Is any account-based marketing (ABM) program really complete without an understanding of what your competitors are doing and saying to your key target accounts?
Whether you are an incumbent looking to fend off disruptive rivals or a disruptor looking to dislodge an established competitor in a strategic account, knowing what your opposition is up to is critical in dictating what your strategy and approach should be.
My colleague Diane Borska, who is Momentum ITSMA’s SVP of Consulting, has more than two decades of experience in the competitive intelligence space and has established, implemented, and managed market research and analysis projects with corporations across a variety of industries, including energy and utilities, technology, automation and controls, and general manufacturing.
I was fortunate enough to speak with her as part of our digital download series last week, in a session where we explored the impact of competitive intelligence on account planning, how a broader market understanding can give you the edge with communications into an account, and how to use this information to better enable sales teams.
A full recording of that session is here, but the four main take ways on how competitive intelligence can enhance ABM programs were:
1. You can’t plan without it
Competitive intelligence can add value at multiple points in the ABM journey, but perhaps the most obvious application comes in the planning stage.
When assembling a key-account list ahead of a financial year there are already multiple data points that are pulled into this process – firmographics, opportunity analysis, existing footprint within an account, etc – but the competitive landscape is often overlooked.
And that is a mistake. Marketing dollars are precious and if you simply have no chance of penetrating an account then it’s surely better to know at the start, before you waste time and money on a lost cause.
Knowing which accounts your competitors are targeting allows you to make a more informed decision on your own key account list and, ultimately, allows you to allocate funds and resources to accounts where success is more likely.
Want to know the best account planning approaches? Click here.
2. It will open the eyes of account teams
A common mistake account teams make when building their approach to an account is to become too myopic, focusing on their own products and services to the detriment of the wider market context.
That’s not to say that account teams don’t have any knowledge of what competitors are up to, of course, but that this knowledge is often missing context and objectivity.
For example, account teams may see competitor activity in isolation, meaning they learn of a specific offer they are making or see some reorganization around how the competitor goes to market. But how to properly interpret these signals is not always a skill account teams possess.
Diane Borska, Momentum ITSMA
The intelligence we can bring to account teams about their rivals would place all of this noise from their competitors into context; explain why they are behaving the way they are and, even further, what might we expect them to do next
As Diane said: “The intelligence we can bring to account teams about their rivals would place all of this noise from their competitors into context; explain why they are behaving the way they are and, even further, what might we expect them to do next.”
3. Your communications hit the mark
And, once we’ve moved from planning to execution, there is also a role for competitive intelligence to play with the communications into accounts.
The latest data from the Momentum ITSMA Customer Buying Index, our global survey into enterprise buying behavior, revealed that buyers require more considered communications from their vendors. Simply put, any communications into an account must be thoughtful, relevant to your customer and be sent with the intention of adding value in some way.
The only way to do this is ensure all of your communications are infused with rich insight that will inspire and inform your customer.
Competitive intelligence is crucial to this. With intelligence about competitors, we can create content and communications that positions our clients strongly against what we can understand about how their competitors are positioned. Furthermore, we can leverage our client’s strengths against competitor weaknesses in messaging.
4. Your sales teams will thrive
Using knowledge of the competitive environment and specifically about a competitor’s strategic priorities, go-to-market tactics, and messaging – and even customer perspectives about their strengths and weaknesses – it is possible to help sales teams anticipate what they are up against and position themselves more strongly within an account.
As Diane said: “My experience is that if you arm salespeople with good insights and options, they will embrace them readily and use them very effectively. And an interesting benefit that can come from this is that sales force can become a very meaningful and reliable reporter of competitive activity. They see who else is calling on an account, they may hear the customer relay impressions or share offers that have been made, new services they are launching, new partners they have engaged. Often sales teams hear and observe these things but don’t know who in their organization should be told or to respond.”
However, a crucial point to note here is that the insight must be packaged in a way that is most useful to sales teams.
Battlecards that outline the features, functions, strengths, and weaknesses of competitors and their offers are a good start, especially if they are short and easily digestible. But the best way is to ask sales teams how they would like the insight presented, and what format is most likely to see the insight work consumed and used by the team.
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