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Tracking your competitors: Strategies for GTM Mastery

January 19, 2024 Gary, Andy & Tiana Season 1 Episode 7
gtmPRO
Tracking your competitors: Strategies for GTM Mastery
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome again gtmPROs!

In this episode, we talk about competitive mastery with Patrick Campbell's open-source intelligence from B2B software and services. If you belong to the Lower Middle Market environment, and want to understand the tempest of market rivals, this episode is for you. Showcasing why an 'always on' approach to market intelligence is a non-negotiable for revenue leaders who plan to stay ahead. Find out how to sidestep market landmines by understanding buyer psychology and recognizing potential threats that could redirect your customers' journey.

Patrick Campbell's Competitive Playbook

Gary:

Welcome to the GTM Pro Podcast, your essential audio resource for mastering go-to-market discussions in the boardroom. Here we share insights for revenue leaders at B2B Software and Services companies, especially those with less than 50 million in revenue. Why? Because the challenges faced by companies of this size are unique. They are too big to be small and too small to be big. This dynamic pushes revenue leaders into executive leadership without a lot of help or support. We are here to provide that support. Your journey to boardroom excellence starts now. It's like okay, cue laughter.

Tiana:

Yeah, and then actually made us laugh.

Gary:

All right, so let's get started. The conversation today was actually sparked by a fantastic post and open source, if you will, competitive research playbook that Patrick Campbell, who is the founder of ProfitWell, which was recently fairly recently acquired by Paddle posted. I think he put it out on LinkedIn and somebody referenced it and made it available. I mean it's fantastic. It's an unbelievable amount of work. It caught our eye specifically because, as we work with organizations in the lower middle market, it is more often than not they are competing in a mature market that has a ton of competitors. There's a lot of noise and you really have no choice but to focus on competitors. Some of the advice is don't worry about what your competitor is doing, just focus on the customer. Well, in this case, I would say you're doing both. From our perspective, the understanding the competitive set and we'll get into more of what that means in a minute is the best way to actually understand how your buyer sees the universe, because your competition is out constantly messaging to them about what they believe the problems to be and how they solve those jobs to be done and what the alternatives are. In so many ways, they may not necessarily be talking to those competitors, but in some cases, just by virtue of where they are, they're consuming information from that perspective. Doing that competitive analysis is actually giving you a view of the market through the eye of the buyer, because that's how they're consuming it. So that, to us, is actually the most valuable thing.

Gary:

I think the other piece that was awesome about Patrick's post is that he advocates for an always on motion here. This isn't a one-time. Let's go research our competitor and set of competitors and create our battle cards and what we have to do from a feature parity perspective, and then we're done. And then we wait six months and we start to hear some change. But actually building this in it is entirely consistent with what we advocate, which is an always on voice of customer. That is, looking at all of the areas where the customer is dropping hints about what you should do. It is in customer calls and CS calls and surveys and research and reviews, and not just a few, but of your competitors. So I think that was a pretty powerful component.

Gary:

One quote I'm going to point out here that I love about this is that intelligence about your market, about competition, what have you, is upstream of action. Your goal with research is to build judgment with every morsel of intelligence. You're training your instincts, so when you do take action, you make infinitely better choices, and you make those choices more quickly. Boom, mic drop. I know.

Andy:

How do you follow that up? No, it's really good. When we were talking to a client recently, I was looking at the competition slide and speaking to it about it really being a capstone course for buyer-led growth. So free revenue engine, which is where you start to take physical action in a marketing plan, for example Pre. That it's really the final step to say, okay, now where do I stand? Can I extract out messaging, for example, to a certain audience, to really start to be a brand presence, to start to be a Coca-Cola for that place, if you will? But do I have a right to win there? It all kind of ends up in that place. I would say and what?

Tiana:

gives you that right. Actually, what gets you there?

Andy:

Well, therein lies the entire question, right? So that, arguably, is what you learn through your, you know, your buyer-led growth journey, right? So where do I stand in the world? What do I do? What do I do for a buyer? Why do they have success with my product and in what scenario? Using what other tools and what process? And what's their journey to get to a moment of value? So, to me, right to win absolutely has to be moment of value. Right, like if that doesn't happen, you don't have a right to win.

Andy:

So moment of value, though, is what you extract out, when you talk to buyers, when you realize your product market fit, when you realize your go-to-market motion is successful, for some reason why, all those items culminate into your right to win.

Gary:

That's a really good question, deanna, and you know, andy, you're articulating this. We almost have the car before the horse when we jump straight to competitive program landscape. How we do that? Because a lot of times what we see is, when a company is describing their competitive set, it is based on their view of the market, when reality, your competition, is what your customers think are the alternatives, and I think it's important here that when we say competitors, yes, there are definitely those that you would consider direct competitors, but more importantly, it would be what is the landscape of alternatives that your buyer is considering as options to solve the job to be done? Oftentimes may not even be in your direct competitor set. The classic is all of the jobs that are solved with spreadsheets and hacks that you wouldn't necessarily consider as direct competitors, but there's lots of information out there in the world that's talking about how to solve a particular job with something as simple as a spreadsheet, and so that's part of what you need to understand.

Andy:

Yeah, what you're describing, gary, is really doing nothing. It's doing the status quo right. It's the inertia of wow, what's been presented to me by this world of options or solving a particular job seem pretty daunting. And if it seems daunting to a buyer, a lot of times they're gonna say you know what? That seems like a new job for me. It's not an insignificant one, oh, and it's jobs for a bunch of people at my company that I need to convince to also do. That's more of a job for me as supposedly the person bringing the solution to the table. I'm gonna at least defer that for right now, to learn more, to figure out if there's a simpler way, if not a facilitated way, to get to that answer, to get to a better place. And right now I'm good. You know, spreadsheets are okay and I got an assistant helping me now. That's good enough.

Gary:

Yeah, and to expand on that point, it is the pain of change. The gain needs to exceed the pain of change. The biggest problem is that the promise of gain is just that it is something in the future that people have been burned on before in many situations, and so everything that we promise from a gain perspective is discounted, whereas the pain of change is more of a known universe and therefore it's not discounted. So I'm sure there's an equation in there somewhere where it's almost like the promise of gain needs to be two, three, five, x, that of the pain of change, because they're gonna discount it anyway, because they're skeptical. And so that also comes to how we think about what it is the buyer needs to know.

Gary:

But backing up back to this competitive set, where who is the competitor Andy, you were kind of touching on this earlier which is, before we jump to that, we actually have to go all the way to the top of the buyer-led growth framework, and have we definitively, with qualitative and quantitative data, to find the customer that we're going after? And why, very specifically, do we understand their jobs to be done? Do we understand the dynamics of the organization that create those jobs that need to be done and then, and only then, can we start to evaluate how are they solving those today, what are their options to do that? From spreadsheets to somebody maybe went out and got the Rolls-Royce version, but there's everything in between and in the markets that we serve, where there's a lot of competition, there's a lot of noise because 15, 20, 30 companies all kind of do the same thing, but there's the differentiating factors are nuanced, and everybody's afraid to talk about that nuance because while I'm leaving, out a huge chunk of my market if I do that.

Andy:

But in reality, there's a balance between I've got enough of a market to go after If I speak to this thing very specifically that they need and they do, and it's a situation versus well, that just shrunk my TAM down and that scares me and I'm a product person. That scares me. I built this product specifically to go after a bigger market, but the dirty secret is, your market can only be so big to effectively get a message across in this sea of noise that Gary just mentioned. It's a tough world and there's a balance. So that's marketing.

Andy:

To some extent, marketing gets you to. I'm going to evangelize this thing and I do. I truly believe I'm the best solution for this situation in this world at this price. There's another dynamic right Like at this price, and I do this thing and so I'm the best at that. And so marketing allows you to. Effective marketing allows you to be the best thing for that, even if it's your worldview as the product owner, but you can say that enough so that it becomes some semblance of reality, and that's brand, that's building a brand and that's marketing. So, but you can't do that. We just were talking about. Somebody mentioned boiling the ocean. Right, you can't boil the ocean on a brand, unless you're literally one of these gigundus ones that has hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on it.

Gary:

Gigundus, I like it. Can you let's trademark that.

Andy:

Gigormus.

Gary:

Gigormus is in addiction. Gigormus, no, you said gigundus.

Andy:

I know gigundus is an old, an older school version, but they actually put ginormous in the Webster's dictionary.

Gary:

Well, it seems appropriate. Now they're going to put gigundus trademark.

Gary:

Andy Monahan yield group gigundus. I'll take a trademark. Okay, so you know. Back to your point on brand and I think again, lower middle market. We have less than $50 million in revenue. We do not have infinite resources. We compete against monsters in the space that do have resources. Therefore, our brand and somebody's at the door perfect timing. Therefore our brand is in the context of that market and what those competitors are doing. We will share this in the notes, but Patrick provides what I think is a really compelling way to think about this the market command matrix, which is a four-box and its resource strength on the vertical axis and market mind share on the horizontal axis. It is a way for you as an organization to go out and do some research to think about again. This is what I like about this is that it's not from your perspective. Granted, you're going to have a perspective on what you believe the resource strength to be that your buyer probably doesn't have. Buyers are way less acute to who's raised $500 million and who's bootstrapped.

Andy:

It doesn't matter.

Gary:

Maybe when you get up to larger enterprises it begins to matter because they won't understand support of the pipeline and things like that. But that's less so. But it does help us understand who has those resources and how much mind share do they have. Mind share for the customers that we care about?

Andy:

that's the most important thing, what situation we care about. So in that case, market can be defined a few different ways. Right? They're not a customer. Again, a buyer does not think about industry sectors or any ICS codes and things. They're like this is my job. It's my job is the market. So that, I think, is the perspective and framework with which to position the market in that situation is what does my buyer think the market is?

Gary:

Right, and the mind share piece of it how do we measure? You asked this earlier, andy, how do we measure mind share? And the reality is it's kind of going back to old school marketing consumer, where it's unaided recall and doing surveys and having some research, and it's less about the absolute measurement, as it is the trend in that measurement, which means you have to do it consistently, you have to do it over time and you have to watch what's happening.

Andy:

And you have to have the right reference point. So back to the buyer's perspective and their job. It's not some random concept, it's got to be drilled down to the thing for which you are solving and trying to get a customer to a moment of value. So when they've had experience getting to a moment of value around a thing that's the market, that's a little weird, right, because you're saying, like, with a consumer product, you're saying what's my favorite? Cola, like I, like you know I'm a Coke Zero guy right, I'd say that in a heartbeat.

Andy:

But it's a little more nebulous when you're talking about a piece of software that does a thing. That's a job to be done in a situation for a company of this type that has this dynamic internally that gets them to a better place relative to the time invested, the cost and so on and all those things. It's. It's different, it's. That's tricky. To me it's just getting to something that you can then rinse and repeat and do multiple times to get that trend and that perspective from the buyer Right. It's doable, obviously, people do it all the time, but it's it's. It's a little tricky when it comes to you know, lower middle market sass.

Gary:

Right Well, and so part of the benefit of this matrix is it starts to tell you if you're, if you've done this well and you've done a thorough understanding of the resources available to the company and their mind share and you've got some measurement of that. It starts to tell you where you should be prioritizing your time Monitor, attack, ignore harvest that's helpful from the, from the mechanics of thinking about how we prepare our organization to speak. Speak about the competitors when it comes up in a sales conversation or marketing collateral, what have you? I think it's also enlightening as it relates to brand, and that's because you, the perception of your brand, is relative to other options available to them, and so understanding what each of those quadrants of competitors are saying and how they're presenting themselves to the world is very important, not so much because you need to know and you need to be able to counter everything that they say, but it's because it is a piece of information, especially for those that have a lot of resources and have a lot of mind share. They are influencing what the buyer sees and thinks about the market, not just the market and what the options are, but even how to define the problem, what, what the symptoms may be.

Gary:

If they're doing a great job at their marketing, they're. They've got marketing covering. They've got content out in the universe. Gotta stop calling it marketing. They have content out in the universe, regardless of which department is responsible for delivering it. That is having an influence over that and it's changing all the time, and so if we're not taking that lens when we go after that's, the beauty of this is that it is a. It is absolutely getting you more informed about the competitive landscape, but, more importantly, it's getting you more informed about them. How the buyers point of view is what they're being, what they're being delivered in terms of information. Because even inside of communities Right, somebody goes to any one of the communities, whether it's HR or health care or data, it doesn't matter. They all have their own little communities where they're going for guidance and information. Even those communities are being influenced by what the competitive set is putting out into the world for content.

Andy:

Yeah, the big brands, whether they're the originators or not, are really defining categories in a lot of cases, right like it's a you know. We think of the software realms and so on, and they're the ones driving that. They coin terms a lot of times which then become Buzzwords within an industry and so on, and so they're driving that to that point and that's what, that's what big resources get you, and so that's a world we need to play in, in our you know, given that we don't have that right got to be able to kind of navigate that and again carve out in a sense it's mind, it's.

Andy:

It's carving out your own subcategory and creating mind share around that or what you are within that bigger category right?

Gary:

Yeah, I think there's. You know that it's definitely worth a read and we'll put this into show notes is a warning it is going to take you time to get through this.

Gary:

It is a book, it's like a book very thorough, but there's a you know, that's what makes it, I think, so helpful is that they they went deep and it's there's also some really good content in here about the how to actually build this competitive component. Now I would say that, like a lot of things, the lower middle market organizations are going to look at this and say this is aspirational, but how in the world am I going to do this? And I think that's really important, which is Don't get caught up in all of the bits and pieces and things that you need to do Right. The most important thing is what are the? What's the 8020, what is the 20% of the stuff I can do from this? That gets me 80% of the value, and I think, more than anything, it is Start understanding exactly who are target market, is buyer dynamics, jobs to be done, and constantly review that to make sure that that hasn't evolved and changed.

Gary:

And then having a pulse on what are the landscape of alternatives that are that are our clients are considering, which, by the way, is going to come up in sales conversations. It's going to come up in, you know, customer success questions. It's going to come up as, all of a sudden, we see somebody move from one quadrant to another or come out of nowhere, that that that is now in a consideration set and maybe well, it's not necessarily the hot new startup. It could have been a company that has been in around for a very long time, but because of a new capital raise, because of a point solution acquisition, a new set of features that they've launched, suddenly they've provided an alternative way to think about solving that particular job. And the most powerful role that you can play as a company is being a trusted advisor on how to manage, how to, how to assess the landscape of alternatives for how I can solve the specific job, which means you really have to know what job you're solving.

Andy:

Yeah, so you just. You just made an important point. That we talk about a lot is when somebody raises their hand to look at your product Oftentimes it's I'm filling out a form to get a demo request or some other information from you You're in a competitive situation, they're looking at others. And so to your point also on that is really understanding your customers well and being trusted and honestly presenting a perfectly unbiased view of that as as as imperfect, as perfect as you can be around. That is is adding trust right in more reason that you need to be well versed on what everything does for everyone in in this space. Right. So they raise their hand, they fill out a form. It's a competitive situation. What do you do about that? You try to be honest about it. Try and say we're we're really good at this, we fit you because of this, or we actually don't. This other thing probably suits you better. And that all boils down to really understanding it, understanding that very well and and trying to convey it thoroughly.

Gary:

Yeah, one thing you brought up that that struck me as well is that we, you know we tend to think about this in terms of acquisition, but it's equally, if not more, important to think about it from a retention perspective because, again, if you provide a product or service that targets a particular type of company for a particular job to be done, there are alternatives out there, and those alternatives will be messaging to your customers About what it is they do. And if you don't have tabs on that, the the odds that a customer is going to you know 10, 100 customers. You may have one that comes back and says, hey, I just got this thing, you can, you guys, do X, and the knee jerk reaction is we need to be able to do X versus. Well, what do you hope to solve with X? What has changed about your business that causes you to need X and what is the outcome of that?

Gary:

It may be that we don't have X, but we have Y and it actually does a better job of solving that problem. And, point being, it's kind of like the old adage that you'll hear from the people that are visceral and complaint, you'll rarely hear from people who are praise, and then there's the silent majority that give you no signals, and so if you're not proactive about understanding what your competitors are saying to your customers and what's of importance, you're flying blind until you're not, and then it's a problem.

Andy:

The inverse of that. And so, to reference a visual and we will try and explain it verbally which is the high-resourced, high-mineshare companies, the inverse of what you just said. Given we're the lower middle market, let's say, and that's going to probably be the lower-mineshare, lower resources, the bottom-left quadrant. But if you flip-flop, what you just said, gary, is we can go after the high-resourced, high-mineshare businesses, which Patrick recommends. That that's who you're going to attack vigorously Because they're kind of stuck. The one thing you have in your position is the luxury to attack those that are in the upper-right quadrant because they're kind of stuck. They have to try to be everything to everyone because they're probably funded that way. If they're VC, they're obviously highly resource. So in some way, shape or form, they've got to try and be that. So then you can come in with your more pinpointed solution for a segment that does it better than that and you can vigorously attack that incumbent from a mineshare perspective, because you have the right to win for whatever that job is for that particular segment.

Gary:

Absolutely Okay. Well, there is a lot here and this is a little bit shorter episode, but we felt like it was really important to be specific on this. But I think, more than anything, everybody would agree that some form of competitive monitoring is helpful, but we would actually encourage you and we do this to ourselves to think of it as a buyer, monitoring part of which is the competitive landscape, or landscape of alternatives and the messaging that they're getting, therefore making that part of the pulse of what's happening. Some of those signals are coming through, as we said, in terms of a lot of times in the early sales conversation. That's what we always focus on.

Gary:

We have to be able to refute against that and we tend to provide point answers to a short question versus doing the extra mile to have a more comprehensive understanding of what's out there and actually being able to help the buyer navigate that, and also, then, what that provides us now is a more thorough understanding of what the buyer sees out in the world, and now that informs what we can do from a marketing perspective.

Gary:

It is the unasked questions. It is the questions that likely people are disqualifying themselves from even coming in to your sales or product experience because you leave those questions unanswered and so they're asking those questions and they're not seeing those answers and so they're not even going to give you a chance. So if you can take that upstream, so to speak, and help them begin to understand that the probability that the right customer now comes into your product or sales experience is significantly higher, and now we can understand how that's also impacting our customers from a retention standpoint. It is love the mechanics of the competitive perspective, but it really is a buyer perspective and I think we all believe it's really powerful. And the trick comes in now how do you productionalize this?

Tiana:

Yeah, and I think, as you just said, the competitive landscape, just because you have to try to look at it from the buyer point of view, from the buyer's lens, it exists before the sale even occurs, so it's constantly there and if you don't address it, then you don't have any defenses for people actually looking at different products than like rather than yours first.

Andy:

Yeah, you definitely can't control the narrative and you're basically an ostrich with your head in the sand.

Tiana:

Well, actually how do? You look at these things. It's everywhere. Just look at the signals and if you are very involved with your customer and what they're specifically looking for I feel like these conversations happen on LinkedIn and Comments and different podcasts. You're actually listening to the environment in which you're at. It's all over the place. You just have to know what to listen to and then how to address it in your messaging so that you're not lost and well, as we just established, defenseless against the competition.

Gary:

Absolutely, and one thing we'd love, if you're listening, is send us a note, gtm Pro at Yield Group Co. And how you've dealt with this, if you built your competitor system, if you will, your voice of the buyer or I, of the buyer we'd love to know. There is no one right answer to this, and it is not a small challenge to really especially again with lower middle market companies that don't have the luxury of hiring somebody specifically to run a program like this, and it becomes yet one of the many things that the team needs to consider and keep going. We certainly have some ideas and are pulling this together, and would love to hear from you as well, so let's make it happen.

Gary:

All right, till next week, we'll be back. Hopefully it'll be warmer across the country next week. It's very chilly here on the East Coast, but have a great weekend and we'll see you next week. Bye, thank you for tuning in to GTM Pro, where you become the pro. We're here to foster your growth as revenue leader, offering insights you need to thrive. For further guidance, visit GTMProco and continue your path to becoming board ready with us. Share this journey, subscribe, engage and elevate your go-to-market skills. Until next time, go be a pro.

Understanding B2B Software Market Competitors
Understanding Market Dynamics and Brand Building
The Competitive Landscape