You can control the information you put out into the world about your brand and product, but you can’t control what your competitors say about you. And your competitor’s sales team may well employ the old FUD tactic in how they talk about you to your prospects. To overcome FUD in the eyes of your leads, you need to understand what it is and how to effectively combat it.
What is FUD?
FUD stands for fear, uncertainty, and doubt. In the product marketing world, it refers to a sales tactic some use that’s all about inspiring negative emotions in a prospect toward a competitor. Instead of keeping the focus in the sales process about what’s good about their own product, they shift the conversation to the (sometimes imagined) consequences of buying the alternative.
FUD tactics are often (but not exclusively) used against businesses that are new or offering innovative products that may seem less proven in the eyes of their audience. Competitors can use the language of risk to emphasize themselves as the safe choice. Because they’re a known quantity—the argument goes—you can trust you’re getting a proven product from a recognized brand. Who knows what could happen if you go with those untested upstarts over there?
5 Steps to Combat FUD
If you are the untested upstarts—or even if you’re not, but you’re in a position where a competitor can paint you as a risky choice—you want to be prepared for FUD arguments. Here’s how to proactively take them on.
1. Know your competitors.
In order to anticipate the things your competitors might say about you, you need to figure out they are. Start by researching the other businesses in your industry and creating a list of every company that’s likely to see you as a competitor. Learn what you can about the company:
- How long they’ve been in business
- How many employees they have
- How much they make in a year
- How they’re funded
- Their reputation in the industry
Then find out everything you can about their products, and specifically how they differ from yours. What are the main things they might point out to prospects as something you lack in comparison? Spend some time seeing how they market the product. What’s their main messaging? What channels are they using? Who are they trying to reach?
This step is a lot faster and easier if you invest in a competitive intelligence product. Specifically, one that collects all the relevant information you need about your competitors in one dashboard, and puts it into a format that allows your product marketing team to more easily make sense of it all. This will speed up the process of getting familiar with your top competitors, and gaining clarity on where your product fits into the larger market.
2. Identify all your comparative weaknesses.
As a product marketer, you’re used to focusing on what your product does well. Now you want to take a step back and try to see your business and product from the perspective of a competitor. What about you could they seize on as a flaw?
Consider factors like:
- Are there features competitor products have that yours lacks?
- Are there use cases that make sense for their products that don’t apply to yours?
- Are you charging more than they are for a (seemingly) comparable product?
- Is your business newer, and therefore less proven?
- Is your product more complex, and thus difficult to learn?
- Do you have a smaller staff than they do?
It’s important to avoid feeling defensive as you go through this step. If your product will require more training to learn than a competitor’s likely does, that’s important to acknowledge here—even if you’re confident the extra time is worth it for what your product can provide.
And it’s worth trying to imagine claims they could make that aren’t accurate or legitimate, but may look convincing from the outside. Could a competitor look at your staff size and say there’s no way you can provide adequate support for a client’s needs, even though you know your team is sufficient for the number of customers you serve?
3. Figure out the best way to address each weakness.
Work with your team to go through the entire list of weaknesses. For each one, determine how best to make a case to your audience why it isn’t a problem. Make sure the argument you make is framed from their perspective. It can’t be about you, it has to be about them and the fears and concerns they have.
As an example, if your product is more expensive than others in your industry, put together a cost-benefit analysis. How much money will your customers make and/or save from using your product? If it’s a feature your product lacks, explain why your product makes that feature unnecessary or unimportant.
If at all possible, talk to actual customers to inform this step or use the feedback you’ve received. In the last step you were trying to get into the heads of your competitors. Here you want to view each issue on your list through the eyes of your audience, so your response speaks to what matters most to them.
4. Address them head on in your marketing.
It’s always better to appease potential fears proactively than to be put on the defensive. Develop product marketing materials that address each of the weaknesses you identified. Put the responses you worked out into all the formats your audience consumes—blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc. This doubles as an easy way for your marketing team to gain relevant topic ideas, and a good method for nipping FUD complaints in the bud.
5. Prepare your salespeople for handling objections.
Use the work you’ve done to equip your sales team to be better prepared for FUD-related objections a prospect might have. If a competitor is planting doubts in a lead’s head, your sales team are the ones who will face the challenge of responding in real time. Make sure they have a good answer prepared, so they’re never caught off guard.
Measure and Learn
Being prepared to overcome FUD is just one part of a strong product marketing strategy, but you can and should measure how well the messaging you’ve created performs. Identify the best product marketing KPIs to measure the success of your FUD responses. Do the visitors that consume the content that addresses FUD complaints take any further action? Do the prospects that bring those concerns to salespeople still become customers?
Tweak your messaging as needed to improve results. You may not get your FUD responses perfect on the first try. But simply by going through this exercise, you’ll be in a stronger position to move leads through the funnel. And you can use your metrics to learn and strengthen your responses as you go.