7 steps to knowing your competition before you go-to-market

Information is a powerful thing. Incomplete information, however, can be dangerous and often leave you in the lurch. Competitive analysis can often leave you with more questions than answers. It’s tedious and time-consuming, but often worth the effort, especially if you’re looking to launch a new product or service in the market and want to go in with your eyes open. How can you get the information you need and how should you use it? This quick checklist hopes to answer some of these questions.

Step 1

Identify your top 5 competitors: direct as well as indirect
Your competitors are on the same journey as you are starting now. Staying tuned to what they’re doing can teach you what they’ve done right and what they’re getting wrong. Their study is like a masterclass for you and your team.

    • Direct competitors are companies offering the same product or service
    • Indirect competitors are companies offering a different product but addressing the same needs

 

Step 2

Be an information ninja
It is said, keep your friends close but your enemies closer. It might sound a bit dramatic, but holds true in the world of business as well. No competitor will handover information willingly, so if you’re looking to make some very informed decisions about your go-to-market strategy, you’ve got to look in the right places and be almost ninja-like in the way you acquire information and the insights you derive from them. Here is where you begin.

    • Study the resources on their website (datasheets, whitepapers, case studies etc.)
      1. This will help understand what problems their products are solving and how, what services they have designed around them.
      2. It will also help understand their value proposition and key brand pillars.
      3. Look at customer testimonials and case studies. These will tell how they are perceived and what they are valued for.
      4. Look at partnerships that competitors have to understand the business model.
    • Analyze what they post on social media (key messages they are trying to deliver)
      1. Understand how they are communicating the value they bring to partners and customers.
    • Read what other analysts are writing for them
      1. Analysts can be great influencers in the B2B technology market.
    • Conduct in-depth secondary research by looking for information on them in trade publications and on industry platforms 
      1. Analyze how they are adapting as per industry trends

Step 3

Conduct a SWOT Analysis
Breaking down your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats is a powerful way to evaluate your company or project, whether you’re a team of two or 100. 

    • Identify competitor weaknesses – now these are gaps that your product or service should fulfil.
    • Identify threats (these are mostly external events) and analyze if your company will be facing similar threats or if it is possible to reverse the tide in your favor.
    • Capitalize on the opportunities by accordingly adapting the business model.

Step 4

Analyze the messaging DNA
The messaging DNA of a brand is the pillar of the messaging framework – the unique values and benefits that make strong selling points about a brand that are usually reiterated across all communication. This will help you understand the areas in which they are focused on establishing a brand identity. You may find out that they are all over the place or they are very disciplined in their approach.

Here are some questions to ask about a competitor’s messaging DNA:

    • What messages are they highlighting and reinforcing consistently on their website and in their content?
    • What kind of bold claims are they making?
    • What are the customers saying about them (in other words, what are they asking their customers to reinforce about them)?
    • How are they building their credibility in the market? Are they continuously investing in awards, participating/leading in industry forums, have a cadence of customer testimonials and case studies, being referenced by third parties, etc.?
    • How are they portraying themselves: protecting their turf (in other words justifying their relevance even though the technology has moved on, are they adapting to what is happening in the market, or are they portraying themselves as leading the innovation)?

 

Step 5

Be where your competitor is
Keep a pulse on the competitor’s activities, campaigns, and messaging. Your competitor’s messaging is a window into their product positioning and target customers. This will allow you to purposely differentiate while at the same time understand the messaging. 

    • A simple way to do it is to subscribe to their newsletter and blogs and look at topics they are promoting.
    • Attend their webinars.
    • Follow them on social media.

Step 6

Keep an ear on the ground.
Many people underestimate the value of social data and its actionability, but every second 60,532 GB of internet traffic is taking place. Digital listening techniques can be used to track thousands of industry, buyer, and competitor conversations to surface newsworthy, real-time insights as well as past historical data.  

    • Look for customer reviews of the competitor products on public forums such as Gartner peer insights, Spiceworks community, Reddit, G2 Crowd, and other such forums relevant to your industry.
    • Look at how analysts and independent media publications representing the company are talking about it.
    • Look at how other vendors in the space compare themselves with the competitor. They might have thought of points that you have not considered.    

Step 7

Align everyone internally and work collaboratively
The ultimate goal of competitive analysis is to take that information to street-level sales. This passage of communication needs to work both ways, as the people on the ground who are talking to customers daily, know the pain points and the offerings of the competitors better than anyone else. That’s why it is important to look beyond datasheets and separate wheat from the chaff with the help of evangelists spread across your organization who are a treasure trove of information. Here are some ways to do this:

    • Create a private discussion group (on Teams, Slack, or other community engagement channels) for everyone in your organization (sales, sales engineers, support, product management, engineering, customer success teams, and product marketing teams) to share their market findings about competitors.
    • Have a follow-up with sales after every customer meeting and track the incumbent vendor and any insights gained on them from the meeting. Ask sales to find out why a customer is looking for a change and why their incumbent provider is not able to meet their needs.

Alignment is not a one-time activity but an on-going mission. Ensure that the flow of information around competitors and products is steady and constant. This will help each member of the organization, irrespective of the department they are in or whom they report to, become aware of your competitors strengths and weaknesses. It will also help them understand the purpose of your product and brand better and align them to the overall needs of your customers. 

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About Author

Ratika Garg
Ratika Garg

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