Why are product comparisons an important part of content marketing?
You might not realise it but, most days and in the choices you make, you actively pledge your allegiance to one team within a long-standing rivalry – you take one company’s side by purchasing their products and services instead of purchasing from their competitors.
One of the first examples of comparative advertising was the competition between Coca-Cola and Pepsi which initially began more than a century ago after Pepsi was first launched.
In the 1970’s Pepsi was able to gain ground over the better-known brand when they launched the “Pepsi Challenge”, a blind taste test that saw consumers consistently rate Pepsi as better-tasting than Coke.
What Pepsi so successfully achieved with the Pepsi Challenge was a form of product comparison (or comparative advertising).
Comparative advertising, used as part of content marketing strategy, is an effective way for businesses to capture the attention of their target audience.
It is especially popular with startups or businesses branching out into new sectors because it offers a relatable way to appeal to their target customer and to announce their presence.
How does product comparison work?
Just like with any other marketing strategy, the main objective of product comparison in content marketing is to demonstrate to your prospects the value of the product or service you are selling.
However, the way value is communicated is unique to this type of marketing in that it does not focus solely on your audience.
Instead, a product comparison gives prospects something to use as a reference point so that they can better understand what you are selling and how it is valuable to them.
For example, let’s say that you have a business that produces strong, weatherproof work boots.
You could tell your audience how long the boots will last them or how well they grip different surfaces in various conditions but this won’t mean much to the audience until they have tried them for themselves.
However, if you compare your boots to Dr. Martens for example, your audience immediately has a mental reference point by which to infer value.
By doing this you are essentially using your competitor’s reputation as an asset of your own.
Product comparisons have a range of benefits for businesses looking to win new customers – most significantly among the frustrated customers of your competitors who are looking for a change.
Seeing the product or service they currently use compared with another could convince them to try your business and see how much more value they could get from your company’s products or services.
People tend to remember negative information better than we remember positive information. Comparative advertising offers businesses a way to use this trait to their advantage.
Direct v. indirect comparisons
There are two main ways to go about making product comparisons in your content marketing campaigns – direct and indirect.
In a direct comparison, you will choose a competitor (or competitors) and compare your products against theirs.
This is often the clearest way to compare product specifications, prices, benefits and drawbacks as well as answer any questions or concerns that your prospects may have.
Indirect comparisons may not be as straightforward but many new businesses prefer to use this method as it avoids attacking or offending their (potentially more popular) rivals.
With indirect product comparisons you will focus on the features of your product versus the features of other products (for example leather vs vegan leather, hand-stitched vs factory stitching).
It is a positive way of generating favourable comparison without going head-to-head with other companies.
Finding products to compare
Organic (unpaid search) traffic drives more than 50 percent of all website traffic, more than paid search and social media combined.
This is why organic search is such an important tool of any successful content marketing strategy and why it is important to get your keywords right.
There are five main categories for web pages you need to target with your product comparison content marketing:
- [COMPETITOR] alternative
- [COMPETITOR] review
- [COMPETITOR] price
- [COMPETITOR] [PRODUCT]
- [COMPETITOR 1] vs [COMPETITOR 2]
To use the work boots example mentioned earlier, your five page categories for this would be:
- [DR MARTENS] alternative
- [DR MARTENS] review
- [DR MARTENS] price
- [DR MARTENS] [BOOTS]
- [DR MARTENS] vs [SOLOVAIR]
Your keyword research should also include words like:
You can use keyword research tools to find the right keywords for your product comparisons.
These tools will not only show you which keywords to use but also which have the highest search volumes and relevance for your intended audience.
Creating a product comparison
Find out what matters to your prospects
When customers are looking for new products or want to switch from one company to another, studies show that they are most drawn to information that is clear, simple and believable.
The product comparison process follows a similar journey to the B2B buyer’s journey:
- Awareness (top of the funnel): when customers discover that your business exists, through advertising or other outreach,
- Qualification (middle of the funnel): your marketing team provides content, offers or other types of lead magnet to determine whether a prospect has a serious interest in your products or services. Also in this stage, your sales reps make a case for why the customer should choose your product or service over those of your competitors, and
- Decision and close (bottom of the funnel): this includes negotiation, closing the sale and order fulfilment.
Product comparison content marketing could be used at any of these stages, including post-purchase, to provide information to prospects about how your company could provide the best solution.
Product comparisons build trust
For prospects to become customers (and customers to become long-term customers) your business needs to build trust through your marketing campaigns.All of the information you provide must be 100% accurate and you should avoid criticising your competitors.
Accept that there are areas in which your product excels and other areas where your competition does – with the aim of ensuring that the relevant customers find your business.
Include reviews and testimonials from your existing customers and do your research to make sure that you don’t include false or misleading information about your competitors.
Create an outline for your product comparisons
Before you write your comparison post you should create a comprehensive outline that makes sure that you cover all of the important information about your product/service.
- What features and specifications of your product or service do you need to include?
- How do the features of your product/service convert into benefits for the customer?
- How do each of the products you are comparing perform in each area (price, efficiency, ease of use, upgrades etc)?
- What are the main USPs of yours and your competitors products/services?
- What are the main similarities between the two products/services?
- What are the pros and cons of both products/services?
Write your product comparison
Writing effective product comparisons is made easier using the problem, agitate, solve (PAS) copywriting framework.
- Identify a problem
- Agitate the problem
- Solve the problem by directing the prospect to your product or service
Start your product comparison copy by describing the problem or problems that they are most likely having – and that brought the prospect to your website in the first place.
From here you can outline the potential outcomes for the prospect if they do not solve their problem, relating these to your product USPs and making it clear how your product or service provides a solution.
Relating pain points (agitation) to the benefits of your product (solving) helps to make it clear to your prospects that they are looking at something that exactly answers their original search query.
You can read more about writing effective product descriptions here.
Don’t be afraid to present the flaws of your product or service, as inevitably your prospects will find these with or without your help.
If you address these in a product comparison this allows you to work them to your advantage.
If your product is more expensive than that of your competition, for example, you can use this to identify how the extra features or quality of the product makes it better value for money.
This means that if your competitors later present the flaws of your product or service in their own comparisons, your prospects will already know about them and have an explanation to hand – so the criticism will fall flat.
Call to action
A compelling call to action is crucial for any comparative advertising copy.
Decide what you want your prospects to do after they have read your comparison.
Perhaps you want them to order your product or sign up for your service – but you may want to choose something with lower commitment, initially, to further build trust.
A free trial or sample product is high-reward for your prospects and helps you to guide them another step along in the buyer’s journey.
Include your CTA throughout your copy so that prospects are in no doubt what you want them to do next.
In-house product comparison
Comparing your products with those of your competitors helps you to stand out from other businesses.
However, sometimes customers need further comparison to help them to choose a product, even when they have decided on a specific business.
Provide a comparison page that weighs the benefits of all of your products/services.
Prospects can use this page to choose the right option for them or it could convince existing customers that they could get more out of an upgrade to their existing product or service.
You can do this in much the same way as the comparison between you and your competitors but in this case you will want to focus clearly on your benefits and the features that differentiate your products from each other.
Make sure your comparison is verifiable
Ensuring that your product comparison is verifiable is fundamental to any marketing campaign that brings in an outside business.
If you don’t do your due diligence carefully you run the risk of getting into legal trouble.
According to CAP Code rule 3.35:
“Advertisements must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products or services, which may include price.”
This means that you must include enough information in your product comparison to ensure that customers understand what they are being told and are able to check this information for themselves.
Any claims you make should be backed up with information about what they are based on as well as (in some cases) an indication of where prospects can find this information.
Don’t think you can avoid this by simply not including the name of your competitor.
In the past, the ASA has ruled against advertising which lacked verifiability information even when the competitor wasn’t named.
Let More Than Words help
Product comparisons are an area of content marketing which can be extremely effective for generating leads and sales. But this is also an area in which businesses must tread carefully.
At More Than Words, our team has extensive experience with sales and marketing allowing us to create legally sound, persuasive content marketing campaigns that deliver significant returns in the short- and long-run.
To find out more about our content marketing services for clients, please give us a call on 0330 010 3495 or click here to email us.