As the holiday season approaches, my thoughts often turn to friends, family, food, and … presents! And buying those presents often brings me to thoughts of COMPETITION. Should I buy the latest and greatest gadget, or should I get the one that can be returned when I make the wrong choice? Yes, every company out there is pushing for its voice to be heard and its product to be bought, but not all companies are trying to compete in the same way. Some will leverage their resources to get their products onto every store shelf imaginable and focus on customer service for returns and exchanges, while others will create fantastic innovations that drive demand and become the latest hot item in the market.
Although B2B is certainly different from B2C commerce, and not many B2B companies can rely on creating FOMO (fear of missing out) to drive demand, it is true that each B2B company has a varying set of go-to-market and product strengths that they should take advantage of. For B2B marketers, here are three things to consider as you prepare for competing in 2023:
- Know yourself. It may seem strange, but I often see companies trying to go in a direction that doesn’t align with their core competencies. You’ve probably seen them, too — the stodgy company that hasn’t released anything new in a decade that then says it’s the next leader in product innovation. These companies don’t seem to know themselves. Knowing what your company excels at and, quite frankly, what it’s not so good at is a starting point for any competitive endeavor. This doesn’t mean that a company can’t grow or expand beyond its current state, but it does mean that companies must realistically assess where they are today. A company that’s historically underinvested in innovation, however, should not expect to magically produce new products just by saying they’re going to do it. Knowing your own starting point helps you realistically assess where you might be able to go next.
- Know your competitors. Competitive insight is often built at a product level: Competitor A has a hot new feature, or competitor B is introducing a new service. While these are necessary insights, taking a broader view of competitors is key to figuring out what your strategy should be. It’s not always necessary to build the same feature as a competitor. For real competitive insight, think of competitors in the same way that you evaluate yourself: What are their innovation and go-to-market capabilities? Do they have the financial and human resources to build the next big thing? Have they invested in brand awareness and reach? Do they have a well-oiled sales machine that’s growing their business? These insights help you determine not only where a competitor may go next but also where you can go that they can’t reach.
- Play to your strengths. Once you know where you and your competitors are, a strong course of action is to look for the “blue ocean” or the “white space” that gives you the best chance to differentiate from competitors. For example, if your strength is in your sales and marketing team’s ability to go after new buyers while your competitor is more of an innovator, then building a go-to-market strategy that targets underserved buyers that need your type of offering may be the right strategy. This is in contrast with playing technical catch-up to your competitor. There is no one “right” strategy — there are myriad ways to move forward in competitive markets. The right strategy is one that your company can actually deliver.
Whether your goal is to be the next hot product or to win in a particular market category, the key is to make the decision with your eyes wide open. Understand your own capabilities and the capabilities of your competitors — both innovation and go-to-market execution — to find the right strategy that creates real differentiation in the market.
Forrester portfolio marketing clients: To learn more about leveraging competitive intelligence to drive strategy, read our new report, Creating Competitive Intelligence For Organizational Impact.