1 Big Lesson In Competitive Intelligence: Nail A Niche 1 By 1

Posted on 17 Oct
big lesson on competitive intelligence

Competitive intelligence is used widely in B2B SaaS marketing to help you work out who to target. The tricky thing is establishing who, what and why. Because really,  who you think your ideal customer is may not even be the best customers for you to try and win. Lots of SaaS companies target a huge, wide pool of companies and say that’s the “niche” but it’s way too big. If that’s the case, you’re bound to be targeting too many competitors and industries with your competitive intelligence data. So here’s the lesson…

Nailing a niche with competitive intelligence

We’re going to use ourselves as an example of this. There is a process behind how you can work this out too.

LeadSift. We provide intent data if we had to summarize in 4 words. That means email addresses, social media contact information for leads and much more. You could also say that under the “lead information” category you’d find companies like Lead IQ who are a totally different company to us but offer 1 overlapping service between ours and theirs.

Really, there is some legitimate reason we could look at people who interact with Lead IQ. But it’s not the perfect fit. 

For instance, the VP Sales looking at Lead IQ is not a great fit for us. They may literally be looking for direct information about prospects for the team to use. But the VP Marketing looking at Lead IQ might be OK, because they could be looking for live data rather than static. We can work with that. But it’s still not 100% on target. Closer, but not quite.

You can clearly see why we could track this company though. The marketing messaging and the sales process would be hugely different from a perfect lead for us. Which means different and un-optimized processes and inevitably lower results because of that. Our time is better spent looking at leads who engage other companies, but how do we know which ones to look at?

Direct competitors

This is the obvious part. Track your direct competitors who offer a very, very similar solution to you. Simple.

But don’t ONLY track them. There are others who belong to the same category as you, that help a customer achieve the same goal as you that do not explicitly compete with you.

Categories

We provide intent data that helps people target the hottest leads out there. You could say that outside of intent data, there are solutions that help people do that via different methods and we compete with them.

To use an example everybody knows of, let’s talk about Hubspot.

We would define Hubspot as 2 main things, CRM and Marketing Automation. Within that, they have landing page building, blog hosting, social media, ads, email sending, sales and marketing reporting and more.

To name one company that competes with each of those offerings, you could easily think of WordPress, Instapage, Sprout Social, MailChimp and Databox. But they do not really compete with these companies. The use case is too nuanced for Hubspot to talk to an Instagage lead because their offering is far wider and different from what Instapage does.

Sure, in some cases it might work but Hubspot could use competitive intelligence to look at companies defined as CRM and Marketing Automation.

Nimble CRM is not a direct competitor of Hubspot because it is mainly a CRM, not an exact competitor to Hubspot’s offering. But Hubspot could target Nimble using competitive intelligence and have a good use case to talk about with those leads because, in terms of the outcome a lead wants from these 2 solutions, the goal is the same.

CRM is for managing contacts, customers, deals and knowing who you’re talking to. Making sure you don’t overlap with your teammates. Nimble can do that, Hubspot can do that. But they don’t truly compete.

Reviewing new competitors

When you’ve been through every company that could be classed as in the same category as you or that achieves the same outcome as you, review them. Will a person looking at LeadPages convert for you if you’re Hubspot? Maybe, but others may be better to look at.

There is no magic number of competitors to review because every industry is different, with vendors having tons of different features all of the time too.

Partner vendors

This is the fun part. You have to be selective when tracking vendors with this method with competitive intelligence but if you have a hungry sales team, this is golden.

If you’re a marketing agency who works using Hubspot commonly, tracking people who look at Hubspot is smart. Hubspot doesn’t compete with you in any way, but clearly if they are interested in what Hubspot does there is use case there for you to tap into. The same goes for Act-On or Active Campaign in the same use case.

So if you’re LeadSift and you offer intent data, partner vendors like SalesForce are perfect. People interested in and using SalesForce are a great fit for us compared to people who are not.

Look at your customer base. Ask your sales team if there are particular partners/ vendors that indicate things are going to work with a prospect. Of course, this does not mean that people who don’t have interest or investment in these vendors are relevant. But it’s a good sign to follow.

How to test it

Typically you’ll need to give your sales team enough time to test out the leads you gather. This is usually around 1 average deal cycle. Any less time than that, they won’t know if deals have closed from this method. You will have an indicator of how easy it is for sales to pick up these leads and work them, but no close rates to take to your VP and C level and talk about. A good metric to track is Lead Conversion Velocity month on month. If your leads are converting quicker from cold to demo, or cold to SQL each month, that is a win!

Try LeadSift Buzz for free, we’ll let you know when your target accounts are looking at partner vendors or your direct competitors, plus a whole bunch of other sales trigger events you’ll want to mention in your outreach.

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