Episode #97 of the B2B Market Research Podcast – 3 Key Tools for Analyzing a Competitor’s Content
- In 2015, how do suppliers “meet” companies for the first time?
- Why B2B market research and competitive intelligence teams should pay attention to a competitor’s content marketing.
- Three tools you can use to analyze a competitor’s content marketing campaign
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Sean Campbell – CEO of Cascade Insights
In this episode, we’re going to talk about three tools B2B competitive intelligence and market research teams can use to analyze a competitor’s content marketing — and thereby get a better understanding of the buyer’s journey.
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It’s fair to say that one of the largest changes in sales and marketing in perhaps the last hundred years – or at the very least the last ten or twenty – is that the first contact is no longer a handshake.
The first time you meet a supplier is when you look at their content.
The first time you meet a supplier isn’t in a conference room. The first time you meet a supplier isn’t even at a trade show. The first time you meet a supplier is when you look at their content. And, as we’ve talked about before on this podcast. this has radically changed the B2B sales and marketing dynamic.
Therefore, as a competitive intelligence or B2B market research team, you now need to get familiar with a set of tools that specifically address how you can analyze competitor content marketing.
It’s important to understand that I’m not saying you’re going to become a content marketer. That’s a different job.
What I am saying, is that if a potential customer’s first contact is via content and not a handshake, then it’s pretty important to understand how that contact came about.
It is also important to understand what type of content generated interest. What topics drove interest? This alone can help you figure out what features in the competitor’s product seemed to resonate – simply by looking at what’s more popular in terms of their content marketing.
What’s fascinating about this, is we’re getting a digital view into the sales cycle.
What’s fascinating about this, is we’re getting a digital view into the sales cycle. Whereas in the past, you would have had to resort to interviews with either ex-sellers of the competitor or you’d have to talk to their partners or you’d have to talk to their customers.
In addition, the statistics you can gather on a competitor’s content marketing is also going to give you a window into how customers are filtering. What are they focusing on when they’re analyzing that competitor’s offer?
So what are some of the tools that we can use to do this type of analysis?
The first one, Quick Sprout, I point people to because it doesn’t require you to sign up for a trial. The tool doesn’t even necessarily require a lot of work on your part to get a sense of a competitor’s content marketing. On the other hand, it’s not the most robust tool out of the bunch that we’re going to talk about, but given how easily you can access it, we’ll start here.
To start using Quick Sprout, all you really need is the URL for your competitor’s website. Once you put that URL in to Quick Sprout, the tool will start reporting on what content that competitor has and which piece of content has been shared the most across various social networks, like LinkedIn and Facebook and so on.
What you’re looking for initially when you use Quick Sprout are the high-level trends. For example, is content that is aligned with let’s say a given classification of features, like security features or management features or scalability features driving a lot of engagement? This would be your first sign that buyers are really concerned about that category or set of features.
Again, it’s interesting to contrast this with the way we would have learned about this 10 or 20 years ago. We would have had to have conversations with competitor customers to understand these sorts of things.
Now we know statistically what themes seem to resonate with competitor customers and we can drill into those when we have conversations. That’s pretty powerful in and of itself.
In addition, one of the great things about these types of tools is that they can help you zero in and even target some of the conversations you might already be planning to have with competitor customers. Now we know statistically what themes seem to resonate with competitor customers and we can drill into those when we have conversations. That’s pretty powerful in and of itself. And something that competitive intelligence teams need to pay attention to.
The next tool I want to talk about is BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo gives you a lot more data, but it also costs a little bit more. It’s a tool that I’m a pretty big fan of. It has similar functionality to Quick Sprout when it comes to putting in a URL and seeing what content is most popular in terms of what’s been shared the most. Buzzsumo also gives you the ability to sort by LinkedIn and Twitter and various other social networks. However, the export capabilities of BuzzSumo are much better.
BuzzSumo also has some really excellent features when it comes to geographic coverage, so you can drill into specific countries and generate reports about how a competitor’s current or potential customers are engaging with content by region or country.
You can also do keyword searching, meaning you can focus in on products and services specifically.
Just to give you a simple example, lets take a look at a company like FireEye – given they’ve been in the news a lot. If you were to put in FireEye.com, you would find that over the last six months, some things have risen to the top in terms of what customers care about when they look at the content that FireEye is sharing. There is a lot of discussion about mobile and security management in that space. There is also a lot of discussion about adaptive security. There’s even a fair amount of discussion about international security issues with a particular focus on China.
So even at that point, you have there a small hit list of things that you might want to bring up when you have conversations with competitor customers. You even have some statistical significance that you can wrap around it all because you’ve have some very solid numbers that you can export from BuzzSumo.
The final tool I want to talk about is a little more niche, but just because it’s niche, doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means it has a little more limited applicability. Grytics is the tool and it’s really great for mining LinkedIn data.
You can use it for a variety of things, but in the context that we’re talking about in this podcast, in terms of how competitive intelligence teams can use the tool, where you can use it the best is when you target a LinkedIn group that your competitor sponsors or co-owns. If you haven’t come across one of these types of groups, they exist in a lot of different spaces and areas. For example, Oracle has a variety of groups that align with their products.
There are also groups that are driven by influencers who drive a lot of Oracle’s sales, let’s say. For example, there’s an Oracle Senior DBA group that has 50,000 members. So, as a competitive intelligence professional, I might want to point Grytics at that group so I can see what content is being shared the most. I can also learn as a competitive intelligence professional what type of content is being liked the most. I can even learn who are the influencers that are driving discussion in this group — as these people are great targets for interviews.
Another example would be if you look at a company called Cloudera. Cloudera has a couple of different LinkedIn groups. One of them is called Cloudera Certified Users that has 59,000 users. The group is actually owned and was perhaps originally created by the VP of Education Services at Cloudera, which is really fascinating because now you have a group that’s very tightly aligned with an up and comer in the Big Data space. Therefore you could do some really interesting analysis with Grytics to see what are the themes, what are the topics, what are the focus areas that those BigData customers are interested in.
Again, you can only assume that that group is going to be populated with people who are current customers as well as plenty of people who are on the buyer’s journey and are thinking about buying or acquiring a solution from Cloudera.
In sum, there three tools you want to look at, Quick Sprout for quick and dirty analysis, BuzzSumo because it has a slightly broader feature set and some interesting capabilities. And Grytics – because while it’s obviously niche, it does do a really good job at analyzing those LinkedIn groups.
Just remember, that these days first contact doesn’t always mean a handshake.
And as a final thought, just remember, that these days first contact doesn’t always mean a handshake. It doesn’t always mean a meeting in a conference room or even a phone call. It can simply mean that customers are engaging with a competitor’s content.
Therefore, as a competitive intelligence team, if you’re not looking at these tools, you’re missing out on important data that you can use to better analyze competitors and markets.
With that, we’ll wrap up this podcast. Thanks for listening.