Knowing who your key competitors’ customers are for B2B products is extremely valuable, both as a first step in attempting to win those customers over to your own product and so you can be aware of efforts to do the same thing to you. This intelligence can also help you conduct market analysis by revealing factors such as the adoption rate of a competing product, which industries are using it, and in what geographies.
Searching Out the Evidence
Competitive intelligence efforts to reverse-engineer a customer list are not monolithic. The best approach is typically to create those lists one line at a time, based on evidence that a specific company is using a specific product. A key source of that evidence is that most B2B products require specific skill sets, which both companies and individuals tend to reveal by generating telltale digital signals.
Companies that use a specific product often explicitly seek experience with it in job postings. Individuals tend to reveal such experience in LinkedIn profiles and online resumes that can be searched through sites such as indeed.com. Similar information is available through Twitter, user groups and conferences for specific technologies, and support forums.
Drawing Conclusions from What You Find
The most obvious value of a competitor’s customer list is that it reveals potential clients you might win, as well as potential rivals that may try to take away your customers. Perhaps even more importantly, however, a set of customer lists can contribute to a more sophisticated understanding of the market for your product.
As you start to assemble competitor customer lists, a picture emerges of where specific products are and are not being used, as well as related trends over time. That information can be correlated with the size of the customer companies, where they are located, what industries they represent, and so on. Combining multiple sets of that information enables you to see what parts of the market are saturated and what parts still contain the greatest opportunity.
Driving Value from the Information
It’s important to recognize in this realm of analysis that many companies use competing products simultaneously. If you find that your product has some footprint within a company that also uses a competitor’s product, that finding gives you an excellent opportunity to tip the scales in your favor. Conversations with the customer may reveal insights about pain points related to the competing product that your sales team can focus on.
Using these techniques, competitive intelligence organizations can add significant value to the larger organizations they are part of. Being able to reveal exactly whom your competitors are selling to is a compelling demonstration in an internal conversation of the value of a competitive intelligence function within the company as a whole.
By Sean Campbell
By Scott Swigart