Incessant has been the tap tap tapping at my keyboard. If you’ll recall, last time I posted the Wikipedia definition of Competitive Intelligence which made it sound like I was Mr. Proactive dot com. But you know, that description doesn’t at all address the reactive part of the job. I call it “React Mode” (very original, I know), like when a competitor hires someone to write and publish an analysis about how much better their product is than yours. That literally just happened last week on what I think was my second or third week on the job. Fortunately, being the consummate Technical Marketing pro I am (and being surrounded by an amazing team), I was ready to push the button!
“React Mode” triggers the following:
Our Technical Marketing Engineers drop everything they’re doing and run to the lab to try and reproduce the results. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred their findings will yield no surprises – we’re not caught off guard by anything that went to print (perhaps aside from the timing of the publication), which means there’s no silver bullet that will cause financial analysts to downgrade our stock or cause our customers to leave us.
With no silver bullet in our competitor’s hands, we have a little war-room meeting with our Product Marketing, Product Management, SE’s, Sales Readiness and Consulting teams to gain a better understanding of the big picture, that is: What is the competitor trying to accomplish? The answer will likely end up being one of two things:
1. An attempt to underscore a philosophical perspective – Some core thing about their product which is so obviously superior to ours if only someone would look closely enough at the data from a very specific vantage point.
2. A marketing agenda focused on something we in Marketing call FUD – Fear, uncertainty and doubt, defined by Wikipedia as “A tactic used in sales, marketing, public relations, politics and propaganda. FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence public perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information designed to undermine the credibility of their beliefs. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor’s product; to increase the general estimation of switching costs among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival.”
And guess what? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred we’re dealing with FUD.
Even though the FUD factors may be obvious to us, Technical Marketing always creates some sort of internal document which summarizes everything that’s wrong and inaccurate about the report and reemphasizes why Citrix is leading the desktop virtualization race in order to give our field and partners something to e-mail or print out if confronted with it.
So when The Tolly Group released a VMware sponsored report comparing VMware View 4.6 Premier and Citrix XenDesktop 5 Platinum last week, our CI machine switched into “React Mode”. We weren’t surprised because we were invited to participate, but since it was a competitive bakeoff sponsored, designed, and hosted by the competition (outside of our review cycle) – we really didn’t have the resources to dedicate to a bake-off that was destined to be lopsided. The stated focus of the report was on implementation and maintenance, but we couldn’t find much meat in there. The report makes five fairly obtuse claims, mostly comparing apples to oranges – stuff that was easy to dispel without locking a bunch of guys in a lab and throwing away the key. So we (the CI team) put together a nice five page internal response going into detail about each claim, what it meant, and why it was wrong. We proofed the response, put it into our CI template, and shared with the field under the “Citrix Confidential – Internal only do no distribute” auspice.
And then it came – The request to respond publicly. Which begs the question: To respond or to ignore?
To respond to FUD is to give it credibility. First, by responding you’re making people, who may not have read the competitive report, aware of it. Second, you’re admitting that it got to you, which makes your competitor smirk snidely to themselves, rub their hands together, and chortle like a cartoon villain.
To ignore FUD is to play it safe. Why stoke a waning flame? But to ignore is also to overestimate the vastness of your company’s ideological reach (and to underestimate your competitor’s). If not having a public response puts at risk even a solitary opportunity, is the cost of silence greater than the risk of banter?