Today, we’re looking at B2B positioning and more specifically at how you can use advanced competitive intelligence gathering exercises to de-position your competitors and win their business. This journey begins with world class competitor research, with the intention of building GTM strategies which are proactive and on the front-foot. In B2B, as is equally the case in other product spheres, the best product/service isn’t the one that is winning; the one that is winning is the one that is perceived to be the best. Therefore the name of this game is market perception and winning B2B mindshare. In a World where its easy to take potshots at competitors who are down, we’ll explore how its far more powerful to de-position them when they’re at their very best. We’ll explore a 4 step process to build out a positioning framework and align it with your GTM strategy.
Competitive intelligence sits at the heart of a proper GTM strategy
Gaining an edge over competitors is crucial in any successful go-to-market strategy. The pandemic years pushed more of the B2B prospecting and customer acquisition process into digital channels, and since then we have seen forward thinking B2B brands winning digitally whilst some incumbents have been left behind. The first step on this journey will always be competitive intelligence, and the gathering of the right data points on your competitors in order to start to build a competitive narrative. Competitive intelligence thus plays a vital role in this aspect, as it can either propel or hinder the penetration of your product in the market.
Successful competitive intelligence programs have the potential to produce heaps of beneficial outcomes if executed proficiently:
- Increased win rates vs. competitors in open deals: The more you know about your rivals, their offerings and their GTM messaging, then clearly the better placed you are to counteract their offerings and out-sell them
- Market narratives and category perception shifting in your favour: The ability to control the digital narrative, through all available channels (owned media like your blogs, outbound sales teams, wider marketing, digital/social channels like LinkedIn) cohesively and collectively is vital output of world class competitive intelligence
- Increased sales velocity as prospects move through buying stages much faster: Understanding friction, understanding market gaps, understanding objections, understanding competitor weaknesses all allows a proactive brand to get on the front foot and close more business.
Of course, nothing I said above is revolutionary however in mid-2023, many of the companies that we work with here at FunnelFuel (judging by our CAB sessions, customer round-tables and the wider events that we attend/speak at/sponsor) continue to struggle to utilise competitive insights to drive meaningful opportunities, pipeline and revenue. As a result, sales confidence remains a challenge amongst GTM teams.
From what I can glean, most companies seem to build competitive intelligence which are centred around;
- Tracking competitor brand mentions on digital channels
- Slack posts mentioning new funding, sr. leadership hires, key product announcements, or poor online reviews
- Battlecards for use before, during, and after sales calls
- Monitoring live sales conversations to identify competitor discount strategies
- Using those insights to create compelling versus / alternative landing pages, often with pretty fragrant SEO tactics. “FunnelFuel versus [insert competitor name here]” sort of landers.
These activities may offer superficial backing to GTM teams, but they have minimal impact in generating interest or creating a market demand for your products. These are in many ways back-foot, reactive strategies whereas world class competitor intelligence should be putting your brand on the front foot.
The best product or service in your niche is not the one that is winning
A great truism of the B2B market is that the best product is rarely winning in its category. This extends beyond B2B too, its a wider truism. Yet we often see the output of the above superficial market research in thinly veiled attempts to belittle competitors, using tactics aiming to devalue their rivals, disseminating false information, and muddling the facts in the market in hopes that consumers will opt for their product instead of their competitor’s.
Now if your market is being ‘won’ by a product or service which isn’t the best, it is being won by a product or service which is perceived to be the best. This is a really important point – you don’t have to be the best, but you do have to be seen as being the best. All of those digital narratives are framed by market influencers and the narratives you help put into market versus hard fact. Plenty of people voicing an opinion aren’t actually qualified to do so, and the loudest mouths are not always the most qualified or informed. Having those mouth-pieces promoting why your brand is the best is, by an order of magnitude, more effective for your pipeline and bottom line then having them whittle on about why competitorX is poor.
So instead of taking direct, cheap shots at your competitors when they’re down, it’s far more effective to deposition competitors when they’re at their very best. If done optimally, you can create a surge of demand and interest for your products without even mentioning your competitors’ names. This becomes the go-to tactic to position your brand as the sector specialist, as the best-in-class, an almost peerless and competitor-less go-to product or service in your space.
The key is to have a thorough understanding of the market and take action at the opportune moment.
How to de-position your B2B competitors and win mindshare
There are a handful of really powerful tactics that you can employ as you approach this de-positioning exercise. One of the most effective is to discover the value props and messages which resonate with your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
There’s a ton of work that goes into this research, but at a high-level, a strong value proposition and messaging program includes the 4 stages below;
- Auditing: Auditing your existing core messaging statements; split by channel/source and buyer personas
- Reframing: Conducting internal, collaborative workshops with GTM teams on new messaging
- Testing and dynamic learning: Testing and refining messaging on real customers and prospects
- Winning buy-in: Achieve leadership buy-in and rollout new messaging
Upon completion of this task, you will have gained a precise understanding of the priorities of each of your specific customer groups, the terminology they use and the technique to communicate using their terminology. You will understand what matters to each buyer persona and how to use their language to explain your solutions to each persona. The better you put it into their language, explaining their problems and your solutions, the stronger the market narrative will become.
Typically, this depth of research into your niche will reveal a precise way that you can position yourself in contrast to your competitors, effectively de-positioning them as the solution for your niche of customers.
When it comes to GTM, de-positioning is just one small component of the plan. Over coming posts, we’ll talk about how to;
- Build a defensible go-to-market strategy that drives meaningful pipeline and revenue
- Perform market sizing and TAM analysis with pin-point accuracy
- Achieve true marketing, sales and leadership alignment
- Run sophisticated market surveys to inform current and future pricing strategy
- Sequence GTM programs designed to create, capture and convert demand with purpose