“To be succcessful, I absolutely have to know what my competitors are doing well and where they are falling down. Topline’s work in this area is exceptional. They separate fact from fiction and get me the answers I need.” – Gamble Heffernan, SVP of Product Management, Healthgrades

The internet has enabled technology companies to push vast amounts of marketing information to potential customers. We all know that much of marketing-ware is hype. However, in the spirit of Andy Grove’s ‘only the paranoid’ survive’, you need to know the fact from fiction. Knowing your competitors’ true capabilities is key to selling against them, but also critical to your product roadmap- to build differentiated products.

Managers can spend significant time gathering competitive intelligence on websites and reading industry and analyst reports. While those activities are certainly provide some value, we’ve found that by far, the most important competitive information comes from your competitors’ customers. Only by speaking with their customers can you cut through the hype and learn what competitors really have and what steps you need to take to beat them. Our experience has proven that this first hand information is critical to answering questions such as:

• What do customers truly value and how do you and your competitors stack up on those dimensions?
• What are the real reasons customers purchase product?
• Who is in the consideration set?
• What do competitors really deliver?
• How have their products or services actually performed relative to the promises and the competition?

We had a recent client, a market leader, who had lost several deals over the last 6 months to 3 recent market entrants and our client needed to know how to respond. Our research discovered that of the wide range of innovative capabilities claimed on their competitors websites, press releases and whitepapers, there was one capability that had a major impact on purchase decisions and a second that had some impact. Our client then changed their development priorities to address the gaps and armed their sales force with messaging and tools to position themselves against these new players.

While your competitors’ customers may not be eager to talk to you, we have found that they are more open to talking to third parties. Our experience has demonstrated that customers will happily share their experiences and opinions if the vendor is excluded from the conversation.

If you are facing competitive pressures and need deep insights into how you really stack up on what matters, let us know.