Simplifying Competitive Analysis to drive Sales

Competition is healthy. Having competitors is a strong validation of your target market. It is an important dimension of your go to market strategy. However, competition also makes you work that much harder. Your competitors, like you, are trying hard to get their message across to their target market. They are spending dollars to get in front of the same prospects that your organization is chasing. And depending on the maturity of the market, your prospect may already be using your competitor’s products but exploring your offering as an alternative.

When your business operates in a competitive market, competition warrants attention from sales and marketing. Companies have been known to spend a lot of sales and marketing resources to get ahead of the competition. But at a minimum, you need to arm your revenue teams with actionable and useful information that will help your prospect make an informed decision. However, several organizations don’t invest in building actionable competitive information because they assume it to be expensive and time-consuming. But it need not be.

Start from the basics

In our experience, here are two commonly asked competitor-related questions in a sales cycle.

  • Who do you consider your competitors (for this offering)?
  • How is your offering different from Competitor A and/or B?

These are valid questions. And not having a useful response to these questions can really hurt your prospects of winning.

However, companies often complicate the process of enabling their revenue teams with competitive information. Here are some simple tips to enable revenue team with competitive data.

Track Competitors – Are you tracking your competitors? Do you have a list of your primary competitors that you bump into all the time? If not, then putting this list down is an excellent place to get started. Do not assume that your sales teams know all the competitors.

Segment Competitors – Do you have multiple offerings in the market? Do you do business in different geographies? Do you cater to different market tiers? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it is quite likely that you face different competitors in different segments of your market. Map your competitors to your segments.

Your offering’s overall differentiation – You should have an answer to the broader question – What is your differentiation in the marketplace? This question should be answered irrespective of a specific competitor and can be part of your overall corporate positioning. And spelling this out will really help detailed level competitive discussions. When you start comparing your offerings with individual competitors, those talking points should map back to your company’s overall differentiator.

Start with simple collateral – There is no limit to the degree of competitive analysis an organization can conduct. However, when your revenue teams are fielding queries about your competitors and the differentiation of your offering, we have seen that simple is better. Why is that?

  • It is easier to digest for your revenue team members and your prospects.
  • A simple piece of collateral is easier to refresh and maintain. Your competitive collateral should be refreshed regularly as your offerings, and your competitor’s offerings evolve.
  • It is easier to templatize a simple format.

Competitive Content Types

We have here a list of popular content types for competitive analysis.

Competitive Collateral

Building content takes resources. And it is quite likely that some of the information needed to create these assets is already available in your organization. You just need to put it in the right structure to scale that information. Moreover, you can start small. You can focus on the Feature Comparisons and Outcome Comparisons and slowly build into a richer library of assets to help your revenue teams compete.

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How to churn out awesome Case Studies?

Everyone agrees that Case Studies are effective and super-important.  Yet, marketing teams could be creating more Case Studies. We always find that there are only a handful of Case Studies in a given organization, even though there are several customers and success stories that should make their way into compelling Case Studies. We do understand that building Case Studies can be expensive. Especially the super-slick ones. However, that should not be a barrier to building case studies.

Here are some additional points to consider:

  • Sales need Case Studies to establish credibility and push their pipeline. Actually, they love Case Studies.
  • Prospects and customers need to hear about your success. They want to learn from your successes and drive their own strategy.
  • In outbound sales, content trumps format. That is, a slick Case Study is not a pre-requisite. Of course, a visually compelling Case Study (or for that matter any collateral) is always preferred. But even a decently formatted Case Studies that gets the point across is super-useful and does the job.
  • Case Studies need not be verbose. On the contrary, in today’s busy world, a lot of words may dilute your Case Study message.

We believe marketers and organizations should be building more Case Studies. And building actionable and effective Case Studies should not be a chore.

Here is a framework for building actionable Case Studies that will drive the pipeline and help sales win more deals.

The framework is based on three core principles:

  • Keep It Simple
  • Make It Repeatable
  • Seek input from others

A Template (Keep It Simple)

A simple, easy-to-follow template allows you to take the guesswork out of formatting your Case Studies. Furthermore, a template speeds up the process of Case Study creation. It’s like the difference between writing a story from a clean slate versus filling in the blanks in a pre-defined structure of a story. The Template need not be super-fancy. A powerpoint or word template will suffice. Some other points to consider:

  • Have a set of stock images that you can include in the template to add visual appeal.
  • Include your company branding in the template.
  • Follow the rule of 3, where applicable. Anything more is going to add noise and dilute the message.
  • Answer the following questions in your template. Where applicable, limit your input to 3 bullets. It is possible that some of these points are not relevant to your business or a particular Case Study. Feel free to customize on-the-go.
    • Who is the Customer?
    • What was their problem? (3)
    • What was the process of selection? (3)
    • How did your offering address their problem? (3)
    • Where are they today? (3)
    • Where are they going? (3)
  • When possible, try to use quantitative numbers.

Trigger Points (Make it Repeatable)

Once you have a template in place, you need to identify the triggers to define a Case Study. Waiting for your sales team or product team to demand a Case Study is not a smart strategy. Instead, identify those trigger points when a Case Study has to be created. Two of the most common trigger points for creating a Case Study are:

  • When an opportunity is won.
  • When your customer achieves a specific milestone with your offering

If you can, try to automate this process. It could be as simple as having an integration into your CRM application and on every win, it putting a “Create Case Study for XYZ Customer” task on your marketing calendar.

And try to keep a tab on your progress. Not every trigger point is going to result in a Case Study. But measuring your progress will help you and your team identify opportunities and address known gaps.

Leverage Other Teams (Seek Input)

Building quality content is a collective task. Yes, marketing tends to be the owner of content creation, but the inputs required to write quality content comes from all corners of your organization. Similarly, marketing teams cannot develop a quality Case Study in isolation. Especially if you want to make it a repeatable activity, you ought to seek input from your colleagues in sales, sales engineering, customer success and product teams. And having a template for the Case Study can be a big help to achieve collaboration. Some other notable points when involving others in the process,

  • Introduce the initiative to your sales and product colleagues. During one of your quarterly meetings or company’s monthly lunch and learns, make sure you announce this initiative. Tell your colleagues why you are doing and how you are doing it. And that you are counting on their help.
  • If you are building a Case Study after winning a deal, you need to seek inputs from the sales owner and others who were involved in driving that deal home. Similarly, you need to rely on the inputs from customer success teams when a customer meets specific milestones.
  • If you are tracking engagement on the Case Study (which you should be, if you are not), share these insights with your colleagues outside marketing. Particularly, highlight contributions and give credit where it is due.

Case Studies are important assets for the success of your business. Following a process to create strong, actionable Case Studies should be an essential element of your content strategy.

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“What Worked for You” vs “What Worked for Your Customer”

chess-316658_1280In the B2B world case studies are ubiquitous. They are an important vehicle to demonstrate credibility to your customers and prospects. They are also important to educate your sales force and to scale sales success. However many organizations fail to segment their case studies correctly and end up targeting their case studies to the wrong audience. In B2B world, we come across two broad types of Case Studies:

  • “What Worked for You” Case Study
  • “What Worked for Your Customer” Case Study

“What Worked for You” Case Study

  • This case study is created when you win a deal.
  • It highlights why the customer chose you.
  • It speaks to the “theory” of how your offering is going to address the customer’s pain points.
  • It also elaborates on how the sales process was executed to drive a win.

A “What Worked for You” case study is a great vehicle to scale sales success. Insights from this type of case study help guide other sales representatives in their sales pursuits. And in some cases, this case study provides your potential prospects visibility into how their peers selected you and why.

“What Worked for Your Customer” Case Study

  • These case studies are closely aligned with your customer’s success journey. That is they are created well past the “Deal Win” milestone when the customer has successfully realized the business gain with the help of your offering.
  • They speak to the practical benefits of your offering to your customer. For e.g. the customer saved $X and gained Y% efficiency.
  • They elaborate on the journey of customer success. They provide details about the timeline to achieve the customer success milestone, the resources involved, etc.

“What Worked for Your Customer” case study is highly relevant to other prospects and customers. This type of case study provides reliable data on how one customer achieved success using your offering. It helps others prospects/customers visualize their path to success. Not only the case study works as a soft-reference (as opposed to speaking to the reference), it also establishes credibility with your prospects. The case study screams “we know how to make you successful.” Conversely the “What Worked for You” case study screams “we know how to sell.”

Both types of case studies deliver benefits. However, it is important for organizations to recognize the different values that they bring to the table and invest wisely in creating and utilizing them in their “Go To Market” efforts.

Win Analysis and Case Studies

Win Analysis and Case Studies are popular collateral vehicles for B2B marketers. They both are important to demonstrate credibility and scale your success. However these content types are to be used in different contexts. And this is where we see a lot of organizations incorrectly applying a wrong type of content and thereby diluting its value to the targeted audience.

To put it simply, Win Analysis are created to highlight “What Worked for You” and Case Studies are geared towards elaborating on “What Worked for Your Customers”. You see, they are very different in their value and how they get leveraged in the field. Here is a short actionable comparison that will help further distill the unique characteristics of these content types,

Let us know how you are using Win Analysis and Case Studies in your organization to drive sales success.