Competitive Enablement

Building a competitive intelligence newsletter that people actually read

News never stops. Your competitors, politics, Kardashians. There’s always a fast-moving river of information that everyone wants to drink from. 

People want news. And if you’re in the B2B world, what people really want is news on the competition. So how do you share that information out on a regular basis, and package it in a consumable, insightful way? 

Enter the competitive intelligence newsletter.  

Adam McQueen, host of The Competitive Enablement Show podcast, recently sat down with two competitive newsletter experts to discover how they got started and what makes their newsletters a hit among their peers.

Listen to the full conversation with Fiona Finn, Director of Product Marketing at Unbounce on Spotify and Apple.

Establish a single source of truth when starting your competitive intelligence newsletter

If you’ve already started building battlecards, newsletters, kill sheets without first establishing a single source of truth, we’re going to need you to hold your horses. 

That’s because your competitive intelligence newsletter and battlecards are vehicles for information found in your source of truth. This is not a chicken or egg kind of situation. The egg comes first — and the source of truth is your egg. 

This kind of approach has been crucial to the success of Nick Larson’s competitive newsletter at Bananantag. 

“You have to have a source of truth and then the Intel Digest is just building on top of it.” 

Prioritize one or two competitors to start, and keep it concise 

The best way to build your competitive newsletter is by starting small. 

For companies with a lot of competitors in a jam-packed competitive landscape, it will better serve your competitive newsletter to dial in on two or three direct competitors to test your approach and what resonates with your audience. 

Brandon Bedford, who runs Klue’s competitive intelligence newsletter, says that by starting small you avoid including an overwhelming amount of information and increase your chances of sharing meaningful insight. 

“If you have too long of a newsletter, it’s not going to get read. You need to make sure it’s really high impact. If you’re at a larger enterprise and you have many business units, pick one to focus on and start scaling from there.” 

And now that you’ve picked a focus for the content, it’s time to get to know the people who will read it. 

Klue account executive brandon bedford breaks down the best content for a competitive newsletter

Knowing your audience and the content they crave

A good competitive newsletter is all about communicating. And good communication is all about knowing your audience and then tailoring your content to it. 

In broad strokes, your audience might be your sales team, the C-suite, or product marketers. But there are a whole lot of finer points of distinction to be made within those broad strokes.

Both experts having had hands-on experience as sales reps before taking ownership of their companies’ competitive newsletters, Nick and Brandon knew the kind of information they needed to win more deals. 

“You have to know your audience and what type of content is going to engage them. I had the benefit of already having worked at Bananatag for a couple of years before we started the newsletter. And I worked in sales for that time,” says Nick.  

But beyond understanding in which business unit your audience sits, it’s important to consider other information that can lead to increased relevance. 

Nick says that, while his knowledge of the needs of sales reps and the company at large were key elements in getting his competitive newsletter off the ground, it was an ability to target his audience by personal attributes that helped him get the right content to the right audience. 

“For Bananatag, one of our biggest breakthroughs as a product was when we added the ability to target your email newsletters by employee attributes. So making sure that a salesperson in Copenhagen is getting content for a sales person in Copenhagen, and they’re not getting just the same content that’s sent to everyone.”

Bananatag, who recently merged with German-headquartered company Staffbase, the imperative to geo-target is obvious. But even companies operating within a one-country or one-continent context need to drill down to understand attributes of their potential audience. 

Building competitive newsletter content that is targeted towards location and personal attributes from Nick Larson

Tailor your communication style to your audience

Knowing the kind of content your audience wants is fundamental to building a good competitive newsletter. But perhaps just as important is knowing ‘how’ your audience wants to consume this content. 

Just like feeding your Danish sales reps with information relevant to their location makes a huge difference, so too does understanding your audience’s preferred ways of communicating.  

Competitive newsletters are designed for an internal audience. And newsletters that actually get read are often those that feel more like an instant message between colleagues than a government press release. 

Brandon takes advantage of this reality and makes sure that in addition to his insightful content, he adds a bit of fun as well. 

“We have a running joke at Klue that we all love the television series Friends. And so I make every subject line of our digest ‘The One With X Competitor’s Rebrand’, just like the names of the episodes from the TV show.” 

Inside jokes and emoji-filled content may not be the best approach for every organization, but when done right, it can bring your team together and make them more inclined to give your newsletter a read. 

“One of my favourite elements to add are Glassdoor complaints about working at our competitors. Does that make reps more powerful in deals? No, but it does give them a laugh. It does give them a reason to read.”  

Places to look for must-read content:

  • Win Stories
  • Loss Stories
  • Competitor Intel (with context and insights, obviously)
  • Industry news
  • ‘Rip and replace’ Stories
  • Shoutouts to teammates who helped unearth the intel (example from Klue’s own competitive intel digest below!)
Klue example of competitive newsletter intelligence

Competitive intelligence newsletter content recommendations from the experts

One thing you can be sure of when it comes to your audience is that they look to your newsletter to provide actual insights. Publicly available information regarding a merger, acquisition, or change at the leadership level is not inherently valuable to a sales rep’s or marketer’s success. 

Brandon says he asks himself important strategic questions before including this type of competitive intelligence into his newsletter, ultimately leading to more valuable insight for his audience. 

“If you just share that a senior member of the leadership team from one of your competitors has just left their job, okay, that’s great. But what does it do for me as a sales rep? You need to explain why this information is important and how it will help you sell better against the competitor.”

EXAMPLES OF CONTENT & CONTEXT

  • Company X hires new CMO > That’s the news but that’s not the context
  • CPO is hired following a funding announcement in which the CEO said the funds would be used to invest heavily in product > That’s context, but it’s not insight
  • CPO worked in social media monitoring previously; hire signals that company X is looking to tailor their product offerings towards social media monitoring, a weak point in their current product offering. This could give the competitor a leg up on us > That’s the news, context, and actionable insight

Reflecting on the how and why forces the newsletter curator to really decide whether this piece of intel is worth including. If Brandon can’t answer his own questions, it flags that he needs to reevaluate his content. 

Internal content is some of the best content

Nick larson explain how to build the best competitive intelligence newsletter

Collecting competitive intelligence from external sources is frankly not that impressive. Certainly not without first filtering out the noise or without the right context. 

Your audience is in fact more likely to derive practical insights from competitive intel that has been shared internally. That’s because internal information:

  • Has inherent context to your audience since it comes from a colleague
  • Has added insight because of that context
  • Is closely relatable to your individual function. 

For Brandon, it’s this kind of content that resonates most with his audience time and time again.

“I always thought there would be a ton of intel research and things happening on the web that will be really valuable. But it’s actually the deals we’re winning (or losing) against competitors [that resonate]. Those kinds of customer stories aren’t being scraped from the web. It’s those internal stories shared in our CRM or Slack that people are really interested in hearing.”

As you begin to position your newsletter as valuable content your audience comes to expect, it can become a catalyst for conversation in the way an internal MS Teams or Slack message cannot. 

At Bananatag, Nick has found that his competitive newsletter can actually encourage virtual watercooler discussions. 

“I’ll still post things on Slack in between newsletters, but those Slack posts don’t really kick off conversations. It’s really when something hits the Intel Digest that people realize that this is something they should take notice of and start talking about it.” 

What’s more, when a competitive newsletter is shared directly into an internal Slack channel, conversations begin to flow based on that newsletter’s content. In Nick’s experience, this kind of ease of access and visibility can even increase adoption of your competitive platform among sales reps. 

Key takeaways for making a competitive newsletter that actually gets read

No matter what industry you’re in, or teams you’re looking to support, the experts agree on the fundamental aspects of creating an effective competitive newsletter:

  • Having a reliable single source of information like battlecards
  • Knowing your audience
  • What they want to hear
  • How they want to hear it
  • Sharing your newsletter directly to Slack or other internal message platforms 
  • Timely, relevant and NEW information about competitors
  • Providing insight that directly relates to your audience’s role in the company
  • Starting small and scaling from there

Follow this advice and you’ll be on your way to creating a competitive intel digest your team looks forward to each week. Skip some steps, and you’ll simply be creating another newsletter that doesn’t get read. 

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