At what point do you consider competitive information in your messaging?
It all depends on your intent, your market and your business operational setup. With regards to intent, you can use competitive information to inform your unique and differentiating features and solutions. This can certainly help you craft a more compelling narrative that uniquely stands out. I would however, never mention the competition in your broad narrative. I would use it only to inform what solutions you can focus on that will help you differentiate your product or brand.
If you do intend to mention your competition in your messaging, keep in mind that certain markets (like Healthcare for example) have stricter regulations around competitive benchmarking, and you need to have hard evidence to demonstrate your product or brand superiority.
Finally, if you are part of a B2B company, you are likely to have a sales team that needs marketing support, especially with their sales pitches and presentations. Here it’s very important to have a list of objection-handling messages to empower your sales team with closing those deals. These sales deals can become very competitive, and sometimes you need your sales team to be able to sell on the value of your products instead of competing on the price.
You need to consider competition before you even start your messaging. For me, messaging should build off of positioning and a strong positioning statement should encapsulate differentiated product strategy, including how this thing we’re offering is better than other stuff that’s out there. That’s how you keep your messaging from sounding vague and generic and ensure your company has a point of view on a space and problem set. I’ve seen a bit of a trend recently where PMs, especially, don’t want to go deep on competitors (as if to not sully their own novel ideas I guess?) and so competitive positioning is sometimes de-emphasized or is generated downstream, in a GTM team rather than baked into the rationalization for why to even build a thing in the first place. That’s nonsense - every one of your customers is scrutinizing your offering against your competitors so you need to know what’s up.
I think there are two ways to look at this. One is differentiation. What, specifically, does your product or company do that's different from other/existing solutions. This should always key component of messaging. It's the answer to "why us?". Intro presentations close on key differentiators, it's the points you work into the demo script, etc.
Where I'd caution is getting too concerned with specific competitors as you build messaging. That can narrow your focus, and ultimately make you look small. Sellers can be armed to respond to specific competitors, but as a general practice I think messaging should take a broad view, and paint your product/company/solution as completely unique in the market.
During the development of the value proposition and/or positioning statement stage is when I start to incorporate competitve information in messaging. Once it is clear where we can win or differentiate, then it is highlighted in the statement and validated/proven in the reasons-to-believe and proof point stage.
Check out my answer above on how to weave competitive into your messaging.
Whether your working on messaging for a company, product, GTM motion, campaign, etc.. I think you should always weave in competitive positioning into it. Whether positioning against a vendor or against the status quo...it should live there.