Demolish the Competition and Recommend a Generic Solution (part 2 of 3)

by Gordon Graham

Part 1 of this article discussed how to frame a white paper around a nasty industry problem. This builds rapport with your reader, holds their attention, and creates urgency.

Next, you must destroy the credibility of everyone else’s way of dealing with that problem.

Here are some tips on how to do this.

Demolish the competition step #1: List every other alternative

Include anything a prospect could do, other than buy your offering. That includes doing nothing and buying nothing.
For IT vendors, other alternatives include working manually, using spreadsheets, rekeying data from one system into another, creating some sort of mashup or developing some homegrown system that the prospect believes is “good enough.”

Then sort them all into various buckets. But don’t sort by company. Instead, sort by category, class, genre or type. That way you can toss numerous products or companies into the same bucket.

Demolish the competition step #2: Think hard about why no alternative is good enough

Perhaps one option just doesn’t work very well or only works in certain cases. Maybe others are slow, costly or prone to failure. Perhaps another creates unwelcome tradeoffs, unintended consequences or a whole new set of problems. Whatever the drawbacks, uncover them all.

This can involve searching for what the classic book “Marketing Warfare” calls “the weakness in the leader’s strength”–the Achilles heel that can bring down a competitor.

For example, Mac OS is much less widespread than Windows, so malware authors seldom target the Mac. That means one weakness in Windows’ strength is the vast amount of malware that attacks it.

Demolish the competition step #3: Take your best shot at each alternative

I sometimes think of this as setting up a line of wooden ducks in a shooting gallery, and then blasting them to smithereens, one by one. When your logic is clear, you only need a sentence or two per alternative.

To do this, you can start with phrases like:
• ”In the past, some have tried…”
• ”Existing products are not effective because…”
• ”Many Vendors have tried to overcome this problem, but none have succeeded. For example…”
Recommend a generic solution

Now, with the less-than-ideal approaches reduced to rubble, you can sweep them all out of the way with your new, improved, recommended solution.

But don’t label it with your product or company name. Don’t dump in your regular product description. Don’t use your normal marketing lingo. It’s much more powerful to describe your solution in generic terms.

Warning: This level of restraint is very tough for many sales and marketing people, but it’s critical to success with a modern white paper. So if you can’t avoid giving a sales pitch, don’t call what you’re writing a white paper. Just write a brochure, a sales letter or a product brief; then call it what it is.

Here are a few tips on how to describe your solution generically.
• Forget superlatives, marketing-speak and any other terms you normally use to describe your offering.
• Imagine telling a Martian about your offering, using broad strokes instead of name brands and buzz words he wouldn’t know.
• Locate your solution in its market space, within an established category, class, genre, niche or type. If it’s a hybrid of two existing genres, say so. If it’s really a whole new category, say so. This helps prospects picture your market space the way you want them to see it.
• Focus on how your offering solves that nagging problem better than anything else. And make your argument without naming your product or your company.

This approach adds tremendous educational value to your white paper. It spells out the business or technical benefits of your offering by comparing and contrasting it to other offerings on the market without getting caught up in brand names.

To sum up: First articulate a problem, next knock down all other solutions, and then recommend a better solution in generic terms. This powerful approach positions your offering as the best solution.

Now all that’s left to do is to tilt the playing field firmly in your direction with a simple buyer’s guide. Coming next issue, the final part of this three-part series shows you how.

About the Author: Gordon Graham–also known as ThatWhitePaperGuy–helps B2B software companies tell their stories with crisp, compelling white papers. Gordon has worked on more than 100 white papers for companies like Google, Oracle and many smaller firms with big ideas.