Competition is part and parcel of running a B2B business – a healthy sign of thriving markets. It focuses the mind, is a crucial motivator, and encourages ever better customer service. There are benefits as well as pressures: a competitive market can help drive input costs down by keeping your suppliers on their toes.
No market is perfect, and the level of competition you’ll face depends on a whole range of factors, from the number of buyers and sellers, to the transparency of pricing information – not to mention your own status; from new entrant to established player.
If you’re active in B2B, as an IT or management consultant, IT/software professional services specialist, you’ll already know your competitors – and know how competition affects business. They’re ones you come up against time and again in pitches, online searches, events and the trade press. And, rest assured, they’ll know you.
So how can you go beyond merely competing, to thriving and winning? If your competition is keeping you up at night, professional B2B marketing can drive your performance in a number of vital ways. Here’s how…
Tip 1: Get the basics right
Sounds obvious, right? Creating market leading product and services takes constant attention, work and investment. The competition never sleeps, either…
So if you’re continuously improving your offering, great. The next best place to start is honing your customer experience. From the very first point of contact, through to building ongoing relationships, it needs to be competitive and in-tune with your customers at every step.
Ask yourself how your prospects find you. What impression does that experience give them? How does your website stack up against your competitors? How are your prospects greeted when they call? Does your sales information and collateral genuinely help them understand, evaluate and appreciate your offer?
Work on your response
Next, consider your responsiveness. How quickly do you respond, compared to your competitors? Do you act on complaints? Do you engage customers in a dialogue and make them feel valued, not taken for granted?
Think through all your touchpoints – the places where customers experience you and your brand. Do you bring your brand personality to life? Do you live out your values? And does the left hand know what the right is doing? If the experience feels instinctively joined-up, you’ll build a solid base from which to impress.
Tip 2: Promote your strengths (and don’t hide your weaknesses)
It’s only natural to ‘big up’ your strengths. But be careful not to go overboard or put up a front. If you’re boutique, don’t pretend to be a vast conglomerate. It’ll come back to bite you where it hurts.
In fact, this might sound counter-intuitive, but resist the temptation to hide your weaknesses. There’s no need to shout about them on your website – but, rather, be open about what you offer over and above the competition, as well as the things that you won’t (or don’t) do, and the areas where you’re a generalist, not a specialist. This is especially important in the final stage of the buying cycle when your prospects are evaluating your business against others. Honesty matters.
Beware the curse of over-sell and under-deliver
Let’s face it, over-selling (then under-delivering) is a curse that’s hard to come back from. Instead, show how you’re working to get rid of potential flaws in your process (from product roadmaps and customer service initiatives to best practice standards like PRINCE2 and ISO). Your customers will discover your weaknesses soon enough – perhaps even from your competitors. Better raise the bar at the outset and eliminate your weak spots rather than hiding them.
To make the most of your B2B marketing investment, turn-up the volume on all the good stuff that showcases your prowess. Enter awards. Display wins on your website. Use positive PR about new clients and pitches. Build engaging content that shows off your expertise. And use testimonials from your current customers that really sing your praises. Showcasing a potent mix of your capabilities, innovation and customer value will really work in your favour.
Tip 3: Show what you stand for – and the value you bring
Competition is at its harshest in a price war. When a competitor cuts its price, it’s a race to the bottom that puts you on the back foot. All of a sudden, you’re in a scramble to justify your pricing, or respond in kind.
This is one of the key challenges facing B2B marketers – and there’s no silver bullet. However, in your relentless quest to stay ahead of the competition, differentiation works wonders. So if you’ve got your basics right, you can change the conversation by talking about the benefit of value over price by showing what you stand for – and, crucially, by the added value you bring your customers.
Learn to live your values
Being known for solving your customers’ problems (rather than just ‘shifting boxes’ or ‘delivering services’) gets you a long way. And living your values – being clear about why you do what you do – can give you a compelling reason to do business… and a competitive edge.
Look wider. Do you work to improve your community? Do you empower your people to solve problems in ways others don’t? Are you dedicated to a cause or two? In a highly competitive environment, being a ‘people business’ separates market leaders from narrow price-based competitors.
How professional B2B marketing grows your business
Whether you’re defending market leadership with competitors snapping at your heels, striving to get to the top or focused on building basic trust in your business, professional B2B marketing enables you to take on and beat larger B2B competitors.
Applying the insights, talents and creativity of teams who are usually only found in corporates, professional B2B marketeers can create B2B brand awareness: refining and targeting your messaging, applying it in all the right channels and working with Sales to generate leads and turn prospects into customers.
Set your marketing free to perform
Can your business beat the B2B competition through marketing? Time to find out. Our quick Self-Assessment tool is a tailored B2B marketing audit that can help you identify your roadblocks and make the most of your investment.