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Don’t Be Afraid of Comparison Shoppers

Showing how solutions stack up helps everyone involved, especially when compared to industries where it isn’t available.

Since the best time to evaluate a summer camp is to see it when kids are actually there, this is a busy time of year for parents of prospective campers. We find ourselves in that boat as next year our oldest WILL be going to sleep-away camp (however reluctantly).

As a summer camp shopper, there are no shortage of options, particularly if you have a wide radius of acceptable locations. There are coed camps and single-sex camps. There are options for every religious flavor you can think of and plenty that are 100% secular. There are camps with pools, camps with lakes and camps with pools AND lakes. The list of options and differences goes on and on and on.

And herein lies the problem. Aside from families with some sort of “legacy” at a particular camp or peer group alignment (i.e. all the kids from my kid’s church/school/town go to a specific camp), one is presented with a completely overwhelming array of choices. And unlike real estate, cars and colleges with “unbiased” rankings and reviews to help potential customers narrow down their choices, there is very little to help the camp shopper and no Consumer Reports-style methodology.

Due to the lack of sweeping matrices stacking up each camp against the others, there is no comprehensive filtering systems to find the perfect camp for Timmy, the gluten-free drama nerd that still likes rock climbing and refuses to swim in anything without chlorine. Nor is there a series of check boxes that will spit out Tabitha’s dream camp where she can dress up like a princess while riding a pony and then break into songs learned from the Esperanto all-camp musical.

But solving the camp discovery and selection problem is not really the point, and plenty of people have tried. Voluntary feature-by-feature comparison is not going to happen because you can’t arbitrarily rank “magical” vs. “life-changing” vs. “best summer ever.”

Beyond Summer Camp

In business, however, there usually are some fairly obvious feature-by-feature comparisons to be made between competitors or alternative solutions. Depending on the market for a specific product or service, these may make a lot of sense. Here is an example where lining up the competition side-by-side helps potential customers see how a company’s offering stacks up:

sugarsync

As the above matrix was created by SugarSync, it only includes things they offer and makes them look good. It is obviously even better when there is an independent service providing this:

cloudcomparisons

Unavoidable Comparison Shopping

Even if your company doesn’t want to think of itself as just a boiled-down set of specs and features, this type of evaluation is destined to be part of the purchase decision process for many buyers. Depending on your space, these may need to be front-and-center, or it might just be something for your tool box if a particular prospect heads down that road.

Regardless, it’s important to have these available and not be afraid of including features that the competitors have and your product may not; you may have good reasons for having skipped it, your solution may be more tailored to particular niche or vertical markets, or it may be on your roadmap. If it is something your target market cares about they will bring it up anyway, and this at least shows you have consciously excluded it instead of them thinking you are trying to hide it or haven’t even considered it.