A comparison chart that includes competitor brands can be a tremendously effective addition to your product’s sales page.
Naturally, introducing readers to other brands carries risk, especially when the features of their product closely align with yours. However, the solution is simple. Create the chart so that your product has the most check marks, x’s, and punched holes. Despite its bias, readers will often still perceive it as the best value.
In addition to subjective markings, there are specific copy techniques that, when applied, can establish your product as both different and better.
Why use a comparison chart?
Prior to the internet, comparison charts were largely the domain of third-party brokers like Consumer Reports. They showed the reader through independent testing, the strengths and weaknesses of multiple products within a category. Savvy shoppers would delay major purchases until reading a review from these unbiased sources.
That’s no longer true. Now, readers look for and expect to see comparison charts on sales pages. It’s strange. The reader knows the chart is biased, like branded content is, but still uses the information to make a decision. In fact, they’re one of the most viewed components of a sales page regardless of the reader’s buying intent.
Comparison charts summarize your sales message. They provide proof for the claims you’re making in the copy. They attract readers invested in your message and scanners. The longer readers stay on site, the more opportunity you have to influence them. A comparison chart is your opportunity to show off the product in splendid detail. Your product will simply not receive the same favorability in a chart that you don’t control.
Readers look at comparison charts to verify or challenge their assumptions.
Comparison charts list features (e.g., compatibility, dimensions) which are, essentially, answers to questions (“Will it work with…?”, “Will it fit in a….?”). Providing accurate information about competing products shows diligence and confidence. The legality of using a competitor as a prop appears to be settled law.
A side benefit of creating a comparison chart is pricing protection. Comparisons help marketers remember the original purpose of the product and the effort that went into its creation. The recall process can justify the current pricing strategy, especially during a slump when the temptation is to cut prices.
Comparison charts may also reduce the burden on customer service by providing ready answers to frequently asked questions.
Why don’t more products use comparison charts?
Comparison charts aren’t appropriate for all products. Three exceptions are:
- Cheap, disposable products. Explaining the advantages of a .43 cent Bic pen over a .22 Acme pen is not necessary.
- Truly unique products. There are some products that have no direct competitors; they are unlike anything else. A standard comparison chart would be a poor fit because the metadata would be wildly different.
- Category leading products. Some products dominate their category. Using a comparison chart would elevate their competitors, implying peer-hood. Naming them gives them free and unnecessary publicity.
Still, allowing for these exceptions, many products in competitive marketplaces avoid direct comparisons on sales pages. Why? Fear of distracting the reader. Fear of litigation. Fear of not being good enough.
It’s an unfortunate position. While sharper copywriting will not fix an audience-product mismatch or magically improve a product’s features, it can highlight a list of benefits that, cumulatively, persuade the reader of your product’s superiority.
Copy techniques for standing out
In direct comparisons, winning products are usually different, not better, says Al Ries, author of Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. You can differentiate your product with subtle copy tweaks.
Why subtle? Because the appearance of objectivity, as referenced earlier, boosts reader trust. Put another way, a patently partial comparison chart will be interpreted in the reader’s mind as mere advertising.
Your product should be the first (far left), center, or last (far right) column in the chart. This fits standard design principles, and it’s where users have grown accustomed to looking.
Avoid ostentatious design differentiators like screaming read circles and slash marks unless aggressive, direct marketing fits with your brand.
#1 Blended copy
The copy in your product listing page should match the copy on the rest of the page. The blending of tone and text is a subtle way to underscore your product’s legitimacy; it reads like the “approved” choice.
Search marketing agencies know this. They always try to match keywords with landing page copy. Why? Google rewards continuity in the form of relevancy scores. That lowers the cost per click. score).
Focus on the copy that introduces and immediately follows the comparison charts. These transition points “grease” the flow, encouraging the reader to keep going. On the other hand, inconsistencies in copy signal change, allowing the reader to disconnect.
#2 Spirited copy
Product copy has one goal: consumption. Standard direct response copy techniques encourage reading and aid comprehension. These techniques work, even in tight spaces. Use the following to move the reader forward:
- Active voice
- Short sentences
- Vivid adjectives (“picture” words)
- Exclamation points and question marks
- Question, answer logic
You can also make competing products less attractive by using the passive voice, longer sentences, dull words, and periods alone. It’s the same tactic producers use on video to create contrast between two choices. The “winner” is the one bathed in good light, while the “loser” languishes in poor light.
#3 Kitchen sink copy
The comparison chart you design should exhaustively detail every feature of your product. Ensure the column headers stay fixed as the readers scroll. List features from most important to least. If you’re thorough, your product will have the most marks. Blank spaces in your competitor’s columns disfavor them.
You can always edit your column for length. However, long-form copy is a proven method for differentiating similar products (“the more you tell, the more you sell”). The cascade of features may cumulatively shift the balance in your product’s favor.
Readers look at comparison charts for guidance when deciding between similar products. The charts in your marketing communication should establish your product as meaningfully different and better than its competitors. Specific copy techniques, applied at key points, can do that.