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We find frequently that some of our clients know nothing about their competitors. They might know who they are — as in they can name them — but they don’t know much about what they’re doing or how they’re approaching a similar market. This makes no sense. There is a ton to learn from your competitors, and you can learn 80% of it just on their website usually. It doesn’t even require any heavy lifting.

What should you be learning from your competitors and why?

One word of caution

Do not completely copy your competitors. You see this a lot in some industries (cybersecurity is one). When everyone is doing the same webinars and the same content and the same sales approach, it becomes a race to the bottom. Now if one truly disruptive company with a good pricing model comes in, they will be showing decision-makers new stuff, as opposed to the same bullshit they’ve been seeing for years. They will win business. So don’t copy. You need to be unique. Now, all that said, there are things you can learn from rivals, such as …

If you are not the first one, you have to be different!

Positioning

Namely:

  • Who do they seem to be targeting?
  • Any idea of their current client list?
  • How are they discussing the pain points of the industry?
  • What products or services are they developing?
  • Are they moving in any specific direction with their tech?

Customer Language

Namely:

  • What word choice do they use to frame up the issues of your space?
  • Who are they working with in terms of analysts or thought leaders?
  • Is their language pointed at a Challenger Sales model or is it a softer approach?
  • How often do they seem to be emailing? (Def. subscribe to your competitors’ email lists, even if you use an alias to do so.)

Lead Magnets and Entry Offers

Namely:

  • What types of assets are they most relying on (long-form content, webinars, gated content, etc.)?
  • How are their offerings different from yours?
  • What topics and speakers/experts are they using?
  • Go through their entire funnel with a secondary email and see the different touchpoints they are using.

Logo Boxes and Testimonials

Namely:

  • Who’s in the logo box on their website as current/past clients?
  • Who do they use testimonials from?
  • Look at their executives on LinkedIn — who are they getting testimonials and endorsements from, and are those testimonials mentioning specific work they did for a brand?
  • Do the brands seem to fall within specific industries, indicating those are the only places they have/do compete — or is it a wider cross-section?

Sales Cycles and Process

  • If you can learn from industry publications what their quarters are like, you can infer something about their sales cycles
  • How many sales reps/junior sales roles do they seem to carry on their LinkedIn corporate page?
  • What’s the construction you can tell from LinkedIn or other breakdown sites of lead gen-focused employees vs. deal-closers?
  • How much experience do their sales guys have?
  • How much experience do their executives have?

What can all this information do for you?

Primarily it can give you some ideas about how to bolster weak spots in your business. But it can also help you with bottom-of-funnel resources like kill sheets or battle cards. For example, if a key rival is heavily funded but carries a lot of staff, that’s a potential bubble — or if a key rival has limited experience in the industry in executive ranks, that’s something you can point out in sales discussions. You can also point out that most of their testimonials and logos are not from the industry you’re competing with them over a client for.

A lot of companies, even in SaaS, still aren’t great at email cadence, nurture streams, developing prospects through interesting ideas, etc. If one of your rivals is, take some notes. DO NOT COPY WHAT THEY ARE DOING, but take some notes and internally determine how you could get to something similar — similar, but unique to your value prop, business model, and brand.

Finally, it’s just good to know the landscape. You will run into these people at events constantly. Who are they? What are they selling on? What’s their value prop? Where else have they been? Might you have mutual friends in common from a different industry or a past career arc? Could you even learn from them at an industry event? Is it worth coffee/beer/wine?

The more you know in sales, the more empowered you are to sell what you need to sell better. This is all just due diligence research.

Ted Bauer
About the author

I help companies to market their content in the most effective way.