Recently I was at my local mall’s food court waiting for a grilled cheese when I noticed that an employee dressed in the uniform of another food vendor was picking up an order from the register. I overheard their conversation and decided that these two employees were a step ahead of some business owners.
The conversation went something like this:
“I’m really excited to try your mac and cheese. What did you think of ours?”
“It was really good. I liked the texture but I was surprised by the price. Ours costs a lot less.”
“Yeah, I’m not sure why, but maybe it has to do with the ingredients. The Shallot Infused Cheese Sauce always sounds expensive to me.”
“Well, let me know what you think. You should really try the one with bacon in it. I like that one even better than the classic.”
Knowing and understanding your competitor’s product offerings is just as important as understanding your own. You need to be able to identify your points of parity and your points of difference. This is especially important for our clients who are launching a new product or entering a new market.
There is undoubtedly some overlap in your competitor’s and your target customer base, but it is unlikely that the overlap is 100%. Understanding that disparate portion is the key to identifying your sweet spot, or the area of your business on which you should focus your greatest marketing efforts.
These two employees from competing cheese restaurants had hit on a few primary differentiators in their conversation: texture, ingredients and price. They could have just as easily discussed serving size, product variety, location or even the availability of kids’ meals (one restaurant offers them and one does not). These are all factors that can impact a customer’s decision.
Is Your Marketing Gouda-nough?
When Launch Team begins work with a new customer, we typically begin with a marketing assessment followed by corporate positioning. We develop a competitive landscape as part of this process using a variety of sources:
- Web Presence – A corporate website communicates a great deal about a company, not only their product offerings and sometimes prices, but also their corporate brand and messaging. Consumer reviews on the company or their products may also be available online.
- Customer Interviews – Our positioning process frequently involves phone interviews with customers or prospective customers. As an outside party, we often receive feedback from our clients’ customers about the client as well as their direct competitors. This feedback is invaluable.
- Secret Shopping – If the situation warrants it, we may do a bit of competitive reconnaissance, visiting a competitive business or making a couple of phone calls. Even a simple call with a customer service representative can reveal a great deal about a company’s brand and corporate culture, which can impact how you compete with them.
All of this information feeds into the marketing recommendations we make to our clients, including which points of difference equate to a competitive advantage. It also reveals any points of parity among your competitors that you may be lacking. The resulting market implications can be dramatic if you are not a well-established and well-known brand.
Put Your Best Roquefort Forward
In the B2B world, is unlikely that you can simply walk over to your competitor and ask to try their product. If you don’t already have a good idea of who your competition is, consider investing in the steps necessary to collect this information and incorporate the findings into your marketing plan.