Competitive Intelligence: How to Get It and How to Use It
In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, keeping tabs on the competition is critical to your company’s success. By analyzing the competitive landscape, organizations gain valuable insights enabling them to compete more effectively with other players in their market segment. Accordingly, competitive intelligence has become an essential strategic tool for developing product marketing and sales enablement programs to drive success. After all, you can’t keep up with the competition if you don’t know anything about them.
The value of competitive intelligence
The research may call for the commitment of substantial resources, both time and money. So what’s the payoff? It’s a powerful tool for shaping your company’s strategic differentiation vis-à-vis the competition, and it aids in the development of messaging and product positioning.
The objective is not to discover what competitors are doing with their marketing strategies and product offerings and then match them feature-to-feature. Rather, you want to identify things that your company is doing differently, more effectively than your competitor — a sales tactic, product offering or value proposition that has helped you win business in the past. Something your competitors aren’t doing, say a unique pricing or support scheme or a referral program. Then, highlight that point of differentiation in every sales pitch you make.
Use the information to arm your sales team to overcome objections. Instead of getting trapped in one-to-one feature comparisons, give your team ammo to demonstrate how your solution/product performs better than the competition in use cases that are relevant to prospective customers. Ultimately, competitive intelligence helps you shine a spotlight on your company’s strengths and puts you in a position to win more sales opportunities.
Knowing what your competitors are up to will also help you identify new business opportunities, such as expanding operations in underserved geolocations and vertical markets, or creating new products and services that outperform your competitor’s offerings. Another potential use? Surveying the competitive landscape puts you in a great position to identify acquisition targets — if that is part of your plan for growing your business.
As for documentation, use the intel to create sales and marketing presentations, messaging documents, positioning statements, battle cards, and more. A typical competitive battlecard might include, for instance, the following buckets for each competitor:
- Competitive Products
- Product Pricing
- Company Facts
- Market Presence/Company Reputation
- Sales Tactics
- Target Markets
- Strengths & Weaknesses
After analyzing the competition, create a follow-up document explaining how to overcome customer objections and covering sales scenarios/use cases where your company is likely to win, or lose.
Competitive analysis checklist
Now that we’ve covered the why, let’s delve into how to conduct a comprehensive competitive analysis:
1) Identify Your Competitors
Simple research into your market segment should be enough to identify your key competitors. Odds are that senior management and your sales team already know which ones are a real threat, and which ones you can ignore. Sales can provide valuable information about your competitors’ sales tactics, the tradeshows they attend, their new product announcements, how they position their products and services, and more. By going head-to-head in sales pitches with the competition, your sales team probably has a good idea of what prospective customers think about your competitors — and how they think your company compares, for better or worse.
2) Check Out Their Messaging/Positioning
A quick review of your competitor’s website will show how they position themselves and who they are targeting. What’s their brand voice, how do they describe their mission? What’s their value proposition, how do they articulate their strengths and competitive differentiation? Investigate their online content distribution channels — blogs, social media, and ads — to get a good grasp on their brand personality. Not to copy it, but to make sure that yours is unique, different, and memorable.
3) Determine Which Products Compete with Yours
Identify the relevant products, and if you can, download any freely available product literature, or even a free trial if possible. Ask your product management/product marketing team to help with analyzing how their feature sets and pricing strategies stack up against yours. If you have current customers who used to work with the competitor, ask them for feedback about their experience and, if applicable, why they terminated the engagement.
4) Research Their Go-to-Market Strategy
Check out the marketing and sales channels they use to promote their competitive products. Look for their social media channels and webinars, search the web for company news and market-share data, and check for tidbits of information at relevant research organizations like Gartner, IHS Markit and Forrester. Reviewing sites such as Capterra, G2, TrustRadius and Gartner Insights can be valuable to help you analyze user feedback. Glassdoor is also a great resource for understanding strengths/weaknesses and the state of the company and its products. Discover how customers find your competitors online and use that information to benchmark your SEO performance against the competition and make keyword adjustments in your content as needed.
5) Perform Win/Loss Analysis
Interviewing customers and performing win/loss analysis can be helpful in gaining insights about your strengths and weaknesses. Your customers might provide some insight into the reason they chose you over the competition. It is easier to get feedback from existing customers, essentially the deals you have won, versus the ones you have lost. However, if you can connect with the lost accounts, you can gain great insight into who they picked over you and why.
As already noted, your sales team is a key repository of knowledge about the competition. In addition to helping you identify your primary competitors and understand how they operate, sales can provide insights into how and why the competition wins sales opportunities. Interview your sales team to learn which competitors you lost to and why they won — and vice versa when your business wins. You’ll get a better understanding of the strengths and weakness of your product offerings and learn how to improve messaging, positioning, and product functionality to better compete against the competition.
The value of competitive intelligence is considerable. Gathering and analyzing it requires a bit of legwork, but, as we’ve seen with our clients, it’s well worth the effort.