How to kick your competitors in the !@#$%*, nicely

There's a nifty marketing technique for telling the world who you are, what you do, how you're different, who you do it for, and why the heck they should care ("they" being your prospects).

I'm talking of course about positioning, and if you've been in business for more than five minutes you've crafted some kind of a positioning statement for your business.

In their classic book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Al Ries and Jack Trout tell us that "positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect." Put another way, it's about getting the prospect to think differently about your company.

And it so happens that there's another nifty marketing technique for getting the prospect to think differently about you that's less well known. It's called de-positioning.

Whereas positioning is about getting prospects to trust that your company can make their lives better, de-positioning presents the competition in an unfavorable light while showing that yours is the company to buy from.

It's an advertising game that a few Fortune 500 companies have recently been playing (and having fun with) on TV. Take a look at Apple bashing MicrosoftVerizon hitting on the iPhoneApple returning the punches,

 Verizon bullying AT&T, and General Motors taking swipes at Honda .

You don't need to be a big firm to apply the de-positioning principles of big companies when marketing your small business, and it doesn't matter if you don't have bottomless pockets to advertise like them. Instead, you can integrate "us" versus "them" messages into your promotions.

Whether your customers are other businesses or consumers, whether you offer services or own a retail store, you can adapt my de-positioning example to knock the competition without specifically naming them.

To de-position: create a checklist of items that your company does and your competition doesn't. The example I created works for an accounting firm:

You can use this format to compare product features or, as I've shown here, for services.

So when you're ready to redo or create new marketing materials, remember that along with your regular positioning statement, de-positioning can be an effective technique to attract more people to buy from you. And when you do it, play nice.

Roberta Guise works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A small business marketing consultant and speaker, she is the founder of San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611.