There are two main schools of advice I’ve come across when trying to position a product:
Pick a Fight
In Rework, 37signals advise setting yourself up as the antithesis to the dominant market player:
If you think a competitor sucks, say so. When you do that, you’ll find that others who agree with you will rally to your side.
Cal Newport describes this second theory as the “Steve Martin” approach:
Be so good they can’t ignore you.
Are both right? Can you do both at the same time?
Michael Dell is a very innovative guy, but what really struck me about his book “Direct from Dell” was that he never mentioned a single competitor by name in the entire book . He made vague allusions to ‘other players in the market’ or simply referenced them as ‘competitors’. In the way back when, I was supervising two teams technical support operatives in Gateway and I was interested to hear what Dell had to say about us (we were their main competition at the time). Nada! Zip! He was too busy keeping his customers happy.
The alternative example – I can think of two Irish web hosting companies that always seem to be at each others throats over something or other. As a result, my impression of both is negative – I don’t want to use either of them.
If You Had to Pick One Option?
Spend your time making your customer happy instead of trying to make your competitors mad. Create something that makes their lives easier and then follow it up with great service.