Who are my competitors’ customers?

by | Jun 22, 2021

If your company is like others, every day brings new questions that need to be tackled to inform tactical and strategic objectives. At HelloInfo, we are often brought into this process to help provide answers. HelloHelp is our recurring blog series in which we discuss common questions that we help customers answer across client teams.

This week we are looking at a common conundrum – understanding with certainty who your competitors’ customers are.

The rationale behind understanding who competitive customers are

Why do companies want to find their competitors’ customers? There are a few different reasons:

  • To target competitor customers
  • To understand what the competitive client demographic is
  • To understand how big of a market share a competitor has
  • To conduct intelligence gathering activities on the competitor by interviewing their customers

The list could go on and on…understanding who your competitor’s top accounts are is a key best practice to sales enablement and sales competitiveness today.

What do pea pods have to do with competitor intelligence?

When we look to understand what a “top” client is, we often turn to the 80/20 rule, more formally known as the Pareto Principle.

The Pareto Principle was discovered in the late 1800’s by Italian engineer and economist Vilfredo Pareto. Legend has it that one day in his gardens, he noticed that 20% of his pea plants generated 80% of the healthy pea pods. This observation led to him considering uneven distribution in other applications, and in investigating different industries in Italy, found that 80% of production typically came from just 20% of the companies. He went on to make other similar observations, for example noting that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

We’ve all seen or heard about the 80/20 rule in practice repeatedly in our lives, especially those of us in business. For example, the top 20% of American earners pay 80% of income taxes.

Understanding who makes up your competitors’ top 20% (and by assumption comprise 80% of their revenues) – and then conducting further competitive analysis to understand why they use your competitor, to understand more about their needs, purchase criteria, barriers, unmet needs, and more – will allow you to not only enhance your offerings to your existing customer base, but also provides an opportunity to go after your competitor’s top 20%.

Helloinfo’s approach to helping you understand your competitors’ customers

To help you determine who your competitors’ top customers are, HelloInfo often deploys a two-pronged approach, which includes desk (secondary) research, and interviews (primary research). What types of questions do these two types of research answer?

Desk research, or secondary research, allows us to look at:

  • The competitor website, annual reports (if public), press releases, social media accounts, and any company-produced materials to see which customers they are touting loudly for the world to see
  • Dig in on corporate and key company figure social media profiles to see who they are connected to
  • Search for enterprise-level contracts that have been stored publicly online
  • Read reviews to understand who is posting, and what they are saying
  • Industry publications or analyst reports where company representatives are quoted discussing customers, or key customers are listed
  • Conference materials where your competitor may be presenting with key clients

Primary research, or in-depth interviews (IDIs) allow us to get beyond what the company is curating about their customer set, allowing us to ask current and former employees of the competitor’s sales or customer success teams:

  • Who are the company’s top 20% revenue-generating customers? What are the annual sales generated by each of these customers?
  • What products or services do these customers purchase from your competitor?

Getting to know your competition, by way of its core customers

When all this research is completed, HelloInfo prepares custom reports for our clients to read, understand, present, workshop, and disseminate across their organization to use as competitive insight, and as sales tools.

Most often our clients ask us to prepare a succinct and powerful presentation for its sales executives and to provide support for them to understand exactly what they should do next in their journey to better serve their own customers, and to potentially target the key customers of the competitor. In these presentations, HelloInfo clients will leave with an understanding of:

  • Which customers represent the top 20%
  • Which customers generate ~80% of revenues
  • What competitive products are generating that revenue
  • Why the top customers purchase from your competitor
  • Top areas of unmet need that your competitor isn’t fulfilling
  • Identify white spaces in your competitor’s approach to sales
  • Customer segments your competition is ignoring
  • Approaches your company can take to further refine your own sales approaches
  • Approaches your company can take to target your competitor’s top customers

Right now, your competitor is sitting back and feeling comfortable with its top sales-generating customers, feeling lucky to have them for their monthly or annual revenues. Join with HelloInfo to disrupt their comfort! Schedule a call with Nicolle and Tanya to discuss how we can create a plan for this together.

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