Know Before You Restore Your Valuable Furnishings."

MONEY SAVING BONUS: Everyone who calls for the brochure saw or heard your ads. An easy way to see if your advertising is working and reaching your target market.

It also gives you a list of potential customers and leads to follow-up on. "Did you receive the 17 Ways brochure?" "What type of restoration project do you have in mind?"

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Contact your very best customers and ask if you can meet with them, one-on-one, over coffee. Ask them if they would be willing to write testimonial letters about your business (better yet ask if you can write the letters yourself and have them sign them).

Also ask if you could use their comments in your advertising. The more well known the person is in the community the more powerful this can become.

(For more on testimonials, see page 182 in your copy of, "How To Market, Advertise and Promote Your Business Or Service In A Small Town.")

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Testimonials Do Two Things

One, testimonials give third party credibility to your business and the re-enforcement from friends will override any negative gossip new customers may have heard from your competitors.

Two, it's one thing for competitors to spread negatives about you. It's quite another for them to spread negatives about your customers. (Who they would like for their customers.)

That's what they will be doing when they bad-mouth you and the customers in your ads. "Mr Competitor, are you calling Mr. Smith a _____ because he said just the opposite in an ad I saw recently."

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Some Final Thoughts

Since it's impossible to address every type of business situation here, you will need to adapt these ideas to your specific business.

Most customers who buy a product or service don't know much when they start out.

They learn about the product along the way as they search. They are exposed to all kinds of information and mis-information.

Make sure you provide the information they need in an honest, truthful message.

Most people have a way of cutting through the fog and getting at the real truth about a business.

The best way to do business is honestly and ethically. Keep promises and provide good service.

Don't lower yourself to a mudslinging contest with your competitors.

No one wins that contest.

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