Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging

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Prospects buy from you — and customers buy more from you — when they perceive that your company, and its products or services, are better than those of your competitors. One of the best ways to enhance this perception is to develop competitive messages that truly resonate with your target audience and convey all of the things that allow you to create unique value and set your company apart from the competition.

“Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging” will help you create the kinds of messages that will increase your perceived value in the marketplace and help you win more business. The eBook is broken down into two sections that help you both better understand what competitive messaging is and how to create and execute a competitive messaging strategy.

Going through the process of identifying your competitive advantages, conducting research to see how customers and prospects rate those advantages in terms of importance, and crafting competitive messages based on your findings will help you in a variety of ways. Through this practice you can:

Understand exactly what your target prospects care about. You’ll find out what your target prospects want by hypothesizing important purchase criteria and then testing them until you get them right.

Improve your sales and marketing productivity. Using the right messages gives you the opportunity to differentiate your company from the competition in a succinct and meaningful way, making your products and services easier to market and sell.

Measure how well you are communicating your value proposition to improve your messaging over time. If you perform this practice regularly (e.g., annually), you’ll be able to measure and adjust your messages as the market changes.

Understanding and communicating your competitive messaging is critical to success for expansion-stage companies. By analyzing your company’s deliverables and offerings and aligning your strengths with your prospects’ and customers’ desires, you will be able to develop a set of messaging statements that truly resonate with your target audience.

Prospects buy from you — and customers buy more from you — when they perceive that your company, and its products or services, are better than those of your competitors. One of the best ways to enhance this perception is to develop competitive messages that truly resonate with your target audience and convey all of the things that allow you to create unique value and set your company apart from the competition.

“Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging” will help you create the kinds of messages that will increase your perceived value in the marketplace and help you win more business. The eBook is broken down into two sections that help you both better understand what competitive messaging is and how to create and execute a competitive messaging strategy.



Learn more about competitive messaging here: http://labs.openviewpartners.com/keyword/competitive-

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Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging

  1. 1. Much of the content contained in this eBook was gathered through first-hand experience working with Jaynie Smith,CEO and President of Smart Advantage, Inc.When Smart Advantage, Inc., helps companies identify and articulate their competitive advantages within theirmarketing and sales message, those companies often experience a 20 to 40 percent increase in sales within the firstyear of implementation. These results are pure evidence of how important it is to differentiate yourself from yourcompetitors, especially in today’s rapidly changing world.
  2. 2. Table of ContentsForeword............................................................................................................................... 1Understanding Competitive Messaging: What is it and Why Does it Matter?................................. 2 Competitive Messaging Defined.................................................................................................2 An Array of Business Benefits...................................................................................................3 The Key Players.......................................................................................................................5Competitive Messaging in Action: Getting Started..................................................................... 6 Checklist for the CEO/Executive Team........................................................................................6 Checklist for the Internal Manager ............................................................................................7 Quickstart Guide for the Internal Manager..................................................................................8 Choosing Your Target Segments...........................................................................................8 Auditing Your Current Messaging.........................................................................................9 Identifying Your Company’s Deliverables.............................................................................10 Creating Competitive Messages.........................................................................................11 Using Market Research to Understand Customers and Competitive Messaging.......................12 Revisiting Competitive Messaging Statements.....................................................................17 Implementing the Findings...............................................................................................18 Common Pitfalls, Practical Solutions.......................................................................................19 Metrics for Reviewing Progress................................................................................................20 Competitive Messaging as a Company-Level Strategy.................................................................21 Next Steps............................................................................................................................21 Additional Resources..............................................................................................................22
  3. 3. Foreword I wrote the book Creating Competitive Advantage because in my research with mid-market com- panies, I found that only two CEOs out of the 1,000 I spoke with could clearly name their com- pany’s competitive advantages. The other 99.8 percent could only offer vague, imprecise gener- alities. Even today, having now asked more than 4,000 CEOs what their competitive advantages are, only five have been able to give me a clear answer.Don’t let this become your story. Whether you are a retailer, manufacturer, distributor, or service provider, if you can’tarticulate what your competitive advantage is, you’re surely losing customers and market share. Identifying your com-petitive advantage is a surefire way to close deals, retain clients, and stay miles ahead of the competition.Technology is increasingly allowing consumers to pick and choose who they buy from based on price. As a result, manyindustries are painting themselves into a corner for the simple reason that they can’t compete on anything but price.My personal mantra is, “If you can build confidence while also eliminating risk from the buying decision, price becomesmuch less of an issue.” When you are able to clearly articulate and communicate your competitive advantages toyour customers and prospects, and convince them to do business with you rather than with a competitor, you don’thave to rely on price as a tiebreaker.“Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging” is the result of a seminar I delivered for a group of OpenView’s portfoliocompanies. OpenView understands competitive messaging and has created an excellent guide to help expansion-stage technology companies begin uncovering what differentiates them from their competition.Both OpenView and Smart Advantage would love to hear about the success your company has achieved with the helpof this eBook and the concepts in Creating Competitive Advantage. Please share your stories with us.Jaynie L. SmithCEO and PresidentSmart Advantage, Inc. Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging | 1
  4. 4. Understanding Competitive Messaging: What is it and Why Does it Matter? Prospects buy from you — and customers buy more from you — when they perceive that your company, and its products or services, are better than those of your competitors. One of the best ways to enhance this perception is to develop competitive messages that truly resonate with your target audience and convey all of the things that allow you to create unique value and set your company apart from the competition.ANALYSIS Competitive messages can be developed by following a fairly simple process that consists of analysis, writing, and market research. Before you get started, you should ensure that your prospects and buyers are segmented into dis- tinct groups with similar needs and purchasing criteria. This step will ensure that your messaging is focused and specific to your market targets.WRITING “Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging” provides an overview of competitive messaging and can help you create the kinds of messages that will increase your perceived value in the marketplace and help you win more business. The MARKET first section of this eBook will help you understand competitive messaging, while the second part outlines a processRESEARCH for creating and executing a competitive messaging strategy. COMPETITIVE MESSAGING DEFINED Competitive advantage is what separates your business from that of your competitors. Harvard Business School pro- fessor Michael Porter describes competitive advantage as when a company performs better than its rivals by pursuing different activities or performing similar activities in different ways. The advantage is gained by either providing greater value to customers or by offering greater benefits and services. These advantages are ultimately what shape your com- petitive messages. Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging | 2
  5. 5. Being able to articulate why your company is different through messaging is an essential component of an effectivemarketing strategy. After all, your unique value statements will most likely appear on all of your marketing materials(e.g., your website, blog, e-newsletter, etc.) and be used throughout the sales process.Competitive messaging doesn’t always reflect your company’s strengths or product features, as those types of state-ments may only explain why you exist. Often, prospects and customers don’t really care why you exist. It’s your jobto find out what they do care about through research and use that information to craft messages that speak to thoseconcerns, making prospects and customers want to learn more and eventually buy your product. The best messagesare typically based on specific characteristics, actions, or behaviors that set you apart. But the only way your mes-sages will distinguish you is if your prospects and customers believe them and that you offer truly unique value.AN ARRAY OF BUSINESS BENEFITSGoing through the process of identifying your competitive advantages, conducting research to see how customersand prospects rate those advantages in terms of importance, and crafting competitive messages based on yourfindings will help you in a variety of ways. Through this practice you can:Understand exactly what your target prospects care about. You’ll find out what your target prospectswant by hypothesizing important purchase criteria and then testing them until you get them right.Improve your sales and marketing productivity. Using the right messages gives you the opportunityto differentiate your company from the competition in a succinct and meaningful way, making your products andservices easier to market and sell.Measure how well you are communicating your value proposition to improve yourmessaging over time. If you perform this practice regularly (e.g., annually), you’ll be able to measureand adjust your messages as the market changes. Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging | 3
  6. 6. Prospect and customer research will also help you:Understand how your company matches up against the competition, which will help your productdevelopment efforts.Gauge the brand awareness of your company and its products vis-a-vis your competitors in the marketplace,which will help you adjust the marketing and influence channels you’re using to reach your market targets.Understand the effects that your current marketing efforts have on the perception of your company andits products in the minds of your target prospects, which will help your overall communication efforts.Why Competitive Messaging is Critical for Early Stage Companies“The act of creative competitive messaging involves placing yourself in a market and positioning youroffering against others in that market. For early stage companies, particularly ones in emerging spaces,this gives prospects a frame of reference to help answer the question ‘What do you do?’ Contrasting youroffering with the ones that your prospects are already familiar with can make it easier to understand.“When a company expresses the value of their customer offerings, it is important to provide proof. Youcan say that you are ‘the leading provider of...’ but unless you demonstrate some evidence of that claim, the statement is meaningless. Customer proof points, third-party reviews, and quotes from industry experts can all serve to increase the credibility of a competitive claim.” April Dunford, Founder and Principal Consultant, RocketWatcher Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging | 4
  7. 7. THE KEY PLAYERSThe CEO and the rest of the executive team must buy in to the value of the research,determine the long- and short-term strategic goals for that research, communicate theimportance of the practice to employees, and dedicate proper resources to the effort.At the executive level, this means: Key Roles for the Implementation• Appointing an internal manager such as the VP of There are two primary internal roles for this practice, Marketing or the Chief Marketing Officer to oversee and this eBook contains corresponding checklists to the process help each role get started: 1. The CEO/executive team, who set the primary goals• Approving an approach and plan that is right for and strategy. the company based on its goals 2. The internal manager, who implements and manages• Properly resourcing the effort with the appropriate the process. staff and budget A third role relates to the market research component• Communicating the importance of the initiative to of competitive messaging. Use an independent, third- the entire company during a company-wide meeting party resource to manage the market research for your customers and prospects. Doing so will help ensure• Reviewing the impact of the messaging statements that your findings are objective, as third-party firms can on your company’s goals and making adjustments perform the research on a double-blind basis (neither on a regular (e.g., annual) basis for each segment the survey taker nor the person delivering the research knows who the client is).“From a market perspective, competitive messaging separates you from everyone else, helps to promotebuzz about you because of your differences, and helps prospects answer the question, ‘Why you?’ “From an economic perspective, it allows you to have some combination of a premium price, faster sales cycles, lower customer acquisition costs, higher gross margins, and higher renewal and upsell.” Scott Maxwell, Founder and Senior Managing Director OpenView Venture Partners Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging | 5
  8. 8. Competitive Messaging in Action:Getting StartedYour company can initiate CHECKLIST FOR THE CEO/EXECUTIVE TEAMa competitive messaging Use the following checklist to ensure that your competitive messaging effortsprocess immediately with have the greatest probability of success. The executive team should ensurethe proper focus and that all items are checked off, while the internal manager should be respon-resources. Now that you sible for working with that team to complete the various tasks involved.know what competitivemessaging is all about and We believe in the value of a competitive messaging process for our brand.why it is important for your We have discussed, prioritized, and approved this effort as a corporatebusiness, here’s how to marketing initiative.get started. This part of the We have determined the target segment(s) for the competitiveeBook contains checklists messaging process.and quickstart guides thatwill help each of the people We have assigned an internal manager to supervise and oversee thein key roles perform their competitive messaging process.activities relatively quickly. We have agreed to incorporate the newly created competitive messaging statements into our marketing materials; train our employees on how to use the statements; identify and track metrics around performance against customers’ purchase criteria; and set and manage goals geared toward driving performance. We have developed measurable goals so that we can track the effectiveness of our newly created messages. We have agreed to a budget for the research and marketing components. All of our employees know our messages and are using them on a regular basis. Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging | 6
  9. 9. CHECKLIST FOR THE INTERNAL MANAGERUse the following checklist to ensure that the internal manager is set up for success andfollowing the best approach to create competitive messaging statements. All of the items on the CEO/executive team checklist have been completed. I am aware of the budget determined by the CEO and/or executive team. I have evaluated our current messaging statements. I have identified our customers’ and prospects’ purchase criteria. I have developed a set of deliverables based on our capabilities and the customers’ and prospects’ purchase criteria. I have created preliminary competitive messaging statements. I will test the preliminary statements against customers’ purchase criteria through independent market research. I have identified an independent market research firm to conduct the prospect/customer study. I have developed a standard statement of work (SOW) to share with the market research firm to specify the project. I have identified and supplied a sufficient list of customers and/or prospects for the market research firm to develop a random sample. I have refined my competitive messaging statements, and/or developed new ones, based on the research findings. I have incorporated the new competitive messaging statements into the marketing materials. I have ensured that each member of the company knows the competitive messaging statements. I have identified and tracked metrics around performance against customers’ purchase criteria. I have set goals geared toward driving performance. I have ensured that there is a process in place to identify operational improvements needed to align the company with the customers’ top purchase criteria. I am committed to revisiting the competitive messages on at least an annual basis for each target segment. Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging | 7
  10. 10. QUICKSTART GUIDE FOR THE INTERNAL MANAGERThe following quickstart guide should be used by the internal manager to efficiently runthrough the practice of developing competitive messaging statements.CHOOSING YOUR TARGET SEGMENTSBefore you can begin to develop competitive messages, you need to:1. Segment your customers and prospects based on common needs, characteristics, and purchasing behaviors.2. Prioritize the segments based on business value.As the internal manager, it is your job to determine which messages will resonate with each segment, because eachsegment will undoubtedly have different needs and pain points. Therefore, you’ll have to walk through the competi-tive messaging process for each segment.It’s important to note that this kit does not explain how to segment your target markets. If your company has notalready done that, you’ll need to perform that segmentation before you begin the competitive messaging process.Here are some resources to help you determine your target segment(s):Market Segmentation Introduction You’ve Got Your Segments, What About Personas?Market Segmentation Reconciling Market Segments and PersonasThe Power of the Persona Digital Buyer PersonaSmart Advantage, Inc. Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging | 8
  11. 11. AUDITING YOUR CURRENT MESSAGING Now, if you’re ready to get started, begin by analyzing your company’s current messaging. You want to answer the question:“ hy will a customer buy from us W instead of our competition?” Specifically, you should: • Capture existing “Why Us” statements/messaging at your company and at your competitors • Identify any shortcomings with that messaging • Identify any of your company’s competitive disadvantages While studying your competitive messaging, review the following: • Website homepages • Website product pages • Press release boilerplates In addition, consult with your sales representatives, • Data sheets • Product catalogs any corporate spokespeople, and your executive • Various advertisements team members to get their input on your competi- • Presence on social media tive messaging and to see what types of messages • Articles or press/analyst mentions they are currently using. Ask them how effective • Other marketing materials they think the current messaging is and why. Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging | 9
  12. 12. IDENTIFYING YOUR COMPANY’S DELIVERABLES Deliverables are the characteristics, actions, and behaviors that set your company apart from competitors. There are numerous deliverables that might make your company stand out beyond the actual products or services it sells, including: • Customer service • Consistency • Quality or reputation • Innovation • The results you deliver for your customers • Trust/relationships • Employees or professional network • Speed of implementation • Resource baseWhat is your competitive advantage? Use the following exercise to guide you through the process — and be sure to stay away from price and product features. Highlight all of the deliverables and offerings that apply to your business, and add any others you can think of that are not on the list. There are only two rules in this exercise: 1. Any deliverables that you add need to be objective. 2. You must be able to quantify all deliverables. Make certain that you record your deliverables because you’ll use them later to craft your competitive messaging statements. Why Us? A Guide to Competitive Messaging | 10

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