What’s your line? Using your competitors’ communications to your advantage.

Businesses have been eyeballing and researching their competition since the beginning of capitalism, but it is also critical for companies to understand what their competitors are saying…about themselves!  By knowing how other companies in the same vertical are positioning their core mission, it becomes easier to develop language so you can define your own value proposition more clearly. And the good news is that almost everything you need is easily available. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Sales collateral. At the next industry event, casually stroll by your competitor’s booth and shove as much dead tree into your swag bag as you can. This is the stuff that sales reps pass around at meetings, and it will tell you EXACTLY how that company sees the market. In particular, look at who the piece is written for – is it focused on potential partners, resellers, direct customers or other audiences.
  2. Press releases. Any competitor worth worrying about has a section on its website with news releases teeming with throw-away phrases like “leading-edge,” “best-of-breed,” and “fully-integrated.” Cut through the marketing BS, however, and you’ll get a good sense of the problems that your competitors think that their products solve.
  3. Case studies, bylined articles, blog posts and white papers. You should also be able to find customer success stories, short articles and longer papers that give away just enough free advice that readers will seek out your competitors for more. These types of materials will further clarify who your competitors are targeting and how they are positioning their expertise. For example, an overly technical case study might show that a competitor is trying to sell to engineers, while a more business-focused piece may be trying to appeal to CFOs.
  4. Web copy and site organization. You can gain a sense of a company’s entire marketing approach by the way information is organized on their site, and you can also zero in on key phrases that show up again and again. It’s no accident when that happens – and when certain phrases bleed into press releases, case studies and other collateral, you know you’re onto something.

If you know what to look for and where to look, a competitive communications audit is a cost-effective way to size up your rivals and gain insight that you can use to your advantage. This should be the first step in any communications plan because it will help you identify what you need to be saying and how you need to say it.

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