Competitive Enablement

Enabling product teams with competitive intelligence and earning a strategic voice at the leadership table: a conversation with Unbounce’s Fiona Finn

Your sales team might be the most obvious consumer of competitive intelligence. But it can’t be the only team embedded in the world of competitive enablement. Not if your organization wants to win on every level. 

For organizations like Unbounce, competitive intelligence is entwined throughout the organization — and a key driver of results across multiple departments. 

So how did they get there? What drove Unbounce’s desire to leverage competitive intel to enable more than just the sales team? And what — or should we say who — is ensuring that there is organizational visibility and leadership buy-in for the competitive program?

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

Product teams are hungry for competitive intelligence

When Fiona Finn, Director of Product Marketing at Unbounce, did her first deep dive into the competitive enablement program at Unbounce, it wasn’t the sales team that most leveraged the actionable insights available to them. It turned out that Unbounce’s product team was the one with an appetite for competitive intelligence. 

“I quickly did a bit of a search to see who are the most engaged viewers in the organization. I was so surprised to see that our product managers were way up there,” Fiona shared in a recent episode of the Competitive Enablement Show. “Of the seven most engaged individuals, I think five were within our product management team.”

In fact, Unbounce’s UX and product teams were in the habit of checking out competitive battlecards in the discovery phase of a new product to determine where they were at in relation to the competition. 

Fiona recognized that product teams were looking for content on their competitors that would help them differentiate when launching a new feature or product. She began to understand that as a product marketing team — and the experts on Unbounce’s competitive landscape — they could positively impact the business by working tightly with the product teams to help them start differentiating during the ideation and discovery phases. 

“When we launch a product, we know that differentiation is really important. There’s so many new technologies out there, both indirect and direct competitors. That’s why product marketing is really part of that ideation process right from the start. We don’t just come in at the end of the product life cycle when something is ready [to be launched]…We’re really embedded there at the start of the conversation.” 

Enabling product with competitive intelligence Fiona Unbounce

Fiona says her team is constantly looking for ways to speed up the discovery process to bring products to market more efficiently. Using a Lean Canvas framework, with a section devoted to market landscape and competitive landscape analysis, inputs from product marketing are captured and used as a north star for how to differentiate. 

“When reviewing the lean canvas in the direction you want to take, if there are serious things at odds between the market opportunity, the competitive landscape analysis, and the solution you think you should be building… you have that data at an early point in time and you’re giving visibility to the product marketing sentiment and their competitive insights.” 

There’s nothing worse than fumbling to figure out how you’re differentiating when you’re already 60-70% of the way through building a product. That’s why Fiona took it upon herself, as the competitive expert, to help the product team differentiate from the ground up. 

Building the foundation of a competitive enablement program

Luckily for Fiona, there was already a competitive culture in place at Unbounce. However, in order for her competitive program to really be embedded within the organization, the competitive program had to:

  • Understand the specific needs of different stakeholders and provide quick wins
  • Gain, and maintain, visibility with the leadership team in the organization
  • Have a leadership team that’s bought into the value of competitive enablement 

One of the best ways to help your cause is to get a quick, tangible win that can serve as a proof of concept of the entire program. And while all functions in an organization will benefit from competitive enablement, a partnership with the sales team specifically can be the gateway to success. 

Competitive Enablement Program Sales & Enablement

Read 5 reasons why your Competitive Enablement Program should support sales first

“I like to start on the ground by talking to people who are going to benefit most…make those real connections and have some one-on-ones with some trusted sales reps, people in revenue who look at churn metrics or win-loss every day and get a sense of where they need your help.” 

Sales teams require hands-on tactical competitive support — and you can showcase some early tangible impacts of your competitive program by helping them close competitive deals. 

In other words, your job is to figure out — and fill in — knowledge gaps preventing your sales team from closing deals. Gaps like:

  • Intel on an emerging competitor disrupting sales cycles
  • Examples of how to handle new FUD a competitor is using in deals
  • Battlecards with ‘quick dismissals’ your reps can use to quickly knock out a competitor

An early partnership with sales will also allow you to collect competitive intel at scale. They hear things every single day on calls in the field, and if you’ve built a strong rapport with them, they’ll be more likely to share back intel with you

With sales and product bought into your program, you’ll be off to the races! Oh, except that you’re still missing buy-in from the most important group of stakeholders: the leadership team. 

Prove that competitive enablement is a strategic asset for the leadership team

In a perfect world, your senior leadership team would intimately understand the value a competitive program brings to the organization, and resource it accordingly. 

In reality, it will take some serious proof, strategizing and persistence to not only get a seat at the table, but keep it as well. 

With the market (and the competitors within it) continually changing, Fiona and her team take every opportunity they can to get in front of leadership to present a competitive landscape ‘refresh’. Otherwise, the insights brought by her team risk becoming stale and obsolete. 

“Intel can go stale, and we know that it’s so important for every company to stay ahead. Your position in the market should be changing all the time…competitors are changing. Your leadership team needs that information. So if you can set the expectation that you’re going to [regularly] deliver them with a completely fresh competitive landscape, they’ll wait for it and they’ll need it.” 

When done correctly, this regular competitive landscape analysis can be a key guide to how important business decisions will be made each and every quarter. 

A sure-fire way to make that happen is ensuring you have a solid understanding of the greater business strategy of the company — enabling you to build a competitive program that aligns with your organization’s highest priorities. 

“A really good exercise I’ve done a few times is to survey your leadership team on their top priorities in relation to the competitive landscape…and then with those findings, you should prioritize your program to start checking off those priorities one by one. So that they are bought into it.”

Once you’re armed with insights and data points gathered from surveying the team on the ground and your leadership team, it’s time to start building trust with colleagues by providing something of tangible value.

In Fiona’s experience, a high-level, accompanying this updated competitive landscape analysis with three clear differentiation points is actionable and digestible. 

“One thing I’ve found is that leadership loves really easy to consume matrix or landscape views of your position in the market…if you can break down your competitive landscape presentation to three slides of really clear differentiation opportunities, that should build their trust.” 

Enabling product teams with competitive intelligence

As the competitive expert, once you provide this overview, the onus is on you to provide a handful of differentiation points applicable to each team within your organization. You’re tasked with the challenge of appealing to everyone, and not excluding anyone, in a clear and concise manner. 

This involves considering the different priorities and styles of each member of the leadership team. What does the head of sales need to hear from you to prove your value? How does that differ from the CMO? Your CFO will always be thinking about revenue metrics, but not every CFO is the same. 

“It’s kind of like the Spice Girls. Everyone has their very clear personality. They all have their own interests. So you have to decide what’s going to resonate most with each one. Make sure you’re including hard numbers and data…include your bits of product, include your sales processes, include your marketing message and differentiators…that should give them what they need to support their teams and have a clear idea of where you sit.” 

In short, painting a clear, data-driven picture of where your organization and your competitors stand, and how you can differentiate, might just be your best bet to getting the always sought after buy-in from senior leaders. 

Be the competitive enablement expert, and hold the line

To borrow a concept from Peter Thiel, going from zero to one is the biggest hurdle in building your competitive program from nothing to something. 

For you and your competitive program to get there, you’ll need to:

  • Understand the needs of the business and the different stakeholders within it
  • Deliver some tangible ‘quick wins’ to gain trust
  • Tailor your competitive content to different arms of the leadership team to prove your strategic value, 
  • Continually provide a window into the inner workings of your competitive program. 

A shared space like a Slack channel, bi-weekly updates via email, and scheduling regular meetings and presentations, are great ways to ensure all the hard work you put into building the credibility of your competitive program isn’t all for naught. 

With the right plan in place, it will never again be a question of if your organization should scale its competitive program across the organization. Instead, your problem will be how quickly you can expand your program into every department. 

And that my friends is a good problem to have. 

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