The Sales Engagement Podcast
The Sales Engagement Podcast

Episode · 9 months ago

A Guide to Customer & Competitive Research

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

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 a podcast. This podcast is brought you by outreach, the leading sales engagement platform, and they just launched outreach on outreach, the place to learn how outreach well does outreach? Learn how the team follows up with every lead in record time after virtual events and turns them into revenue. You can also see how outreach ones account based, plays, manages reps and so much more using their own sales engagement platform. Everything is backed by data pulled from outreach processes and customer base. When you're done, you'll be able to do it as good as they do. Head to outreach Doo on outreach to see what they have going on. Now let's get into today's episode. Hello and welcome back everyone to the sales engagement podcast. Thank you, as always, for lending US your ear drums for the next thirty minutes or so. I know there's a million and one things vying for your attention right now, so we're honored that you're hanging out with us. It's going to be a great discussion. Excited for this one. I am joined by Kristen Schaefer. Kristen, welcome, thank you so good to be here. Scott, excited to have you and I'm really looking forward to kind of diving in and and the focus of this session will be kind of around alignment and we'll talk a little bit about customer and Competitive Research. But before we get there, I always like to kind of start with with you, and I frame it typically as that the superhero origin story. What's your background? How did it how did you get to hold such a cool marketing role at a fast growing company? Well, yes, again, my name is Kristen Schaffer and I currently work as a senior marketing manager for faith life, which is a fast growing technology company. I've been there for the past eight years and I absolutely love it because things are always changing, so I'm constantly learning new skills and I focus right now on taking new products to market for faith life. So really I'd say I kind of stumbled into the rule I'm in now. But I have always had a bend or entrepreneurship. I've competed in business plan competitions in the past. I just completed entrepreneurial leadership certificate from you, Doub and have done quite a quite a few other things with working with startups. So I love that arena. But yeah, right now take a new technology products to market. So that's a little bit about me. That's awesome, I mean that's it's a fun, fun role to kind of like take something from what some Lus this idea. Yeah, like zero one. Right, you're starting from from the the basics, and I think that's a good place to start. Like when when you think of okay, we've got this new...

...product, feature set, whatever it may be, what are some of the first things you think about before you take a product to market? So if the product team 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 like the first first step? Absolutely, right away, I'd be interested in figuring out as much as I can about why the customer is interested and how it is going to help them. What pain points are we alleviating? So I'd be interested in getting whoever created the product their take on it. In my company, our CEO, Bob Pritchett, he's the product genius behind a lot of what we do. So in that case I would sit down with him and say, tell me all about this, why are you making it and what exactly is it solving for the customer. But I would also follow that up by getting on the phone with as many customers as I can. Just start calling them up, or potential customers I should say, who are in your target market, and asking them just just share with them. Hey, we built this thing. What do you think? What stands out to you? And in those conversations you can even start testing some of your marketing messaging to you learn pretty quickly, like if I say this line, it really sticks, but if I say that line, nobody even seems to blink and eye. So just just having as many of those conversations as early on as possible before really getting very deep into the strategy. Yeah, I like that. How do you think about so fake, like you've built this great, great brand? Let's say I'm a listener and sometimes it's talk to get people to sit down with you and and talk with you, even even if you're like Ay, I'm I'm just purely trying to understand. I do incentivize the prospect or the customer in any way to to share that information with you or how how do you get these conversations? You can even set up or so I'm actually also working on starting my own company, which is a line of cycling clothing for women, and I'm doing this on my own and so I'm spending my own money. So I'm trying not to spend a lot in incentives and that sort of thing. And my target market, so in this case, women who love to ride a bike. Hey, can I can I bend your ear for twenty minutes? Also, people love being the center of attention and would you in it as can I interview you? That tends to be a little bit of a magical phrase. It's like, Oh, you know, you want to interview me. Well, I guess I'm important there, your future customer, so they should be. That phrase can open doors. And then at the end of those phone calls I ask for recommendations. Okay, can you give me the name of two...

...more women who I can talk to who also love to ride bike, and so you almost get this referral string going and from that I actually have a list of women who I still want to call who I haven't been able to get through because some people are referring them. And it also opens that door when you reach out to that new person you've never met before, you can say hey, so and so referred you and said I really need to talk to you. So make that connection a little bit easier for you as well well the full tricks I've deployed in the past. Yeah, that's great, super super actionable. What is the name of this new brand? Is Start? I know listeners would love to check it out and support it. I am still working on the branding piece, to be honest, but I do have a website up for market research purposes as well. That's one thousand Cyclistscom and that's the number one thousand. So one thousand cyclistcom, and I'll tell you a little secret on that one too. It's a market research site that I put up. So when you go there, I'm going to ask you to fill in a survey. But I also check box where it says are you interested in learning about future developments and potential offers? And just from letting people check that box they're off into my email list. I'm doubling this market research survey as chance to grow an email list before for I even have a product. But again, I'm also growing a base of people I can go continue to do research with in the future. That's super interesting and something I'm I'm hearing in the market a lot is this idea that sounds to me like this new movement of like community led growth right where it's you're building the community, you're building the following, you're building the things that and understanding why people care about sometimes even before there's a product or a service available, which is really interesting and I think might be the future of a lot of businesses. So Kudos to you for like fully embracing that with that intentional do you think about community led growth and the role at faith life and now this this side venture you're you're doing? Yeah, I'd say it was a mix of a couple things. One again, something I'm hearing from the customer research I'm doing for that personal project, from these phone calls, is that women ride bikes feel like they're missing community. So specifically in this industry or this target market that I'm going after, the women are asking for community. So it feels absolutely ripe to bring them along in this journey make them feel like they're a part of it and see themselves 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 very sales oriented, and so part of me is I am selling right now, even though, you know, I commissioned...

...my first prototype yesterday, so I'm still ways out, but I am. CONGRATS. Thank you. I'm pretty excited, but I am looking at this is like I am to day, even though might not recognize, recognize that sale for another couple months. HMM. Yeah, that's a good, good way to look at it. And whether it's a bike clothing brand or Sass, I think all of these share this very common thread where if you if you listen to the community that you build, it's going to inform your sales, marketing, even product road map right of how you looking at it. I love that. Okay, a bit of a pivot. So we talked a bit about customer research. How do you think about competitive research and the landscape around you? Because that's super important right. Like you, you need to have messaging that's differentiated from the rest of the last kip all these things. How do you what step one of that? When you look around a competitive last game, I started by following every competitor I could find on social media and it was like this, inundate me with your advertisements and you know, twitter Instagram, all their channels just like like like like like across the board, and so my news feed and all my social apps every day is a digest of what my competitors are up to as I'm going through it. So I'd say that was that would be step one. Get on their mailing lists. One example of a competitor, again for me personally, a bike brand. I noticed that in all of their emails they lad with men on bikes. They sold women's clothing, but they were emailing to me images of men and so like there's a marketing opportunity right there. Okay, let's let's get our email segmentation right. Guys, you know, learn stuff by following them. Another their tactic that's been really enlightening is to start a spreadsheet of your competitors and write down what you think their value propositions are and who their target market is, like in a couple of words, and then also jot down their high price point and their low price point. What I found when I created that spreadsheet, it took me a couple hours on a Saturday, is all of a sudden you could start seeing trends in the market. One really interesting example to me the kind of ties all this together is I noticed for the established bike brands, they might look at like a specialized or an Asos, they were only selling black shorts for women and that was that was pretty much your only option. You want this black short of that black short. And then you went to the cheaper brands, more of the mom and pop brands, and they had these crazy designs and that was all they were...

...selling. I'm talking POLKA DOTS and butterflies and, in one case, UNICORNS. That's not a joke. And so I set back and go, wow, women have to choose between these extremes. And then when you start asking women, you bring that into your market resources insights. 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 black shorts or I'm sick of in your face feminine designs, and so you go, Oh, it looks like there's a gap in the market here and and I'm hearing that from women too. Yeah, so I'm a big fan of the spreadsheet. Start writing things down. It will help you see the trends and the gaps and where you can step in. I like it. So I love your outlook on it. Are you taking then, when you hear this feedback, are you taking like the actual language and and putting that into your messaging? Like would you as this brand evolves? Are you saying, are you sick of overly feminine brands, or or are you angry that you only had black shorts? Like? Are you using the the voice of the people you're talking to do to inform your your messaging? Yes, I would. I would say I'm I'm using it to test messaging. I also highly recommend taking a lot of notes. I am always typing furiously when I'm on these future customer calls doing research, and I go back through them and I'll bold certain statements like what you were just mentioning, that I think I could use and messaging down the road, or just any little nuggets and really jump out at me. My favorite example, and doing this, I spoke to a woman. She was in her late s and had ridden almost her whole life, so she'd gone through a lot of bite clothes and she was essentially complaining to me about how so much of the clothes on the market it felt like it was meant for a man and that that the people making the clothes had just taken, taken the clothes that the men wore, turned to paint, made it smaller, but like here you go, and she looked to me and she said the problem is that women are not small men, and I just thought that was genius and so, of Coursey, I write that down. I bowled it and I've definitely been testing that one, like is this line resonating with women? It is so far, and then you start thinking through like how could you use I mean, my mind is the market or goes to how can I use this in a marketing campaign or put it on a website or start a Hashtag or you know many other different things. So absolutely answer your question. Yeah, it's sometimes is so power full to to use those lines that come directly from the the people you're interacting with. And we're lucky now that we have all these like tools, like there's a conversational intelligence...

...and all these things, that we can keep an eye on what people are actually saying about our product. And all right, so the last piece I wanted to talk about, and you can draw this from this new experience or your role at faith life, but I think as a marketer you're constantly seemingly, at least since I've been in tech and this this world, sales and marketing alignment has always been this like constant almost tug of war. And I think we're talking about right and there, and it's always like, okay, we're not getting the right leads, the lead quality, we're not getting enough leads or this and that, and we're seeing we're seeing some people address this with like a shared number and and all these things. How have you been able to increase kind of sales and marketing alignments recently? That's a million dollar question, isn't it is it is. I will not pretend to have this one fully solved yet, but a couple of things that we have tried. So let me back up right now. A't face life. We just launched a new be to be SASS product and so we're really we as marketers 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 to the sales team and then they've got to go sell them. And to your point, if you constantly hear this, the leads aren't hot enough or something else is wrong with them. Let's see, we had too many international leads, too many bad phone numbers, like all these things come back at you as a marketer. Or we need more sales enablement. That's been a big one, and so at first when that feedback came back, it felt a little bit all over the board and I was like, okay, how do we how is this actionable? And we had to go back to the sales team a couple times as we're launching this new product and saying, Hey, what would really help us is if you guys can start quantifying what you're hearing so that we can go tackle the biggest issues first. And we had we set up many different codes in hub spot to start tracking like by customers were saying no, for example, so that the sales reps could start telling us and quantifying thirteen customers said that they're not the decisionmaker and ten said there didn't speak English or whatever those problems were, and it was a process to get that right. But the more we can quantify those then that empowers marketing to go struggling. Okay, here are issues, let's let's create strategies to solve them. So that really helped as well as just to pablishing a lot of opportunities to hear each other and really like to stop and listen and hear each other, because it can be so easy to just pass judgment when you're hearing something like your leads are too cold. So I try to hang out with...

...our sales team at least two or three times a week right now until we get things up and running a little bit smoother. But but we're only a couple weeks into launching this new product, so we have lots to learn still. Yeah, a few things in there that I want to underscore. I think the idea of like putting the why behind everything. It's so not just like, okay, you didn't like these leads. Why didn't you like the them? And like going through that and like, even if it was an opportunity that was almost closed, why is it closed lost now? And let's do that, that deal review, so we can understand and and iterate. That's super important. Some great advice in there all right, and without doubt, every single episode I'm always shocked how quickly the thirty minutes goes and this Soun's the same. There's a lot of good good stuff in here. I have one more question before what kind of like wrap up with some some takeaways, and this is just an open end. It like you've had a great career in marketing. Your building this, this new side project. That sounds really cool. If you add a direct line to someone maybe just starting their career or wanting to get to a position that that you've got to what would your advice be to them? Really listen to the customer, the customer voice. I won't go as far as to say it's everything, but it should drive most things, and the more contact you can have with your market or your target market, the more can really help shape your strategies and plans as a business. I never ceased to be amazed at how I think I will have created the best strategy in the world and then you put it in front of you, know, three potential customers and you immediately see the problems. And the same is now proving true with product development. So my biggest advice is, yeah, contact with the market is crucial. Excellent, excellent advice. All right. least be to my last question, which I always ask the same question when I'm wrapping up episodes, and this comes from a place of everyone listening this is super busy. They're probably doing a million and one things as they're listening to this and it's hard to digest at all. But if people just remember, let's say, three things from this conversation, what would you want those to be? I'm writing these things 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 watch your competitors, even if for now you just go out and follow three of them on social media, start watching your competitors today. And then the third one is start selling now, even if you don't have a product, even if you're not sure if you're going to pivot eighteen times, but it's never too soon to start selling. There you go. I love it. I really like...

...that last one. I love that because that everything's speeding up so quickly right. So just get out there, try it. You're going to get new data points that come in and every time they're going to iterate, get a little bit better and a little bit better and a little bit better, and speed is your friend in this environment we we live in. Well, Christ exactly fail forward. This has been awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your insight in your time with our listeners, and to all those listeners that hung out with us, thank you so much. How we found it as valuable as I did and we'll see you next time. welsome. Thank you, guys. This was another episode of the sales engagement podcast. To help this get in front of more eyes and ears, please leave us a shining five star review. Join US at sales engagementcom for new episodes. Resources in the book on sales engagement to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy. Make sure to check out outreach that ioh, the leading sales engagement platform. See you on the next episode.

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