How to review your competition online

Listen and subscribe on: iTunes | Stitcher | Buzzsprout | Spotify

Notes

How do you feel about reviewing your competition on your website? Many people stay away from this subject and avoid getting involved. 

The reality is your prospective customers are comparing you against your competition. They may have already researched your competition. 

People need to know what the difference is between you and your competitors in order for them to make the right buying decision for them.

Have you considered that reviewing your competition has possibilities of driving sales into your business?

Is it possible for you to be the expert and give prospective customers the information they need in the easiest way?

In the episode, Chris is joined by Cara Mackay, the Managing Director of Gillies and Mackay and his beautiful partner. Cara shares how she began reviewing her competition, why it’s important, how to do it and how reviewing competition has grown Gillies and Mackay.

Additional Resources:

Transcription

Chris:
You’ve heard me talk about They Ask, You Answer and the Big Five before on the podcast. We talked about the Zero Moment of Truth. We’ve talked about all the different types of content that we want to create in order to help us help our prospective customers to make an educated buying decision.

You’ve also heard me talk about an example where we’re talking about sheds and summer houses and buying a summer house, and taken through that process. I’ve taken you through that process before because we’ve actually worked with Gillies and Mackay, and I have Cara here, the Managing Director of Gillies and Mackay to talk to us today about something very specific that she’s done with her content at Gillies and Mackay. Hello, Cara.

Cara:
Hello, Chris.

Chris:
This is quite funny because we’re huddled around one microphone, sharing one microphone. We’re trying to make this work the best we can. Cara and I live together, we have a baby together, baby Luna. We’ve been together for the last couple of years. We’ve worked together a lot, and Cara’s also the financial director of the Content Marketing Academy as well. So, we do tons together.

Cara has learned all about content marketing over the last three or four years, she’s really embodied the They Ask, You Answer and the Big Five, she’s taken that to all lengths, video, blogs. Her company has become very successful as a result of content marketing. One of the things I really wanted to speak to Cara about today was something very specific that she’s done within the Big Five, and it’s to do with reviews and reviewing your competition specifically online.

The reason or one of the major reasons that I wanted to talk to Cara about this is because it’s just one of those things that a lot of people will just stay away from. They stay away from it. They don’t want to get involved in it. But Cara is an exact opposite of this, and she’s really taking a deep dive right into it.

So, Cara, tell us a little bit about where this all started. Go back to when this became a thing for you when you were starting to realize that for you to be involved in your prospective customers and that moment when they’re trying to find the right fit. They’re comparing you with your competition, and what that’s all come to for you. Give us a background, give us a story, and let’s take it from there.

Cara:
I think realistically, there is a lot of my job dedicated to giving advice. The buying process for our customers typically starts three months before they actually come to order. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and making sure that what they’re buying is exactly what they want.

I spent quite a lot of my early years in Gillies and Mackay watching and listening to Grant and some other superiors do this. Dedicating time and effort to the customers and explaining exactly what the building was and what the process was to get one and what the customer themselves had to do, and what they had to do after they had one. There’s a lot of information for them to consume.

It’s a fairly natural process for me to go through. Gillies and Mackay have never ever adopted a hard sell approach. We’re not that kind of business. The giving advice and the whole content marketing philosophy followed by they ask you answer just made absolute sense to us.

When it came to the topic of reviews, it wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t like I thought, oh, this is a tricky one. I better be careful. It was a case of my customers lead me to it. It started with a customer based in Edinburgh who was after a garden room. After a quick chat, we decided that we, Gillies and Mackay out of their price range budget wise. But the customer was bowled over by the sort of service that he had received. At that point, he’d asked me numerous questions, which gave me excellent content titles. I was very appreciative of the time that you’ve spent with me also.

I suggested to him that I give him some pointers on what kind of garden room he should be looking for and what specification and what kind of service he should expect for the amount of money that he wanted to spend. I said I would be happy to review any potential suppliers for him. That’s what we did. We found him a garden room from a different company based closer to him, and within his budget. That was maybe the most first organic kind of review that I’d ever done.

Again, it just felt normal. After that, things progressed from there. There’s a thing about the industry I’m in, because its construction, our customers can be easily misled, and they can be told things that aren’t necessarily for their benefit in order for some companies to make a sale. It’s quite deceiving in places and people find things difficult to understand quite rightly. So, if you could build your own shed then you would.

The next example I have of that kind of journey was the Tuin interlocking lock, which was a company that supplied wholesale these interlocking lock buildings. You may be familiar with them. This is a multimillion-pound organization that mass produces these buildings and sells them to distributors. These customers had bought one of these interlocking lock buildings. The building quickly deteriorated into a state that meant it was unusable. It wasn’t wind or waterproof. They were now left with a building that cost them a lot of money, and it was useless.

This wasn’t something that I was unfamiliar with. I knew that this was a thing. Because it’s a building that’s made of inferior timber and really really thick timbers, which means that there’s a huge amount of movement in them. I knew that they wouldn’t withstand the Scottish climate. I went ahead and I did a direct review of Tuin interlocking lock and what they were offering to the Scottish market, and why that type of building wouldn’t necessarily stand the Scottish climate, and why that was. It was specific to the type of timber they were using and the type of construction that they were building to. That was a fairly straightforward, factual information based review, where I could easily support with evidence.

That then naturally lead to the other shed companies within Scotland. So, reviewing shed companies in Scotland, all the shed companies in Scotland. That’s where I am now.

Chris:
Thanks for that Cara. It’s good to get a bit of background and see where it’s all come from. Because I think what you’re talking about, they’re not having the hard sell, helping people to make a buying decision that’s a fit for them. I think most people that are in your possession, somewhere between sales and marketing and directing the company in that position, if someone was to come into your company and tell you what their problem was, and your thing wasn’t a fit for them, then most … I would say … Maybe I’m being a bit naive here, but most people probably would not sell you their thing if it wasn’t going to be the fit. Am I right?

Cara:
Yeah, definitely. You don’t want a customer that isn’t buying the product that you’re selling. They just become a nightmare customer.

Chris:
Exactly. This is the thing when we’re teaching this, isn’t it Cara, that we want to get … First of all, we need people to see it for themselves, to see that these conversations are happening in day to day life. If someone walks into your company, if they come into your showroom, they spawn you for the first time, they contact your business for the first time, there’s a really, really good chance that they’ve already checked out your competition, maybe even had a quote from your competitors or been in the phone call or in a meeting with your competition, right? So, really good chance that that has happened.

To ignore it as if it’s not happening is almost ridiculous. Because sometimes your customer might say to you, “Okay, I’ve been over to see the competition, and they had a product that was like this, how is your product different, better, easier, cheaper, whatever than the other one?” A lot of times people are saying what’s the difference between that one and this one over here?

People need to know this information. Your customers need to know this information. By not talking about it, they’re actually having to try and figure it out themselves using parts of information from different places. Whereas what you’re doing, Cara, which I think is one of the most important lessons here is that you are helping the prospective customer with expert information, the information is coming from a source of expertise. They’re getting complete information and therefore not having to make up and therefore helping them to make a buying decision.

Cara:
When you are the expert giving that information, you’re also taking that responsibility off of the customer for having to try and decipher something that seems rather complex and difficult for them. Also, it’s a case of this is a big, big financial money outlet that they’re just about to embark on. It doesn’t take a lot to dissuade somebody from spending that type of money. That could be spent somewhere else. If you are going to make it easier for them to buy from you by explaining exactly what’s on offer, what’s on the table, more specifically what’s on your table, because this is effectively your content, then it just it’s an absolute no brainer for me. That’s exactly where the information should be coming from.

I wouldn’t want my customers having to decipher the absolute shit show that is my competitor’s websites, they’re horrendous. The construction industry does not know how to do online marketing or websites of any sort of description. It’s almost a disservice if I don’t help them decipher what’s online for them to review.

Chris:
This comes back to the philosophy, though, all right? They Ask, You Answer. That if your customers have a question, if they have a problem, it’s our responsibility to, therefore, answer that question, address that problem, and we do that through our content, video, blogs. More so videos and blogs. That’s what we do.

So, Cara, this has been an ongoing conversation because you made it your mission to review every shed company in Scotland. Now, you’re going to go on to do other products like garages, et cetera. All the different product lines that you offer and review, make it your job, your mission to review them all. What’s happened in the team that you’ve started all of this, is you’ve actually had some success with this, you’ve started to see some real results from this. We could talk about some of those perhaps, how people are anticipating your review article for their area. They’ve got a good idea of how a good shed looks like, and what a bad shed looks like, a manufacturer looks like.

So, we can talk about some of the results. And then what I really want to get into is the responses from people around watching you do this and then thinking that they can’t for some reason. So, let’s talk a little bit about those.

Cara:
Okay. The results, they came pretty quick and fast. It is interesting for my audience to see this type of content is something that they’re not used to, and we’ll get into that later. But the actual results based on engagement and how people were perceiving the reviews were really positive. I haven’t had any form of negativity from any of my competitors with regards to any of the reviews based blogs that I have done. My blogs are very specific, and they have limitations, and they are honest from the start.

I explain exactly who I am, why I’m doing it, and what is included and definitely what is not included. I make it very clear to the reader that all the information that I have in the blog is available to them also. They can go and find that stuff online if they want to. It’s not as if I am just making this up. It’s actually out there.

The results of that have spoken for themselves. As Chris said, there are people waiting for their geographical area to come up on the search. In fact, what happened was I was reviewing Central Belt of Scotland and there was a missing link or the link was wrong and it went to some other geographical area. Which meant that I had like several messages as soon as it was published saying the link’s wrong. You need to check that link. I was waiting to see if so and so was in the blog.

At that point I was like, right, okay, this is something that people are using not just for the views but actually for proper entertainment as well. That was fantastic to see and to feel some appreciation for the work that’s put in. Because these bloody blogs are absolutely a nightmare to write. They take ages and ages. It’s proper research stuff anyway.

Based on that, as a business objective was, that we needed to sell more sheds. We have a huge demand for summer houses, but summer houses can’t be delivered and erected by themselves. We need sheds too. That’s where this category stemmed from. We have several products, but sheds were the first one because we needed to sell more. That is becoming very apparent now. I’m talking maybe, what, six months after publication that we are really truly getting the benefits of the reviews based articles.

Now, Yva from Content Boost will be able to give you the exact facts and figures on the ratings and where they all are. But I know for sure that they are all one number one. That’s a given. The majority of them are ranking for the other business names. That’s a big big deal. It’s something that I wanted as my own personal goal is to be able to achieve that. So, I know that if a customer is specifically looking at a competitor, my reviews article is there for them first.

Chris:
It’s a great little SEO hack in some ways but has to be done properly. That wasn’t the purpose, that was a bonus outcome, was to essentially have Gillies and Mackay rank for other brand names, which is awesome. Got to remember this, this is coming from a place of good. This is about you making sure that your prospective customers, in other words, people that are buying sheds, summer houses, whatever, that those people are finding the right deal for them. The right product, the right service for them. Is to make sure that they’re getting looked after properly.

The one thing I like about what you’re doing, Cara here is that you’re seeing it from the customers’ perspective. You’re basically able to think about what the customer is looking at online, and then give them the content that they need to help them that buying decision. I think that’s important when you’re doing the review article, Cara is that you’re literally sitting in front of your computer, using your keyboard and searching Google, as if you were a customer.

Now, the thing that blows my mind about this is that you spend hours and hours on each of these articles. I think to myself, I just feel like there’s no way that one of your prospective customers will spend all that time or go that deep to get all that information. All I can think is that the people that are buying sheds now are far better advantaged than the people that were before these articles existed.

If you think about it from a business perspective now, why wouldn’t you do this? Why would you make it deliberately difficult for your prospective customers to make a buying decision when there’s a clear avenue or a clear path for you to make it easier for them? If a consultant came into your organization and said to you, “I’m going to show you a way to help your prospective customers to make a decision faster.” You’d be like, “Absolutely. Let’s do it.” And review articles is absolutely one of the ways to do it.

Now, the results we’ve done. Let’s talk about the responses that you get when you talk to people about doing this for their company. Let’s talk a little bit about this because this truly is the biggest shift for people is to say, you know what the hardest thing for me, Cara, is watching people these responses, they can clearly see this work for you, but they still question it.

For me, it’s like looking at someone’s been successful and say, “Tell me how you did it because I will do it too.” Instead, people are looking and going, “I can’t do that.” Or giving it some reason why they can’t do it. Let’s talk about some of the major reasons that people give, immediate excuses, major things, barriers that hold people back from doing these articles, Cara. Maybe we could talk about how we could help people that are listening to go ahead and do this for their company.

Cara:
What I found is instantly, there is a hostility towards their competition in general. Instead of understanding that there must be some kind of likening between you and your competitor, you’re doing the same thing. That’s why you’re in competition. There is this instant hatred and hostility, where they do not want to have any association with them whatsoever. The fear of association with the competition is massive. That’s something that has been explained to me time and time again. The first one is always, why would you give marketing, advertising, free to your competitors? Why would you mention them? Why would you draw attention to them, why would you give any signals to the competition?

My answer to that is because your customers already know about your competition. It is absolutely insane to think that they are not considering them, that they’ve not spoken to them, that they’ve not read their information, watched their videos, checked their websites. That’s just absolutely ludicrous. Of course they have. To think that you’re the only person that they’re talking to is egotistical.

That’s the first objection that I get when I’m speaking to other business owners about the prospect of doing reviews based content, or just even mentioning that their competition exists. The other ones happened to be about confidence. Imposter syndrome is a big, big topic at the moment. That’s something that is very clear when it comes to the competition.

Now, what I would definitely not recommend is for you to start doing reviews based content on your competition, if your service or product is shit, don’t do it. Because that’s exactly what is wrong with the imposter syndrome feeling. If you are not 100% sure about your service or products. If you’re thinking that what you’re offering isn’t good enough, isn’t right, isn’t the best fit, isn’t clear, then it’s not going to work. You need to 100% believe in what you’re offering. Believe in your service, believe in your product, and then you’re able to talk about your competition on an equal playing field. I mean that with utmost respect, and dignity and integrity. You have to be able to do that. If you are seeing your competition above you or below you, then that’s not going to work.

That’s a big, big deal. People will not talk about their competition because they feel like they don’t deserve to talk about their competition, or they feel like what they’re offering to the market is of less value than their competition. Maybe their competition is more successful than then. None of that matters, because it’s nothing to do with you or your competition. It’s everything to do with the customer. If the customer is thinking about buying from you, or your competition, then you need to be speaking about that competition. It’s as simple as that.

The other consideration is the legalities of talking about competition. Oh, for Christ’s sakes. How many people think they’re instantly going to be beamed into court for talking, mentioning, uttering the words of their competition’s name? It is ridiculous. It’s beyond me. It comes from a place where they think that what I’m asking when I’m saying, “Are you going to speak about your competition.” Is I’m asking them to stand bollock naked in front of a camera and start slagging their competition off. That’s not what this is about. It’s got nothing to do with slagging your competition off, trying to make you look better than them. This is about what the customer needs. It’s about what’s important to them. So, what is your competition offering to your customer? That is what you’re talking about. You’re not talking about you versus them, you’re talking about what does the competition have to offer.

That’s important to your customer. If you see it as if you were the customer, then it will make sense to them. Its got nothing to do with slag and folk off. This is not a playground.

The other things that have been raised to me are just the general approach to reviews based content. Why spend time talking about reviews based content when you could be doing other methods or other ways of going to market? Why not concentrate on all the positive elements of what you have to offer? If you keep telling your customer how amazing you are, then eventually the competition will disappear. I’ve never heard so much bullshit in all my days. That was the worst one I think for me, it was they just keep preaching what you do and they’ll come running. It’s not the case. That’s not the type of world we live in, and it’s not built for you.

There were tons and tons of comments in a thread that we started. It’s a whole different kettle of fish that I’m trying to get my head around.

Chris:
Really, what we want to do is get you into thinking that this is possible for you. Because Cara has done it, it means that it’s possible for other people to do this too. As she said, there’s a couple of things that could be holding you back that has got absolutely nothing to do with content marketing and really just about you getting out of your own way and really being proud of your product and proud of your service and proud of your business. And seeing you’re no lesser than your competition and actually no better than them either. That this is really about you providing information for your prospective customers to help them get educated, understand the industry and navigate the industry while they’re going through this buying process so they feel more confident and want to make a buying decision faster, easier, and feel better about the whole process as well.

Really, this is about information. It’s about education, it’s about knowledge, it’s about you being an expert in your industry and using the expertise and that experience that you have to help other people. As Cara has mentioned already, there’s not been one of our competitors that’s come angry about the situation. They probably know that the content exists, but they’re not angry about it.

Cara:
I’ve got a really good example of how it actually acted in the opposite way. I have a timber supplier called Rowan Timber Supplies, and they’re in Airdrie in Scotland. The rep that works for them is called Crawford. He came in the other day to my office a couple of weeks ago. He was in to see dad to get the wood sorted out.

He was saying, “How’s everything going?” Because he always follows everything that we do on social media. He loves it, but he has no intention of doing anything about it for himself, which doesn’t surprise me. But anyway, he said to me, “Gary sends his regards and thanks me for everything that I’m doing on social media.” Gary is the owner of Paterson Garden Buildings in Fife. Paterson Garden Buildings is the only company in Scotland that I would recommend my customers buy from if they don’t want to buy from us.

Typically they offer a similar service to Gillies and Mackay. They make a really good shed. I have said that, I’ve told my customers that. That’s something that I’ve said in the reviews. When Gary is in the geographical area, he will get my praise for that. He also gets my criticism for his lack of online presence, pricing detail and just general specification. But yeah, he does fair well, and he appreciates that even though he can’t do it, that I am doing it and I am educating our industry as a leader and not just as a supplier.

Chris:
That’s a brilliant point. That actually everybody, if your competition is smart enough, they’ll be able to actually see that everybody’s benefiting from this. I think that’s really, really, really key to see that. You’re also teaching your industry, you’re leading by example showing them what really needs to be done here. Some of them will catch up with you. Hopefully, someone will catch on and want to do this.

What is the gap? This is what I’m curious about right now is we’ve covered … I think everybody’s got a clear understanding of why we need to be talking about our competition, and why we need to be reviewing them and comparing them, and what are the differences between this product and that product and this brand and that brand? And why we need to do that. That’s clear because that’s what our customers are doing. We need to be involved in that conversation. If we’re not, then we’re not doing anyone a favor, and we’re definitely not going to be getting as much business or the best customer.

If we’re not doing it, what’s the gap? Where do we go from here? If someone is listening to this right now, and they’re thinking to themselves, this sounds like a really smart move, it’s something that we need to do, how do we actually do it? What’s going to be the next move for them?

Cara:
I think understanding really what it is that your customers are looking for when they’re trying to compare the different service or product that you’re offering.

Chris:
Have you got an example?

Cara:
No.

Chris:
You definitely have an example. Tell us about, when you’re … When you’re reviewing shed companies, you review them with a certain standard, right? Because you know that there are certain things that your prospective customers will be comparing. There’s like three or four major things that they compare. The rest, not so much, but these ones are. So, give us an example of what you do and then help other people think about what they need to do.

Cara:
Yes, that’s actually where I was going. I just saw that you were on about something else. Anyway, yes. The pain points are really, really important for the customer. What is it that makes them want to buy the product or service, and what’s most important to them? For my customers, it’s to do with making sure that the amount of money that they’re spending is the equivalent to the quality that they’re getting. They don’t mind spending a lot of money, but what they don’t want to do is spend a lot of money and get something that’s not good enough.

So, understanding what to expect for their money is really, really important. They don’t fully grasp the specification terminology either. So, identifying to them what it means to make a good shed. What that includes, what the timber is called, what the size of the timber that we’re using, what roofing is involved, what ground works and service that they’re going to get with that building. All of that is crucially important to how much they’re going to pay. That’s something that needs deciphering to them, and that’s fine.

The other thing is the aftercare service. Service in general, are they buying from people that are actually decent, or are they buying from people that are out there to rip you off? So, understanding that they’re going to be looked after. This is a big investment, something that they’re going to buy once in a lifetime and they need to know that they’re looked after. That’s a big part of the pain points that my customers associate when they’re buying a timber building. Regardless whether it’s a shed, garbage, summer house or a garden room.

The next thing is the clarification on what it is that you’re actually reviewing. Because a lot of smoking mirrors happen when you’re talking about influencers when you’re talking about sponsored ads when you’re talking about all that type of stuff. People are instantly on the back foot. They’re expecting for you to lean a certain way and behave or act in your own best interest. If you’re honest at the very, very beginning and explain exactly why you’re reviewing the content, and what it is that your review includes, then it just sets it off from the preset that these guys who are reading your content know straight away, this is this person, this is what they’re going to interview. That’s why they’re doing it this way. This is what’s included and most importantly, this is what is not included.

When you go into the review and you start taking your competition, you stick by those rules. These are your rules, you don’t deviate. You don’t just make one more important than the other or start talking about one of them in a different way than you are going to review the next one. You have to be meticulous, you have to be sticking to the structure and being true to form, doing exactly what you said at the beginning, right through to the end. That is where the content is the most important, is just making sure that you’re clear, factual, impartial and honest about everything that you’re reviewing. If you deviate from that, if you start slagging folk off, then they’re going to instantly stop trusting you.

Chris:
What we’ll do is, if it’s okay with you, Cara, we will pop some examples of your articles into the show notes to save people trying to find them for themselves. We’ll pop them into the show notes. They can go and have a look. The reason I want them to have a look at it, Cara, is because there’s a very specific structure that you use. I’m not saying that people should copy that, but they should copy the concept of having structure and having that forum that you’re talking about. Because that’s the thing that builds the trust, is the consistency in the form. The way that you call out things that are great when people are doing good work when people are not doing so good work. Everybody’s fair game.

As I said, it comes from a good place, a place of honesty, because it comes from the perspective of the customer. This should be really easy for people to grasp if they truly see themselves as being on the customer’s side. There’s a lot of people out there that we know that aren’t on the customer side. Because we’ve all had that bad sales experience. Those people won’t get this. But those people that want to grow their business in the right way, and truly believe that the customer is the person that should be looked after, and is the hero of the story, then those people will actually understand this and get it and know why we need to do it this way.

What we should do … You got anything else you want to add before I wrap things up? Have we covered everything?

Cara:
Just one thing. It was when we were talking about the objections to people wanting to write this content. What happens when your competition is actually better than you? It’s easy for me to say this and have all these reviews articles because I make the best sheds in the world, obviously. There is a time where you will approach a competitor and it will be like, they’re better than me. That’s okay, you can say that. I have said it. There is a company called JML, which is a garden rooms company just on the outskirts of Perthshire. They make beautiful garden rooms, and they are better than ours, they are, and they’re prettier, and they’re made of nicer timber. That’s just the thing. I’ve said it, and I’ve written about it. I am still sold out for 2019 for garden rooms.

Chris:
Awesome stuff, Cara. What I encourage you all to do is to listen to what Cara has got to say. This is a clear strategy in terms of how to drive relevant traffic to your website, people that are looking for … This is really specific. People that are actually interested in buying the thing that you have to offer on your website, looking at your content, getting educated, building up your confidence to approach a company for the first time. It’s all in there. It follows through everything that we teach, everything we’ve talked about on the podcast before.

If you haven’t already listened to the podcast about the Big Five, They Ask, You Answer, and the Zero Moment of truth. We’ll pop them into the show notes for you as well. We’re also chuck in a bunch of examples from Gillies and Mackay in there too.

We’ll chuck in another couple of things in for following Cara if you want to pick her brain. I think you could follow her on all platforms @NattyShedGirl on Instagram and Twitter, and also on LinkedIn as well. Cara is all over the place. You’ll be able to catch up with her.

If you want to ask any questions, go ahead and do that and she’ll be more than happy to help you out. Cara, thanks very much for joining me on the podcast. It’s been amazing. Thanks for imparting your advice and your experience with us.

Cara:
You are very very welcome.

Chris:
I’ll catch you next time. Don’t forget to be awesome.

Thanks very much for joining me on the CMA Podcast today. If you found today’s episode interesting and intriguing and you want to get better results from your content marketing, then join the CMA membership today, at cmamembership.co.uk.

About Nicola Crawford

Marketing PA at the Content Marketing Academy.
In business, I believe in people first.
Mum to two crazy kids, Alaina and Morgan.
Green belt in Shotokan Karate.
Always learning, always growing.