We all know that much of today’s tech marketing-ware is hype. But, knowing your competitors’ true capabilities is key to winning against them.
Managers can spend significant time gathering competitive intelligence on websites and reading industry and analyst reports. While those activities will 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 are the true dimensions of competition – what do customers really care about?
- How do you and your competitors stack up on those true dimensions?
- What do competitors actually have vs. what they say they have – How have they performed relative to their promises?
- What are the most important steps you can take to increase your competitive win rate and accelerate growth.?
Topline’s Voice of your Competitors’ Customer Approach
Topline’s approach is grounded in the belief that the most useful competitive information is direct feedback from their customers. Competitors’ customers cut through the noise and provide insight into what competitors are truly delivering. 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.
Topline approaches competitive analysis projects with a multi pronged approach to identifying competitor’s customers. The following are examples of vehicles we use to identify competitors’ customers:
- Social media and online research
- Competitors’ references (case studies)
- Online surveys
- Your own sales experience (lost deals)
Our Voice of your Competitors’ Customers project typically involve a quantitative, survey based approach, combined with phone interviews of selected competitors’ customers. Topline leverages its senior consultancy model in which the principals are deeply engaged in all aspects of the work, including both the market interviews and the analysis of the data.
The client is a SaaS vendor that provides software for managing subscription payments. The company was facing rapidly escalating competition from an upstart competitor.
Prior to Project:
Prior to the project, there was internal belief that the competitor was overselling – making promises in the sales cycle that they could not possibly deliver on from a functionality standpoint. The client believed that the competitor’s product was not nearly as scalable as the competitor implied, and lacked much of the advanced functionality required.
Interviewing the competitor’s customers quickly revealed that the competitors’ data model starts to break down at 100 subscription options, and fails completely at 500 subscription options. Therefore, customers with <100 subscription options are very happy while customers with 100 to 500 are ‘okay’. However, at the high end, when the product fails, customers do not blame the competitor, as they view the competitor as acting in good faith.
Topline recommended that the client refocus the sales team on opportunities where they had a true competitive advantage, mainly, 100+ subscription options and train their sales team on how to show prospects to spot the competitor’s limitations, de-positioning the competitor and driving more wins.