Your Competitor Landscape is More Littered Than You Think

January 30, 2023

Don’t overlook these B2B competitive dynamics.

Everyone knows developing a strong marketing strategy or creative brief involves analyzing your competition. However, many Clients don’t realize that this competitive intelligence should cover more than just your top competitor organizations or rival products. There’s an entire gamut of competitive threats and dynamics to acknowledge and consider, as they might impact the work your brand needs to do in-market.

For all of these, remember: As your agency partner, we want to know who your direct competitors are, but more crucially, we want to uncover why you win or lose against them.

First, assess your primary, direct competitors

Start by looking at the “squeaky wheel” players you hear about most from your sales team. They’re often long-standing, entrenched competitors and your primary offerings may regularly trade market position with them. Your customers will likely know of and evaluate this competitor as well.

Questions to consider: Are you positioned and recognized as the Leader brand for this offering? If not, who’s ahead of you? What makes your product offering different from these direct competitors, if anything?

Then get real about which competitors, or 800-pound gorillas, steal the spotlight

In the direct space, there are aspirational competitors … and then there’s reality. While you may be looking to chip away at market share from the Leaders, it is critical to acknowledge where you’re still competing head-to-head with mid-market contenders – and why you may win or lose. This can illuminate whether this is a brand awareness opportunity, if there are gaps in the market your brand can better address for customers or if there are other considerations that have your customers’ attention.

Questions to consider: What is your market share? What are competitors saying or doing differently, and perhaps more importantly, what is everyone doing or saying the same?

Next look to indirect or challenger competitors

What about new and emerging organizations or offerings? These “would-be” Challengers may not have the same market presence yet, but knowing if they’re in the space and where they overlap or threaten your offering or business—even if it’s a future-state threat—is vital to your strategic planning and market position.

For indirect competitors, consider if your offering or service didn’t exist; where or to what would your target audiences turn instead? Those things might be different products, more manual processes or a competitor offering that only overlaps with part of your service. But at the end of the day, these offerings are helping your customers reach the same goals or fulfill the same needs. For example, process workflow offerings are often more threatened by customers who still rely on trusty Excel spreadsheets than other direct workflow competitors.

Taking a cue from a SWOT analysis, it also makes sense to think about current gaps or acknowledge missed opportunities in your current offerings and what your customers need. This gap in itself could be a form of indirect competition, and over time you might find a Challenger who tries to fill the void.

Be sure to acknowledge any partner or reseller dynamics

While they’re all reaching for the same goals, partner and reseller relationships may look the same to your end-customer and your brand can get lost in the mix. Co-opetition makes this even more complicated. Assessing how your partners and resellers position your brand or offering (or don’t position your brand, in the case of private-labeled offerings), offers crucial insight into how customers view the world.

And lastly, don’t forget about category threats or internal dynamics

Internal and external threats are among our favorite dynamics to dig into with Clients. They are often the most overlooked. These competitive threats generally boil down into three buckets:

  • Unrecognized need or pain point – “I don’t have a widget problem.” In this case, your customer doesn’t recognize that there is even a need.
  • Status quo / No action – “I don’t need widgets; our thingamabob works just fine right now.” Here, no one has convinced them their pain point is worth the cost or effort it will take to implement a new solution.
  • Cost or effort of switching is too high – “Widgets sound great, but we’ll never be able to move away from our current thingamabob given the amount of money we’ve invested.”  This dynamic is seen most often in organizations with heavy investment in legacy processes or technologies, so they continue to rely on the same solutions regardless of satisfaction level.

Each of these can help re-think, strengthen or validate your brand message or value prop and find new opportunities for your brand to better serve customers.

Putting the landscape into action

When developing a Creative Brief, our team will often separate the landscape into these categories:

  • Top Direct Threats,
  • Challenger Competitors,
  • and Internal Dynamics.

This is a simple exercise that your teams can also think through. And we encourage regular check-ins to see if anything has changed or shifted around these three areas.

More often than not, it’s the insight into these lesser-acknowledged threats that can make for a strong strategy or brief – and an even stronger campaign or creative output. And the net of that is, your organization builds a more truly competitive positioning and offering that will be harder to unseat.