Everybody Lies: Competitive Analysis and Pay for Play

Over at Spiceworks, I saw this fascinating note from someone who works at another backup vendor:

Do lies include a company’s competitive analysis of another company? or is that just considered selling?

I thought this was a great question; so I wanted to address it fully here.

In my opinion, it depends on whether the competitive analysis is opened up for review. In other words (and this is absolutely, positively subjective), I think that it’s a good idea as long as the company says, in essence, “this is our best-effort at the truth – let us know if there’s a problem with this data and we’ll fix it.”

When I read this comment, and then looked at our web site where we have competitive information about our companies and others, what I realized was that we don’t have a link for someone to inform us if they believe the information to be in error. When I raised this, the folks in marketing told me that they would fix it. I thought it already existed, because we had already been informed about two errors that we had then fixed.

Of course, everyone makes their own decision about “lies” and “selling.” For example, one common practice in the industry is paying for a third-party to do a competitive analysis that is touted as “objective” but since it’s paid for tends to be slanted in the direction of the company paying the bills. In marketing, this is commonly called out as a “third-party authoritative” piece. I actually think even this is fair as long as the other company is given the chance to refute. But I always wonder if the buyer understands precisely “how the sausage was made” when these are distributed.

To me, this is in the same area as “pay for play” awards. I don’t think anyone is lying, but I do think that there is a “selling” that goes on in which the truth is – well,¬†obfuscated.

One reason I think that Spiceworks has 1.9M users and is growing like a weed is the continuing rise of these types of techniques.

In any case, that’s how I see it. If you have a different opinion, I would love to hear it.

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