Knowing How Your Competitors Are Positioned: The Key To Competitive Intelligence
When was the last time you assessed how your competitors are positioned in relation to your product or company?
If you haven’t tracked your competitors recently, you are not alone. It’s an element of competitive analysis that is often overlooked.
“Too many companies start marketing and advertising as if the competitor’s position doesn’t exist. They advertise their products in a vacuum and are disappointed when their messages don’t get through,” observe Al Ries and Jack Trout in their marketing classic Positioning: The Fights for your mind.
Claiming your own unique position can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your marketing and the success of your sales efforts. According to Christophe Morins and Patrick Renvoises Neuromarketing, the crucial part of the brain is looking for evidence to make a quick decision. When competing companies make similar marketing and sales claims, the buyer’s brain gets into a state of confusion that leads to longer sales cycles, price wars, or no decision at all.
But how do you know if your position is what makes your company, product, or service different?
Using the leading companies in the Cloud Based Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) market as an example of effective and ineffective positions, this article will explain how to identify and best present your competitors’s positions.
Once you know how to determine the positioning of your competitors, you can use a technique I call “perceptual mapping” to see how a particular company is positioned in relation to its competitors.
This is my perception map for the FP&A market.
Before we go any further, let me share my definition of positioning: it is the mental space in the minds of your target audience that you can occupy using a positioning statement that expresses a benefit that solves an urgent problem for the audience. In this mental space, your solution hits the audience’s problem and creates a meaningful connection between the two.
Your position should be the foundation of everything you do in marketing. Use it as the theme for all of your marketing communications so you can harness the power of consistency and repetition. (Neuromarketing explains that if you repeat your position a lot, your audience’s brain will consider it important and remember it.)
Scoring websites is the fastest and easiest way to determine where your competitors are positioned. A positioning statement often appears in a prominent place on the homepage of a website. A good one contains a focused benefit idea or concept that solves a real business challenge and ideally solves the target audience’s main problem.
An effective positioning statement should be a short, meaningful sentence that expresses a benefit that solves an urgent audience problem. Some examples:
- Eckerson Group helps your company get more business value from data and analytics through strategic advice, thought leadership, and training.
- inRiver is the fastest, easiest way to create product marketing content that will get your buyers to buy more.
- Kit software helps maximize the value of your commodities trading deals.
For each of your competitors, analyze website elements such as the product page, the solution page, and the “why us?” Page and the “About Us” page. When you need to take a deep dive, you can evaluate other marketing communications such as emails, webinar invitations, brochures, banner ads, and press releases.
Below are FP&A examples with links to actual content that will help you better understand how to determine a company’s position.
My review found that only one FP&A company effectively uses the power of consistency and repetition: Vena. On his website, Vena emphasizes his position “helps you grow”. The dominant copy on the Vena homepage: “Vena brings your people, processes and systems into one complete planning platform so that you can grow together everywhere.”
If you scroll down you will find the following headings:
- Hit the ground growing
- Start your growth travel
- Accompany over 800 companies on their journey to growth with vena
Vena is therefore positioned around the concept of growth. The reason I chose the phrase “Make Your Plan Grow” for the Perceptual Map is because of this heading on the Financial Planning and Analysis page: “FP&A Software To Grow Your Plan To Grow”.
Prophix boldly expresses its position on its homepage: “Change the way you budget, plan and report.”
To maintain the claim, Prophix should explain how budgeting, planning and reporting will be changed. However, no proof is provided on the website – no justification for the transformation claim.
Finding the position of the board is easy as the “# 1 decision making platform” claim is widespread across the site, from the homepage to the platform page to the about us page.
After you have established the position for each competitor, organize the claims in a table. Some competitors are likely to have similar or even identical positioning statements. Other competitors may publish different claims, making it more difficult, if at all, to determine their position. A common mistake companies make is to make two or more equally important benefit claims. So check these too.
Here is a table for the FP&A market that was created in my Perceptual Mapping application.
After completing the table, I clicked the “Create Star” button to create the perceptual map that you saw earlier in this article. We just finished the first assessment of this competitive landscape!
But the work is far from over. You should do a quick scan of your competitors’ websites at least once a month to see if they have changed their position.
You will be surprised how often your competitors change positions – or even copy yours!
If this is the case, however, your position is no longer unique. Then what?
Stay in your position. Why? If the copycat competitor has changed position this quickly, it will likely change again soon. With that in mind, you can view the engagement as a positive one, as competitors who copy your position lack the discipline necessary to claim a unique position, which requires time (at least 18 months) and simplicity. Instead of consistently using their position (which is also yours) to repeat the benefit over and over, they likely have a shotgun approach: that is, lots of benefits that ultimately dilute their overall position.
So this shotgun approach essentially doesn’t lead to any position because your target audiences won’t remember it. What they will remember is your position as you use the power of repetition to strengthen them. You might even think that your competitor is stealing your claim (which is what they’re doing).
Regardless of which competitors their positions are changed to, you want to know as soon as possible. A change indicates that you should take a closer look at this competitor. This could signal a management shakeup, a layoff of the CMO while a new one goes in a new direction, or a change in the company’s overall strategy.
Regularly monitoring your competitors’ positioning is a process that should be welcomed rather than overlooked. It is the foundation of your competitive intelligence efforts as it provides so much more insight than just whether your position is unique.
Additional resources for positioning your competitors
The key to successful positioning: ‘3Cs’ research
How to Unleash the Power of Brand Repositioning: A Four-Phase Process
How to position your B2B brand for search: Garrett Mehrguth on Marketing Smarts[Podcast[Podcast[Podcast[Podcast