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Topic: Research/Metrics

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Please Help Newbie W/ Competitive Analysis

Posted by audreyewalker1 on 500 Points
Hello all, <br /><br />Today I started a job as sales representative for a B2B services company in an industry that I have no prior experience in (although my previous position had me calling the same decision makers).

My manager tasked me with writing an analysis of our competitors that is due in one week. I'm not sure how to go about when I'm brand new to this company and am not totally familiar with all the types of services they offer and have very little industry experience.

I can obviously identify the top five or three competitors in the space and look at what they list on their websites compared to what my company lists and talk to the people at our company about their perception of the competition but other than that I'm not really sure how best to complete this task in a week. <br /><br />

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

  • Posted by Gary Bloomer on Accepted
    Hi Audrey,

    First, congrats on your new gig: well done.

    Second, as far as writing a competitive analysis, it sounds to me like it's time to do a little snooping. Heres are a few ideas.

    When it comes to reverse engineering competing sites I've used, Alexa,
    and Quantcast. Although I've not used the following, I've heard they're worth checking out: WhatRunsWhere, WayBackMachine, WhoRush, and OpenSiteExplorer.

    You might also want to read reviews and forum threads and check out social media streams, fan pages, Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest groups, and any connected blogs to see what's what.

    Quantcast and Alexa will give you ideas about demographics as well as providing you with intel on which sites link in and which sites visitors also visit (I particularly like Quantcast for this latter information). Quantcast also lets you know which sites host advertising, which again might be helpful when you're planning the next round of banner or contextual ads for which you'll need appropriate homes and platforms.

    The more you know about the market in question and just how your competitors are positioning themselves, the more you can determine how to position yourself as a better solution to the problem end users are looking to solve.

  • Posted by modza on Accepted
    I too use the tools Gary recommends, but it sounds to me like you need to learn more about the industry, not just the websites (and site visitors) of competitors.

    There are two paths to learning what you need to know, fast: ask experts, and read industry research reports. Many experts, like so many here, get some psychic benefit from helping others. The danger with listening to individuals is that each viewpoint might be skewed in some way not obvious to you. So gently challenge each one you get on the phone (or breakfast or lunch or a drink), by asking if their opinion is generally accepted, and who might have a different viewpoint. The best experts are your company's clients, or prospects. You may need an introduction from a senior sales rep, but if you're not a threat, they should be willing to help. Another path is through Linkedin. Every niche has a group or twenty, and just joining the right industry (vendor and customer) groups, and browsing both the discussions and the Q&A (on Linkedin and also on Quora) can be very revealing. Then use your network (you do have a network of links on Linkedin, don't you, even if it's only a few?) to reach to connections of connections.

    Every industry has a set of research firms writing expensive reports about it, but you can often find copies for free through the websites of the companies (positively) profiled in the reports. Google your industry and Forrester and Gartner's Magic Quadrant. Both companies analyze an industry niche and name names of companies. Some people question how objective these reports are, but they will certainly give you an overview and insight into trends. Other research comes from the analysts employed by the stock trading companies. They have a history of only making positive recommendations, but they still have lots of facts and figures to show you have a grasp of the big picture.

    Finally, your boss knows very well you don't know the industry, so his/her expectations may not be high. S/he may just want to know how hard you'll work, how ingenious you are at looking for answers -- not so much what analysis you come up with. On the other hand, coming into a new industry may very well provide a new perspective invisible or ignored by the old-timers, so you may do better than you think just by challenging conventional wisdom. Good luck! (And note that a lot of us here work in b2b, so you may have specific expertise right here.)
  • Posted by Moriarty on Accepted
    Good morning from Europe.

    Well done for sorting yourself out with a job. My thoughts go along with Gary - although using software of this kind (= websites) does limit you to inside-the-box thinking: algorithms don't do outside-the-box.

    That is where your own insights and instincts come into play - and MOdza is right when he speaks of how to interpret the things others tell you. Because it is here that you rely on yourself and what you know of a situation too in order to balance it all out.

    For myself I would recommend using Howie Jacobson's "Checkmate" matrix. This can be used in all kinds of ways, one of which is market research. It looks really easy to do, it does rely on your own insights and feelings. If you aren't comfortable with these, you might struggle. In any case, take a look it's on page 145 of Google Adwords For Dummies. I don't know of any photos on the net and I'm not allowed to link to my own website. Sorry.

    Essentially the matrix allows you to explore your competition and using your own insights you can find out what they are *not* offering.

  • Posted by CarolBlaha on Accepted
    Sounds like you haven't gone thru much training at this point. Your manager probably views this as part of it. He isn't looking for spot on accuracy, but this will be a talking point to review and base some of your training.

    However what he is looking for is to see the hunter in you, which can be important in many sales positions.

    In B2B you won't find much in reviews. They are fueled by grumps anyway and often one sided.

    Look for reports about the industry as a whole. Those reports often talk of the leaders in the field. If any of them are public, view on the web their annual report, those reports talk about the industry as a whole and how they view their future.

    I would contact several of their customers. Explain you are new to the company and want to make sure you are filling their needs. Ask them what the company is doing right and what needs improvement. Ask if they purchase from others with similar products and why. This is probably the info your sales manager hopes you "hunt" for. Reading on the web is one thing, getting out and making real contact is what sales people are made for.

    Secret shop if possible your competitors, though I know that is hard with B2B.

    Good luck on the job! I will provide one warning. Your sales manager is NOT looking for you to come back with "our price is too high". So if your coming up with that, dig deeper. My guess is he wants a salesperson not an order taker.

    Sell Well and Prosper tm

  • Posted by audreyewalker1 on Author
    Thanks so much for the great responses guys! I really appreciate the tips and it was hard to decide who to award the points because you all had great points. I will definitely implement all you suggested and am more confident and excited about the task now.

    Thanks so much!!!
  • Posted by Moriarty on Accepted

    who cares about the points, if you can implement just half of the things you've learned here that will have made it worthwhile for us. To be honest, it is the inspiration we get from new ideas that gets us out of bed in the morning, not any thought of points.

    You can just leave it open and Carrie will close it in ten days' time and award points equally between the commenters.

    To your success, Moriarty xx
  • Posted by Peter (henna gaijin) on Accepted
    Don't forget to do the basics which you said you could do. Compare your company to the big competitors, where you stand in regards to the features/benefits you offer compared to theirs, compare prices, etc. Look at your web site, competitor's web sites, if products are sold through retailers or online - check those site also. Also talk to other sales people about how they sell against competitors.

    It is very likely that this is what your boss is hoping you will do. So if you do the stuff talked about by the others, you will definitely have gone above and beyond and should delight the boss.
  • Posted on Accepted
    agreeing with the excellent advice above, here is my 2 cents:
    1) as your previous position had you calling the same decision makers, you may know more than you think. in particular, you can offer a customer's perspective on the main competitors, which can not be glanced from their websites. and how about online conversations from customers about your company and its competitors
    2) i did a competitive analysis for my master's thesis following jean-jacques Lambin's framework of competitive reaction. Key question is: is my company would do something (eg drop prices 10%), how and how fast would each major competitor react. given your limited time, you may only be able to speculate about it in your report, but this may get your boss thinking and give you more time to do this properly in the coming year

    Good luck!
  • Posted by pat.divilly on Accepted
    Hi Audrey,
    There is a Competitive Analysis Template at the Business Tools Store which may help.
    Good luck
  • Posted by CarolBlaha on Member
    carrie is right, you can divide them around a variety of us. Thanks
  • Posted by CarolBlaha on Member
    btw Carrie well said and thank you!
  • Posted by audreyewalker1 on Author
    Sorry for the delay.. I was training out of town. Thanks so much everyone! I really appreciate all your help and am ready to dig in. Next week I will be doing discovery interviews with people on our team but I will also try to talk to some customers and will look for more specific industry groups online. Thanks so much for reminding me that is more about the learning process and not stressing about the final product although I do really want to do a great job.

    Happy New Year and Happy Selling! :-)

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