As more and more businesses embrace content marketing, the majority are failing to understand one of the most important principles of communication and persuasion that has been around since the beginning of time.
But before I talk about this essential key of great communication—be it in a blog, video, sales presentation, etc.—I want to talk about the Catch 22 so many businesses now find themselves in.
In order to be great at content marketing, assuming you’re a business, you have to be willing to address two areas that every consumer wants to know:
- Your own products and services
- Your competition’s products and services
Unfortunately, when most companies address #1, they end up either sounding like a used car salesman or at best a very biased “pitch machine.”
Regarding #2, talking about the competition, most companies are either afraid to do it at all (not aggressive enough) or end up attacking the competition and come across as very unprofessional (too aggressive).
Like everything else in life, if you’re going to persuade consumers and customers to buy your products and services through content marketing, you absolutely must find a balance. This balance, when done right, comes down to the Law of Disarmament.
The Law of Disarmament
The Law of Disarmament, a phrase that I came up with to describe much of the content marketing tips I’ve been teaching these past couple of years, is incredibly simple and works like this:
If you’re answering a question about your products and services, always start with the “negative.”
If you’re answering a question about your competition, always start with the “positive.”
Let me give you a few examples of what I’m trying to explain here so that the phrases “negative” and “positive” are not misconstrued.
As most of you reading this know, I own a swimming pool company that sells inground fiberglass pools. Because of this, our potential customers are always asking us questions like:
- What is the difference between concrete and fiberglass pools?
- Which is better, vinyl liner or fiberglass pools?
- How does your brand of pools compare to your competitor’s brand?
We literally get hundreds of these types of questions a year, and because we follow the golden rule of content marketing (They Ask, You Answer), we’ve addressed every single one on our blog.
For example, let’s say we are explaining the difference between vinyl and fiberglass pools. By starting with the negative, the article would go something like this:
- Every pool shopper has different needs (empathy)
- In some cases, vinyl pools may be a better fit than fiberglass, and here is why… (negative)
- In some cases, fiberglass pools may be the better fit than vinyl, and here is why… (positive)
Keep in mind, the amount of negative or positive points you make is up to you, but the right order is critical here. By doing it in this manner, as soon as you’ve mentioned that your product might not be a good fit for the customer; they immediately trust you more and are more willing to let their guard down. This, in essence, is how the Law of Disarmament works.
The process of disarmament is the same in any form of communication, be it text or face to face conversation.
For example, I’ve had the following conversation many, many times:
Question: Marcus, do you think HubSpot would be a good fit for my business?
My Answer: Well that depends. I can tell you that HubSpot is not a good fit for everyone. In fact, let me tell you who it’s not for and then I’ll tell you who it is for…
Do you see how the order of operations is the same? Start with the “negative,” finish with the positive.
Oh, and by the way, whenever you tell someone, in a very open and upfront manner, that your product (or service) may not be a good fit for them they are naturally more inclined to want to make it a fit. (I call this the Law of Inclusion. In other words, we all want to be included.)
One final example about how to handle discussing your competitors: As I mentioned above, the order changes when we talk about the competition. Generally speaking, you want to start with the positive and move to the negative. Keep in mind when I say “negative” I’m not at all referring to bashing your competition, but rather showing their factual drawbacks. Here is an example:
Consumer Question: Marcus, I hear concrete pools are better than fiberglass, is that true?
Answer: In some cases, depending on what the customer is looking for, yes, that might be true. Concrete pools have certain benefits that some pool shoppers find very appealing, such as (benefits listed here)….At the same time, concrete pools have certain drawbacks and thus aren’t a good fit for everyone. (drawbacks listed here)
Hopefully you’re seeing how this properly unfolds in all applications. If you do this right, you’ll be viewed as a trusted source and advisor to your customers and readers. If you do it wrong, as many companies currently are, you’ll appear to them to be no better than a used car salesman with extremely biased motives.
This is exactly why understanding the Law of Disarmament is critical to a culture of content marketing success for any organization moving forward in the information age.
I’d love to hear how you’re using disarmament with your company’s content marketing. How have you helped employees to shift from “pitching and bragging” to “teaching and informing?”
What other strategies are you finding success with when it comes to discussing the competition?