Five Key Questions Your B2B Competitive Analysis Should Answer

Five Key Questions Your B2B Competitive Analysis Should Answer
Michele Linn - Mon Feb 01, 2010 @ 05:54AM
Comments: 63

Five Key Questions Your B2B Competitive Analysis Should Answer"Watch your competitors, but don't follow them."
- Arnold Hax

This weekend I was reading Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah (highly recommend!), and this quote from one of their professors at MIT jumped out at me. It quickly summed up my feelings about how B2B organizations should relate to their competitors.

I have a number of clients who are launching new business, and I am helping them draft the content for their websites. As part of this process, I always suggest doing a brief competitive analysis.

Truthfully, I've had mixed feelings about this type of analysis. On one hand, I don't think it is always useful to see what the competition is doing. You don't want to get stuck into thinking, "Well, the competition is doing this, so we should, too." As Hax succulently states, following the competition is a not a good idea.

Also, if you don't know specifically what you are looking for it is easy to start collecting data and run into "analysis paralysis." I can collect all sorts of data, but unless I frame it in a way that is useful for my client, it will be worthless.

Of course, there is an upside to competitive analysis as well: you need to have an understanding of what is going on in your market so you know what your prospects are experiencing. To stay focused, I concentrate on five key questions when reviewing the competition.

Is your product or service similar to what others are offering?
This may seem like an obvious question, but I have found that many new (or existing businesses) don't take the time to understand who is doing what they do. When I recently asked one client why his business was different, he responded, "We are the only ones doing this." Not surprisingly, when I started to search, I found companies who were doing the same thing. Competition certainly isn't bad (and in many cases it is favorable), but you need to understand who your primary competitors are so you can monitor them.

What makes you different?
If there were one question a competitive analysis should answer, this is it. You need t be able to take the data you collect to understand how exactly you are different. Prospects are looking for this kind of information, and you want to tell them instead of having them guess (or find out from your competition). If you can't answer this, how can you convince a prospect to do business with you?

When prospects search for information in your category, what are they finding?
I find the actual process of searching for competitors to be insightful as it gives me a window into what prospects are going through. Is it easy to find information on the competition? Are there certain keywords that bring up the competition? Are others standing out because of social media?

Are there any types of content that you need to have?
When looking at competitors, I often find that most have some type of content, be it a newsletter, a blog or something like that. While I don't think you should copy what the competition is doing, it does help to know if there is some kind of content that is necessary. For instance, all of your competitors offer a demo, it may make sense that you do the same.

What types of content can you offer that no one else is?
On the other hand, the thing I enjoy looking for is content that the competition isn't offering. As an example, when I was doing a competitive analysis for one of my clients, none of its competitors had an eBook on why this type of product is needed. Creating an eBook would be a great opportunity for them to stand out (i.e. if everyone is doing this, it's easy to get lost).

If you are looking for ideas on how to find the answers to these questions, check out the posts below.

Is this the kind of information you look for when doing a competitive analysis? What other questions do you try to answer?

Related posts:

About the author: Michele Linn is a B2B content strategist who helps companies create content and think through how their B2B prospects will consume it (from registration to promotion). You can follow her on Twitter or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B.

Comments: 63


1. Paul Hewerdine  |  my website   |   Mon Feb 01, 2010 @ 06:27AM

Good article Michele. There's also another insightful route to understanding what makes an organisation different to its competitors - asking their customers. Especially those who have fully evaluated rival players as part of a formal tender process. You can get a good sense of real and perceived differentiators - and often discover some revelatory stuff!

2. Michele Linn  |  my website   |   Mon Feb 01, 2010 @ 06:38AM


Great point! Some of my clients are new businesses in the process of getting customers, so this isn't always an option. But, if there are customers available, I think that is one of the best sources to tap. Thanks for stooping by!

3. Kellie Sheehan  |  my website   |   Mon Feb 01, 2010 @ 08:47AM

Good points. We always do a media literature search when doing a competitive analysis as well. It often will surface whether competitors have a coordinated marketing effort, what areas/topics they're pushing and identify potential spots for marketing opportunities (especially important when there isn't much differentiation between one product/service and another).

4. Joanna Lees-Castro  |  my website   |   Tue Feb 02, 2010 @ 02:39AM

Excellent advice. The best competitive strategy is to try to re-invent or re-define your category so that you are the market leader... a lot of great examples of companies that are out there that have done that. Copying competitors won't get you there... but competitive analysis can help you determine the best way to really crystallize your target subsegment that has you as the de facto leader...

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