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The A to Z Guide to B2B Competitive Analysis

b2b competitive analysis

How do you stack up against your competitors? If you’re not totally sure of the answer, it’s time to do a B2B competitive analysis.

It’s as simple as this: companies that frequently assess the competition put themselves in a better position to succeed. 

With sharp competitive knowledge, companies can capitalize on new opportunities, address potential threats, anticipate new emerging trends, and optimize their messaging to stand out on the market.

If you’ve never performed a B2B competitive analysis (or if you have and want to improve your process), you came to the right place. Read on to learn why a competitive analysis is so important for your company and 8 steps you can follow to perform one successfully.

Quick Takeaways

  • 74% of B2B marketers analyze their competition at least once per year.
  • Identifying a clear purpose and objectives for your B2B competitive analysis sets the stage to make it successful.
  • A B2B analysis should consider both direct and indirect competitors.
  • Companies should gather competitor data from both internal and external sources.
  • It’s critical to set dedicated time aside to present and discuss your findings.

What is a B2B competitive analysis and why should you do one?

A B2B competitive analysis is an assessment of your company compared to one or more of your competitors.

Smart B2B companies perform competitive analyses for many reasons, including to:

  • Identify new opportunities through gaps in the market
  • Understand current market position
  • Improve differentiation in marketing and sales messaging
  • Research new competitors
  • Learn company and competitor strengths and weaknesses
  • Prioritize offerings and initiatives
  • Create strong go-to-market strategies
  • Analyze industry trends

This list is long, but it’s not exhaustive. Companies perform a B2B competitive analysis for all kinds of reasons, many unique to their specific organization and situation. But no matter what the reason for it, a competitive analysis is an opportunity. When you know how you stack up against your competitors, you’re better equipped to take strategic action.

And if you’re not thinking about a competitive analysis, you’re already a step behind. B2B research has found that only a quarter of B2B marketers responded “never” when asked how often they analyze the competition. The rest do it every month (36%) every six months (22%) and every year (16%).

Most B2B marketers (74%) analyze their competition at least once per year.

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In the next section, we’ll walk step-by-step through the process of conducting a B2B competitive analysis to help you get started.

8 steps for performing a successful B2B competitive analysis

Set clear objectives

First thing’s first: to make your B2B competitive analysis successful, you must know its goals.

We covered many of the reasons for performing a competitive analysis in the last section. What are yours? You might have more than one, and that’s okay — it’s common.

Maybe you need to identify ways to better differentiate a particular product against a competitor’s. Perhaps you are trying to learn more about a new competitor that emerged on the market. Maybe your marketing department wants to assess the entire competitive landscape. Your product development team might want to understand gaps in the market to identify new opportunities.

All valid reasons for conducting a competitive analysis. You just have to know what yours are!

Once you do, you can set the right goals, such as “finding X new differentiators for X product” or “creating a competitive landscape report for the marketing team.” You can use the SMART goal framework to develop well-defined goals and encourage high accountability for reaching them.

SMART goal framework.

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Without knowing your purpose and goals, you risk performing an unfocused competitive analysis with less than stellar takeaways.

Start with your own company

Set the stage for your B2B competitive analysis by first understanding where your own company stands. The best way to do this is by performing a SWOT analysis, which assesses your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

A SWOT analysis will tell you how your company stacks up against your own objectives before you dive into assessing your competitors.

This video walks you through the process of conducting one:

List your competitors

You’ve set your goals. You know where your own company stands. Now it’s time to dive into your competitors.

A B2B competitive analysis can be conducted to compare against one single competitor or several of your main competitors. Note that the most important competitors to assess are not always the most obvious — sometimes indirect competitors pose as much of a threat to your market position as direct ones.

Let’s pause to clarify the difference between the two:

Direct B2B competitors offer the same product or service to the same ideal customer to fulfill the same need. Indirect competitors offer different products or services to the same customers to fulfill the same need.

Direct vs. indirect competitor checklist.

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An easy example: think of a shopping mall with a McDonald’s, Burger King, and eat-in pizzeria all in the same proximity.

McDonald’s and Burger King? Direct competitors. McDonald’s and the pizzeria? Indirect. They all serve the same customers (shoppers at the mall) to fulfill the same need (they’re hungry), but the pizzeria has different offerings.

For the most complete and accurate B2B competitive analysis, make an exhaustive list of your competitors and include them all in your assessment.

Gather data

You can find relevant data from both internal and external sources, including:

  • CRM and market intelligence platforms
  • Sales team feedback
  • Industry news and media coverage
  • Competitor websites
  • Industry reports and rankings
  • Social media
  • Customer reviews and testimonials

Before you begin any analysis, collect and organize your data into one centralized place.

Analyze your information

This part can be challenging if you’re not data-minded and don’t have in-house experts who are. Many companies assign competitive analysis work to full-time analysts on their teams. Others work with consultants who do it for them. If you plan to do it yourself, you might want to check out some data analysis basics to help you get started.

This step-by-step guide can also be helpful:

Draw conclusions

Now it’s time to ask the big question: what does it all mean? Your data analysis likely provided many insights. The next important step is to identify what’s most important, and start to build a key takeaways list that will define your strategy going forward.

For example, if you were doing a full competitive landscape analysis, you might ask: where does our company rank amongst the top 5 competitors? Perhaps you’ll identify several specific areas for which you rank the same competitor group. This kind of conclusion can drive action because it tells you where to capitalize on strengths and improve on weaknesses.

Present your findings

Whether you’re presenting to the CEO and Board of Directors or just to the team who conducted the analysis, it’s a good idea to put your findings into a formal presentation. Then, set dedicated time aside to present and discuss them.

Presenting your findings forces you to truly pull actionable conclusions from your analysis and provides a time and place to begin the next step: taking action.

Take action

Last but not least: turn your insights and conclusions into strategic action. This step is one of the most important reasons to frequently perform a B2B competitive analysis: it empowers you to continually improve your offerings, marketing, sales, and competitive strategies — all of which ultimately drive a better customer experience and higher revenue.

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