It’s a competitive world out there for martech companies.
With an unbelievably crowded martech landscape, and technology spend making up an ever-increasing percentage of marketing budgets, how can companies stand out enough to win over customers – preferably before their competitors do so?
One method is through competitor targeting. In paid search, competitor targeting is the tactic of bidding on the brand terms belonging to your competitors – so if a user searches for “Google Ads”, they might be presented with an ad for Microsoft Ads, in an attempt to entice them into buying spending with Google’s rival instead.
Google has allowed targeting of competitor brand names in PPC since 2008 (when you may remember a drawn out legal battle between Interflora and MS began). What you can’t do is use your competitor’s brand within the ad copy – and it’s worth remembering that although MS did not use the Interflora name in its ads, a judge deemed in 2013 that the ads may have led the average well-informed internet user to think that MS was a member of Interflora’s network.
Putting this case aside, it’s worth knowing that competitor bidding can be expensive, might incur similar tactics against your own brand, and may be wasted money on local searches (where users may be looking for a store, for example). However, when done right it is a great tactic to coax potential customers from rivals.
Once a business is in front of their rival’s customers – or potential defectors – they only have a few seconds to make an impression. In this situation, some witty ad copy goes a long way towards making their ad leap off the search page, highlighting their benefits, and even making the user laugh.
Here are nine examples of martech companies using witty and clever ad copy to get ahead of their competitors in paid search.
In this example, AI copywriting company Phrasee has used humorously self-aware copy to target users searching for its main rival, Persado. Persado has been around a couple of years longer than Phrasee (it was spun off from a larger mobile marketing firm in 2013), and after completing a $30 million Series C funding round led by Goldman Sachs in 2016, it has a lot of clout. The smaller, newer, UK-based Phrasee has to work extra hard to get noticed by customers searching for an AI copywriting service.
In this search ad, Phrasee humorously acknowledges “You might not know us. But you should” and invites the searcher to find out more. The body copy then delivers in succinct sentences exactly why Phrasee’s solution is worth investigating (‘massive time savings’, ‘awesome to work with’ and so on).
Considering that Phrasee sells copywriting, it has to make sure that its own ad copy comes up to scratch, as a taster of what the customer could be in for – and this delivers. My only nitpick is that using regular title case and lower case in the ad body copy – instead of initial caps on every word – would be more effective in making the ad sound “human” (but who knows, maybe Phrasee have tested that).
Team management solution monday.com has several ads out targeting its competitors in the CRM and project management space by highlighting its advantages over alternative solutions. The ad headline does this in a tongue-in-cheek way using the word “actually” – “A new CRM alternative that’s actually easy to use!”
It’s enough to draw the user’s eye (particularly if they’re wearily searching for alternatives due to boredom, or frustration, with their current tool), and the body copy offers some persuasive reasons for switching – “Get started in less than 2 minutes” and “24/7 support” along with a nice 4.8 star rating in the Salesforce-targeted ad, and social proof (“Trusted by +2,800,000”) in the Wrike-targeted ad.
You can also see that the ad copy has been adapted to highlight different features depending on whether the user is searching for a CRM tool or project management tool – it might seem basic, but some would overlook this.
CRM provider Greenrope has a clever ad out targeting its competitor Act-On, with a play on words in the headline (“Act On Acting Out For You?”) This might be slightly more appropriate if Greenrope placed their ad on a search term like “Act-on alternative”, which suggests an intent to switch, but it’s still clever and draws attention to Greenrope’s rival offering.
Given that Act-On has the top ad spot for its own search term, with sitelinks taking up even more SERP real estate, Greenrope’s headline really needs to stand out. There are also some useful quick links at the bottom to lead searchers to the right information, with “Pricing Information” at the head and “Shop Products” in a central position.
Another ad that uses a pun on its competitor’s name to make a case for switching to a rival solution. Unlike Greenrope, this copy from Pipedrive is a little more relevant given that the term being targeted is “freshworks competitors”, indicating some intent to switch or at least investigate the competition.
Pipedrive takes advantage of this with a punny headline suggesting that the searcher might be fed up with Freshworks, and inviting them to try Pipedrive, the “#1 Rated CRM”. Even if the searcher was looking for an organic list of CRM solutions similar to Freshworks and didn’t plan to click on an ad, the headline will at least make them pause for a moment and smile.
For those who are in the market for a new CRM, the body copy is packed with advantages that Pipedrive can offer. The sitelinks at the bottom also highlight the pages a new customer would be most likely to want to click on – “Why Choose Pipedrive?”, pricing plans, and more about Pipedrive’s “#1 CRM Software” rating – and the company has also taken the clever step of providing more info about its Silver pricing tier, which will attract customers looking for something affordable that also has plenty of features.
jostle.me’s PPC ad targeting competitor SharePoint is a bit more understated, but it does a few things that work well. First of all, it mirrors what the searcher is clearly looking for in the headline of its ad – “The SharePoint Alternative”. Secondly, it’s geared towards targeting an issue that many people obviously experience with SharePoint.
A quick Google search for “SharePoint Intranet” will reveal that it’s a popular solution for building company intranets, but it has issues that competitors are quick to capitalise on (case in point, the article I just linked to was written by a SharePoint competitor – another effective way to carry out competitor targeting).
jostle.me’s ad copy does this by inviting searchers to “Discover a modern intranet”. The first line of the ad body copy carries this thread through, informing searches that they can “Spend less time looking through Pages and more time getting work done”, presumably another common issue with SharePoint. Finally, the sitelink at the bottom, “Your Intranet Dead?” directly invites users whose intranet has given up the ghost to reach out.
Instead of the expected pun on a competitor’s name, embrace.io’s ad targeting competitor New Relic is a pun on its own name, inviting searchers to “Embrace A New Way to Monitor”.
There’s not much else to say about this ad, which is short and to-the-point. It lacks bells and whistles, but concisely highlights its product offering and key features in two lines of ad copy.
Hatchbuck’s PPC ad above is another one that targets its competitor’s weak points. Hatchbuck knows the searcher is looking for an alternative to Hubspot, and has decided to major on its own simplicity and affordability in comparison to its “bloated” competitor.
Hubspot is a well-known and well-established inbound marketing solution, so for a lesser-known platform like Hatchbuck, one way to stand out is to concentrate on a couple of key differentiators, rather than trying to list too many features. To that end, the sitelink at the bottom highlights its most affordable pricing tier, along with the cost, to attract searchers who might be looking for something cheaper.
This PPC ad from SpyFu, targeting competitor SEMrush, made me laugh. It acts as a humorous reply to the search term – “SEMrush competitors? Are you kidding?” before presenting the “solution”: “SpyFu Unlimited – Only $33”.
It’s memorable, and puts across the most persuasive element of SpyFu’s offering: its price, which is 1/3 the cost of SEMrush’s cheapest pricing plan. SpyFu also uses its ad copy to reinforce the “unlimited” concept, which appears a total of five times, including the headline and sitelinks.
Sysomos’ PPC ad, above, is very straightforward and doesn’t contain any layered meanings or plays on words, but again, I like the way that it “answers” the search query, giving it a self-aware tone. “Searching for Crimson Hexagon competitors? We can help you.”
The ad body copy is short and doesn’t spend much time highlighting Sysomos’ features, though the sitelinks also serve to entice searchers into learning more about the platform.