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Exactly Who is Your Competition? Key to standing out in a crowded market…

As part of a brand or marketing analysis, it is very important to determine:

  • what your competitors are communicating online and offline
  • what their customers are saying about them
  • and most importantly, what competitors aren’t saying that your business does well

The Real Competition – A traditional competitive analysis, detailed above, is the baseline. It is good to keep an eye on similar products/brands. However, the building blocks to ongoing marketing and product/service improvements should not be based on what competing brands are doing. Instead, day in and day out, concentrate on your real competition: every “obstacle your customer encounters along their journey to solve the human, high-level problem your company exists to solve.” (Harvard Business Review, Competition, Obsess Over Your Customers, Not Your Rivals by Tara-Nicholle Nelson).

As mentioned in the Harvard article, focusing on competitive products/services often leads to “me-too” products which puts you into a pricing war (i.e., commodity) or could potentially be pointing you down a path of creating and pushing an offering that customers might not have liked that much in the first place!

You and your team’s efforts should be spent truly understanding who your most profitable target audience is, their needs and desires, and the obstacles your company solves for them. That audience may or may not be the majority of your current customer base. Maybe there is a problem that exists that your product or service solves, that is not being communicated?

Research is key, and it is at your fingertips.  For example:

  • IT Consulting Company? Start a LinkedIn group, asking CIOs and CTOs to join the conversation around the topic of hurdles to overcome to maximize ROI in technology and services.
  • Medical practice? Read the Yelp and Google reviews for your practice and similar practices, take notice of trends the reviews might highlight, i.e., we love going to Dr. Smith, she accommodates our schedule with weekend and early morning appointments.
  • Retail? Talk to your customers… Give them products they don’t normally buy to try in return for a 10 minute conversation with them after they use the product. What did they love, what didn’t they like and most importantly, what problem did it solve?

Don’t go with the status quo. Allow time to take a step back, analyze the real needs of your audience as compared to your passion. Why did you start your organization ? Are you being true to your “why”? It is often the intersection of the business owner’s why and the real needs of your audience (problems solved) that bring profitability and most importantly, joy in what you do. It matters.

Take the Funnel Cake. Leave the Sales Funnel.

Rethink the funnel.

Customer intent is the winning ticket.

I am in complete agreement with the excerpt below from Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google. Instead of pushing buyers through a metaphorical funnel, view prospects and customers in the four stages of their “intent.” See, Think, Do, Care. It takes more strategy, and more custom marketing (and thus resources), but I have seen this type of direct marketing to a very targeted audience, time and time again, work very well.

The “See” cluster is the largest addressable qualified audience. For example, Kaushik described a financial institution whose “See” cluster (its broadest target audience) was people who had responsible spending habits and complex financial needs. This financial institution defined the “Think” cluster as people who are gainfully employed and have had a life-changing event. In the “Do” cluster are people in the later stages of financial decision. And in the “Care” cluster are not just customers but loyal customers who have been with the financial institution for more than two years. Ultimately, Kaushik said visualizing potential buyers by their intent, which we can discern by their online behavior, is a far superior approach than the traditional strategy of viewing prospects by their demographics.

Application. To reach the warmest potential client i.e., the “Do” cluster, based on previous client intent/habits, what is driving the fact they are in the later stages of a financial decision? Marriage, new job, baby on the way? If so, you can target them with value-add posts on Facebook, by selecting behaviors, i.e., maybe they are signing up for Lamaze classes, maybe they are searching for the best schools… a timely post about saving for your child’s education would resonate and if creative and eye catching, it is a good probability the post will cause action.

Take the funnel cake. Just leave the sales funnel.