I was recently asked about this tricky subject.  How can you share good advice and interesting topics with your customers and prospects while keeping your competitors out of the way?  And what should you do when your competitors share counter-opinions of your posts to your prospects?  Great questions, and at the risk of being indecisive I’ll say that there are probably exceptions to the advice I’m about to share.  But I offer the following guidelines:

First, admit that competitors will read your blog

If your business is doing well, competitors will read your blog—even if you think you’ve found a clever way to block them.  It’s in their best interest to keep up with the Joneses.  So, recognize that it will happen and move on.

You should not show trade secrets

if possible—obvious to most. Plan carefully how you expand on how your product or service delivers value, but be smart about the details.  If, for example, your company uses a formula to calculate metrics that you share with your customers, talk about your ability to share the metrics, but not about how you calculate them.  Leave the “how-to” off the table in such a case.

Don’t avoid sharing your absolute best advice whenever possible

You want to use your blog’s voice to help prove to your prospects that you understand their issues and can be considered a reliable source of answers for them.  The blog can help you establish yourself as a trusted resource.  This helps you build a dialogue with your target prospects and helps them trust you as you explore any potential for sales with them.

Always be careful to not say something you can’t back up

Don’t give your competitors something to pounce on. A common mistake here is to use an absolute statement, like “we’re the only company that does XYZ”.  This might be difficult to defend and opens the thread to commentary from your competitors.  Instead, change the phrasing to “we’re one of the leading companies that does XYZ”.

When your competitors respond with counter-opinions, don’t engage them

Don’t offer counter-counter opinions.  This would validate their claims—true or not.  A stronger move is to simply ignore them, the subtext of which can be read “it’s not worth my time responding”.

Continually innovate and offer new, leading edge opinions

No easy task, but that’s the way to make headlines and get market traction/interest.  The company held in highest regard by your readers among you and your competitors is the one consistently offering the best value and advice in its thread.  New, fresh, leading-edge material is your constant goal.

In short, ignore your competitors and just focus on dishing out good advice to your readers.  In doing so, you’re building a reputation of solid, reliable advice.  Competitors countering you look weaker for not having led with the same topic you just shared.  You win here by being the first to market with your message—before your competitors.

I believe that keeping valuable content off of your blog and trying to hide advice from your competitors only ends up hurting you.  It’s hard enough to get prospects to read your content.  Share a constant stream of good advice and reap the rewards.  Failing to do so may leave you a well-protected company with a really great secret product and no customers!