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Comparison Tables from Vendors-Fostering Doubt and Distrust

by Hank Barnes  |  February 7, 2017  |  4 Comments

If you follow this blog, you know I spend a lot of time talking about the impact of trust on technology buying.     And, today, I’ll share one of my biggest pet peeves and an area that I believe is a big problem for vendors.

The comparison table.

We’ve all seen them.  A table that shows one company’s product or services and a bunch of alternatives.  It may list specific features or general capabilities but in the end they all seem to end up looking something like the picture below.



Yep, they all say “we are perfect and everyone else stinks.”  Who believes that?  I’m pretty sure the answer is no one.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a table where no one was perfect.  Where, the provider, actually acknowledges areas of the product that are not their focus?   How do you think a customer would react to that?  My guess is fairly positively.

None of these tables (even if you show shortcomings) will (or probably should) show every imaginable feature or capability.  But if you highlight things that others do that you don’t focus on, you are not only being more open, you could be effectively qualifying the opportunity.  If a buyer wants (and truly needs) something you don’t do (and don’t plan to do), then they won’t be a great customer.  Better to qualify them out.

By highlighting what you do (and don’t do), you are creating a more believable differentiation story.   Make sure you choose features or capabilities that would logically be of similar level of importance and coverage as the other things that you list.   Highlight ones you don’t do that you know would be a bad fit for you.

I’d love to see the day where the “We are Perfect” comparison table disappears forever.  I’m not holding my breath, but I’d love to see some providers give the more trustable approach a try.  If you do it, let me know how it works.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: comparison  comparison-tables  differentiation  messaging  trust  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Comparison Tables from Vendors-Fostering Doubt and Distrust

  1. Andrew Lerner says:

    The comparison table is up there with vendormath, vendorspeak and “our difference is our architecture/people”…. great blog Hank

  2. Evan Miller says:

    Great post, and a great idea to help identify areas that outside of scope. Of course it begs the question how far does one go? If you make digital cameras do you start listing all the things that you don’t do that you can find on a smart phone?

    We took a baby step in this direction in our current Buyers Guide ( by publishing our guide as a spreadsheet tool. We intentionally set it up so the user could easily add or modify features list. It is a nod towards this, and though it felt risky at the time was an intentional turning towards greater transparency and trust building.

    If we can identify some areas that outside our wheelhouse, but that we often gets asked about your comments on making it easier to qualify people make sense. I’ll certainly consider this in our next version, and let you know how it turns out.

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Thanks for the comments. The choices have to be relevant to the comparison. So, in my opinion, if you are comparing your digital camera to smartphones, then listing smartphone features (that you don’t have) may be fine.

      But think of the things clients ask that you aren’t great at. In some cases, that may be an area of focus for product improvement. In others, its something you might never do. That would be a great thing to include.

  3. Hank Barnes says:

    One other note. I received a “spam” style comment that basically said “You clearly are not in marketing”

    It made me laugh. But for those with a similar reaction, go get the book “Pre-suasion” I will be reviewing in a future post, but skip to the chapter that talks about how acknowledging weakness increases the likelihood of someone believing you.

    That is marketing magic.

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