The Sales Engagement Podcast
The Sales Engagement Podcast

Episode · 2 months ago

A Guide to Customer & Competitive Research


By conducting both customer and competitor research, you can set your product or service up for success right from the start. It helps you build a community, guide your sales and marketing teams, develop your product roadmap, and differentiate yourself from the rest of the competitive landscape.

In this episode, Kristen Schafer, Sr Integrated Marketing Manager at Faithlife, shares some tips and tricks for conducting customer and competitive research, as well as some advice for aligning sales and marketing.

What we talked about:

  • Tips for approaching customer research
  • Tips for approaching competitive research
  • Increasing sales and marketing alignment

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

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Welcome to the sales engagement, apodcast, this podcast is brought you by outreach, the leading sales engagementplatform and they just launched out reach on our reach the place to learnhow outreach well does not reach learn how the team follows up with every leadin record time after virtual events and turns them into revenue. You can alsosee how out rewins account based plays, manages reps and so much more usingtheir own sales engagement platform. Everything is backed by data pulledfrom out reach processes and customer base when you're done you'll be able todo it as good as they do had to outreach on io on out reach to see whatthey have going on. Now, let's get into today's episode hallo and welcome back everyone to thesales engagement podcasts. Thank you as always for lending us, your ear drumsfor the next thirty minutes, or so i know, there's a million and one thingsmine for your attention right now, so we're honored that you're hanging outwith us. It's going to be a great discussion excited for this one i amjoined by kristen shafer christen! Welcome! Thank you. It's so good to behere, scott excited to have you and i'm really looking forward to kind ofdiving in and the focus of this session will be kind of around alignment andwe'll talk a little bit about customer and competitive research, but before weget there, i always like to kind of start with with you and i frameit typically as the the superhero origin story. What's your background,how did how did you get to hold such a cool marketing roll at a fast growingcompany? Well, yes, again, my name is kristen shaeffer and i currently workas a senior marketing manager for faith life, which is a fast growingtechnology company. I've been there for the past eight years and i absolutelylove it because things are always changing. So i'm constantly learningnew skills- and i focused right now in taking new products to market for faithlife. So really i'd, say i kind of stumbled into the rule i'm in now, buti have always had a bend toward entrepreneurship. I have competed inbusiness plan competitions in the past. I just completed octree leadership,certificate from yude and have done quite a quite a few other things withworking with startups. So i love that arena, but yet right now take a newtechnology products to market. So that's a little bit about me. That'sawesome! I mean that's, it's a fun fun role to kind of like take somethingfrom some much. This idea, yeah like ze,zero, the one right you're starting from from the the basics- and i thinkthat's a a good place to start like...

...when, when you think of okay, we've gotthis new product feature set whatever it may be. What are some of the firstthings you think about before you take a product to market? So if the productteam comes to me and says, we've got this new set of features new product.Launching that's the question. What would i do with it? Yeah? What's likethe first first step, absolutely right away, i'd be interested in figuring outas much as i can about why the customer is interested and how it is going tohelp them. What pain points are we alleviating so i'd be interested ingetting whoever created the product there take on it in my company, our ceobob pritchett he's he's the product genius behind a lot of what we do. Soin that case, i would sit down with him and say, tell me all about this. Whyare you making it and what exactly is it solving for the customer, but iwould also follow that up by getting on the phone with as many customers as ican just start, calling them up or potential customers. I should say whoare in your target market and asking them just just share with them: hey webuilt this thing. What do you think what stands out to you and in the mostconversations you can even start testing some of your marketingmessaging to you learn pretty quickly like if i say this line, it reallysticks. But if i say that line, nobody even seems to blink an eye. Yes, sojust just having as many of those conversations as early on as possiblebefore really getting very deep into the strategy yeah, i like that. How do you thinkabout so faith like you built this great great brand? Let's say i'm alistener, and sometimes it's tough to get people tosit down with you and and talk with you, even even if you're like me, i'm justpurely trying to understand. Do you incentivize the prospects of thecustomer in any way to to share that information with you or how? How do youget these conversations you've been even set up, or so i'm actually alsoworking on starting my own company, which is a line of cycling, clothingfor women and so doing this on my own, and so i'm spending my own money. Soi'm trying not to send a lot in incentives and that sort of thing andmy target market. So in this case women who love to ride a bike, hey cannot,can i vent your ear for twenty minutes? Also, people love being the center ofattention and when in it, as can i interview you that tends to be a littlebit of a magical phrase. I'm like. Oh, you know you want to interview me. Well,i guess i'm important a are they're. Your future customers, so they shouldbe that phrase, can open doors and then, at the end of those phone calls, iasked for recommendations. Okay, can you give me the name of two more womenwho i can talk to who also love to ride..., and so you almost get thisreferral string going and from that i actually have a list of women who istill want to call who i haven't been able to get through, because so peopleare referring them and it also opens that door when you reach out to thatnew person. You've never met before you can say, hey so and so referred you andsaid. I really need to talk to you so make at that connection a little biteasier for you as well. I look both tricks. I deployed in the past. Yeah,that's great super super actionable. What is the name of this new brand? Youstart, i know listeners would love to check it out and support it. I am stillworking on the branding piece to be honest, but i do have a website up formarket research purposes as well. That's one thousand cyclism and that'sthe number one thousand so one sand, cyclist com and i'll tell you a littlesecret on that one too. It's a market research site that i put up. So whenyou go there, i'm going to ask you to fill in a survey, but i all chef fox,for i says: are you interested in learning about future developments andpotential offers and just from letting people check that box they're off intomy email list? I'm doubling this market research survey as a chance to grow anemail list before i even have a product. But again i am also growing a base ofpeople. I can go continue to do research with in the future. That's super interesting and somethingi m i'm hearing in the market. A lot is this idea that sounds to me, like this.New movement of like community led broth right where it's you're, buildingthe community you're building the following your building, the thingsthat an understanding what people care about, sometimes even before there's aproduct or a service available which is really interesting, and i think i might be the future of a lot ofbusinesses so kudos to you for like fully embracing. That was thatintentional. Do you think about community led growth and role at faithlife? And now this this side, venture or you're doing yeah i'd say it was amix of a couple things, one again something i'm hearing from the customerresearch i'm doing for that personal project from these phone calls is thatwomen ride bikes feel like they're, missing community, so specifically inthis industry or this target market that i'm going after the women areasking for community. So it feels absolutely ripe to bring them along inthis journey. Make them feel like they're, a part of it and seethemselves in it again. Even before i have a product that i can sell to them.That's very intentional! Yes, i'm a marketer, but i'm also verysales oriented and so part of me is. I am selling right now, even though youknow i commissioned my first prototype...

...yesterday, so i'm still a way out, buti have in retch. Thank you, i'm pretty excited, but i am looking at this islike i am day, even though i might not recognize recognize that sale foranother couple months, m yeah, that's a good, a good way to look at it andwhether it's a bike, clothing, brand or shaft. I think all of these share thisvery common thread where, if you, if you listen tothe community, that you build it's going to inform your sales marketing,even products road map, right of about how you looking at it, i love that okay,a bit of a pivot, so we talked a bit about customer research. How do youthink about competitive research and the landscape around you, because thatsuper important right like you, need to have messaging? That's differentatedfrom the rest of the landscape? All these things? How do you? What step?One of that, when you look around at editi lass game, i started by followingevery competitor i could find on social yeah, and it was like this inundate mewith your advertisements, and you know twitter instagram, alltheir channels, just like, like like like like across the board, and so mynews, feed and all my social afts every day is a digest of what my competitorsare up to as i'm going through it. So i'd say that was that would be stuffone get on their mailing lists. One example of a competitor again for mepersonally, a bike brand. I noticed that in all of their emails they ledwith men on bikes. They sold women's clothing, but they were emailing to meimages of men and so like there's a marketing opportunity right there. Okay,let's, let's get our email segmentation right, guys, you learn stuff by following them.Another tactic- that's been really enlightening, is to start a spreadsheetof your competitors and write down what you think their value propositions areand who their target market is like in a couple of words and then also dropdown their high price point and their low price point. What i found when icreated that spread shin it took me a couple hours on a saturday is all of asudden. You could start seeing trends in the market. One really interestingexample to me: it kind of ties. All this together is, i noticed for theestablished bike brand, so you might look at like a specialized or in acosthey were only selling black shorts for women, and that was that was prettymuch your only option. You want this black short or that black short andthen you went to the cheaper brands more of the mom and puff frans, andthey had these crazy designs, and that...

...was all they were selling. I'm talking,pocoata, butterflies and, in one case unicorn, that's not a joke, and so istep back and go wow. Women have to choose between these extremes and then,when you start asking women, you bring that into your market research asinsights, and so i started asking women. Do you like the shorts on the market?What do you think of the designs and i started hearing i'm sick of blackshorts or i am sick of in your face feminine designs and you go? Oh, itlooks like there's a gap in the market here and i'm hearing that from womentoo yeah. I'm a big fan of the spreadsheet start writing things down.It will hope you see the trends and the gaps and where you can step in, i likeit. So i love your a look on it. Are you taking, then, when you hear thisfeedback, are you taking like the actual language and and putting thatinto your messaging? Like? Would you as this brand evolved? Are you saying? Areyou sick of overly feminine brands, or are you angry that you only have blackshorts like? Are you using the the voice of the people? You're talking doto inform your your messaging. Yes, i would, i would say, i'm using it totest messaging. I also highly recommend taking a lot of notes. I am alwaystyping furiously when i'm on these future customer calls doing researchand i go back through them and i'll bold. Certain statements like what youwere just mentioning, that i think i could use in messaging down the road orjust in my little nuggets that really jump out at me. My favorite example in doing this i spoke to awoman. She was in her late s and had ridden almost her whole life, so she'dgone through a lot of ike clothes, and she was essentially complaining to meabout how so much of the clothes on the market it felt like it was meant for aman and that that the people making the clothes had just taken taken theclothes that the men wore turned to pain made it smaller. We like here, yougo and she looked at me and she said the problem is that women are not smallmen and i just thought that was genius. And so of course you got right thatdown. I bold it and i've definitely been testing that one like is this lineresonating with women. It is so far and then you start thinking through likehow could you use? I mean my mind: is the marketer goes to? How can i usethis in a marketing campaign or put it on a website or start a hash tag, oryou know many other different things. So absolutely answer your question.Yeah! It's sometimes is so powerful to to use those lines that come directlyfrom the the people you're interacting with and we're lucky now that we haveall these like tools like there's like conversationall intelligence and allthese things that we can keep an eye on...

...what people are actually saying aboutour product and all right. So the last piece i wanted to talk about- and youcan draw this from this new experience or your role at faith life, but i thinkas a marketer you're constantly seemingly at least since i've been intech and this this world sales of marketing alignment has always beenthis like constant, almost tage war, and i think a talking about right andthen- and it's always like okay, we're not getting. The right leads the leadparty we're not getting an athletes or this, and that and we'll see we'reseeing some people address this with, like a shared number and and all thesethings, how have you been able to increase kind of sales of marketingalignments? Recently, that's the million dollar question. Isn't it it isit is. I will not pretend to have this one fully solved yet, but a couple ofthings that we have tried. So so let me back up right now: it's safe life, wejust launched a new, be to be sass product, and so we're really l. We asmarketers, are really having to lean into the sales team to close business.So we've got a quota of leads that we have to hit every month, give them tothe sales team and then they've got to go, sell them and to your point, if youconstantly hear this, the leads aren't hot enough or something else is wrong with them.Let's see, we had too many international leagues too many badphone numbers like all these things, come back at you as a marketer or weneed more sales and able mant, that's been a big one, and so at first, whenthat feedback came back, it felt a little bit all over the board, and iwas like okay, how do we? How is this actionable and we had to go back to thesales team a couple times as we're launching this new product and sayinghey? What would really help us is, if you guys, can start quantifying whatyou're hearing so that we can go tackle the biggest issues first and we had. Weset up many different codes in hab spot to start tracking, like my customer,for saying no, for example, so that the sales reps could start telling us andquantifying thirteen customers said that they're, not the decision makerand ten say he didn't speak english or whatever those problems were, and itwas a process to get that right, but the more we can quantify those thanthat empowers marketing to go suckling. Okay here are issues: let's, let'screate strategies to solve them, so that really helped as well as justestablishing a lot of opportunities to hear each other and really like to stopand listen and hear each other, because it can be so easy to just pass judgmentwhen you're hearing something like your leads are too cold.

So i tried to hang out with our salesteam at least two or three times a week right now, until we get things up beenrunning a little bit smoother, but but we're only a couple weeks intolaunching this new product, so we have lots to learn still yeah a few thingsin there that i want to underscore. I think the the idea of like putting thewhy behind everything, it's not just like okay, you didn't like these lead,but why didn't you like the them and like going through that and like evenif it was an opportunity that was almost closed? Why is it closed lossnow and let's do that that deal review, so we can understand and and iterate. Ithink that's super important, some great advice in there all rightand without doubt every single episode, i'm always shocked how quickly thethirty minutes goes as this son, the same there's a lot of good good stuffin here. I have one more question before we'll kind of like wrap up withsome some takeaways- and this is just an open ended like you've, had a greatcareer in marketing you're building this this new side project. That soundsreally cool. If you had a direct line to someone, maybe just starting theircareer or wanting to get to a position that that you've got to what would youradvice be to that really listen to the customer, the customer voice. I won'tgo as far as states everything, but it should drive most things and the morecontact you can have with your market or your target market. The more you canreally help shape your strategies and plans as a businesses. I never ceasedto be amazed at how i think i will have created the best strategy in the worldand then you put it in front of you know three potential customers and youimmediately see the problems, and the same is now proving true with productdevelopment, so my biggest advice is yeah. Contact with the market iscrucial, excellent, excellent advice all right least reach. My last question,which i always ask the same question when i'm wrapping up episodes- and thiscomes from a place of everyone listening. This is super busy, they're,probably doing a million and one things as there listening to this and it'shard to digest it all. But if people just remember, let's say three thingsfrom this conversation: what would you want those to be? I'm writing thesethings down to as i'm listening to you. They would be so what i just said.Listen to your customers get contact with the market. Number two is watchyour competitors even if, for now you just go out and follow three of them onsocial media start watching your competitors today and then the thirdone is start selling. Now, even if you don't have a product, even if you'renot sure, if you're going to pivot eighteen times, but it's never too soonto start selling there you go. I love... I really like that. Last one. Ilove it because that everything's speeding up so quicklyright to just get out there, try it you're going to get new data pointsthat come in and every time they're going to iterate you get a little bitbetter and a little bit better a little bit better and speed is your friend inthis environment. We we live in well persackly, a forward. This is beetawesome. Thank you so much for sharing your insight in your time with ourlisteners and to all those sisters that hung out with us. Thank you so much howye found as valuable as i did and we'll see an excep thank yous guy. This wasanother episode of the sales engagement podcast to help this get in front ofmore eyes and ears. Please leave us a shining five star review join us atsales engagement com for new episodes, resources in the book on salesengagement to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy, make sure tocheck out out reached lio. The leading sales engagement platform see you onthe next episode a.

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