The Sales Engagement Podcast
The Sales Engagement Podcast

Episode · 5 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 a podcast. This podcast is brought you by outreach, the leading sales engagement platform, andthey just launched outreach on outreach, the place to learn how outreach welldoes outreach? Learn how the team follows up with every lead in record timeafter virtual events and turns them into revenue. You can also see how outreach onesaccount based, plays, manages reps and so much more using their ownsales engagement platform. Everything is backed by data pulled from outreach processes and customerbase. When you're done, you'll be able to do it as good asthey do. Head to outreach Doo on outreach to see what they have goingon. Now let's get into today's episode. Hello and welcome back everyone to thesales engagement podcast. Thank you, as always, for lending US yourear drums for the next thirty minutes or so. I know there's a millionand one things vying for your attention right now, so we're honored that you'rehanging out with us. It's going to be a great discussion. Excited forthis one. I am joined by Kristen Schaefer. Kristen, welcome, thankyou so good to be here. Scott, excited to have you and I'm reallylooking forward to kind of diving in and and the focus of this sessionwill be kind of around alignment and we'll talk a little bit about customer andCompetitive Research. But before we get there, I always like to kind of startwith with you, and I frame it typically as that the superhero originstory. What's your background? How did it how did you get to holdsuch a cool marketing role at a fast growing company? Well, yes,again, my name is Kristen Schaffer and I currently work as a senior marketingmanager for faith life, which is a fast growing technology company. I've beenthere for the past eight years and I absolutely love it because things are alwayschanging, so I'm constantly learning new skills and I focus right now on takingnew products to market for faith life. So really I'd say I kind ofstumbled into the rule I'm in now. But I have always had a bendor entrepreneurship. I've competed in business plan competitions in the past. I justcompleted entrepreneurial leadership certificate from you, Doub and have done quite a quite afew other things with working with startups. So I love that arena. Butyeah, right now take a new technology products to market. So that's alittle 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 youthink of okay, we've got this new...

...product, feature set, whatever itmay be, what are some of the first things you think about before youtake a product to market? So if the product team comes to me andsays 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 firststep? Absolutely, right away, I'd be interested in figuring out asmuch as I can about why the customer is interested and how it is goingto help them. What pain points are we alleviating? So I'd be interestedin 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 whatwe 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 exactlyis it solving for the customer. But I would also follow that up bygetting on the phone with as many customers as I can. Just start callingthem up, or potential customers I should say, who are in your targetmarket, and asking them just just share with them. Hey, we builtthis thing. What do you think? What stands out to you? Andin those conversations you can even start testing some of your marketing messaging to youlearn 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 beforereally getting very deep into the strategy. Yeah, I like that. Howdo 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 sitdown 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 thecustomer in any way to to share that information with you or how howdo you get these conversations? You can even set up or so I'm actuallyalso working on starting my own company, which is a line of cycling clothingfor women, and I'm doing this on my own and so I'm spending myown money. So I'm trying not to spend a lot in incentives and thatsort of thing. And my target market, so in this case, women wholove to ride a bike. Hey, can I can I bend your earfor twenty minutes? Also, people love being the center of attention andwould you in it as can I interview you? That tends to be alittle bit of a magical phrase. It's like, Oh, you know,you want to interview me. Well, I guess I'm important there, yourfuture customer, so they should be. That phrase can open doors. Andthen 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 towho also love to ride bike, and so you almost get this referral stringgoing and from that I actually have a list of women who I still wantto call who I haven't been able to get through because some people are referringthem. And it also opens that door when you reach out to that newperson you've never met before, you can say hey, so and so referredyou and said I really need to talk to you. So make that connectiona little bit easier for you as well well the full tricks I've deployed inthe past. Yeah, that's great, super super actionable. What is thename of this new brand? Is Start? I know listeners would love to checkit out and support it. I am still working on the branding piece, to be honest, but I do have a website up for market researchpurposes 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 onetoo. It's a market research site that I put up. So when yougo there, I'm going to ask you to fill in a survey. ButI also check box where it says are you interested in learning about future developmentsand potential offers? And just from letting people check that box they're off intomy email list. I'm doubling this market research survey as chance to grow anemail list before for I even have a product. But again, I'm alsogrowing a base of people I can go continue to do research with in thefuture. That's super interesting and something I'm I'm hearing in the market a lotis this idea that sounds to me like this new movement of like community ledgrowth right where it's you're building the community, you're building the following, you're buildingthe things that and understanding why people care about sometimes even before there's aproduct or a service available, which is really interesting and I think might bethe future of a lot of businesses. So Kudos to you for like fullyembracing that with that intentional do you think about community led growth and the roleat 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, somethingI'm hearing from the customer research I'm doing for that personal project, from thesephone calls, is that women ride bikes feel like they're missing community. Sospecifically in this industry or this target market that I'm going after, the womenare asking for community. So it feels absolutely ripe to bring them along inthis journey make them feel like they're a part of it and see themselves init 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, you know, I commissioned... first prototype yesterday, so I'mstill ways out, but I am. CONGRATS. Thank you. I'm prettyexcited, 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. Andwhether it's a bike clothing brand or Sass, I think all of these share thisvery common thread where if you if you listen to the community that youbuild, it's going to inform your sales, marketing, even product road map rightof how you looking at it. I love that. Okay, abit of a pivot. So we talked a bit about customer research. Howdo you think about competitive research and the landscape around you? Because that's superimportant right. Like you, you need to have messaging that's differentiated from therest of the last kip all these things. How do you what step one ofthat? When you look around a competitive last game, I started byfollowing 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 justlike like like like like across the board, and so my news feedand all my social apps every day is a digest of what my competitors areup to as I'm going through it. So I'd say that was that wouldbe step one. Get on their mailing lists. One example of a competitor, again for me personally, a bike brand. I noticed that in allof 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 marketingopportunity 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 beenreally enlightening is to start a spreadsheet of your competitors and write down what youthink their value propositions are and who their target market is, like in acouple of words, and then also jot down their high price point and theirlow price point. What I found when I created that spreadsheet, it tookme a couple hours on a Saturday, is all of a sudden you couldstart seeing trends in the market. One really interesting example to me the kindof ties all this together is I noticed for the established bike brands, theymight look at like a specialized or an Asos, they were only selling blackshorts for women and that was that was pretty much your only option. Youwant this black short of that black short. And then you went to the cheaperbrands, more of the mom and pop brands, and they had thesecrazy designs and that was all they were...

...selling. I'm talking POLKA DOTS andbutterflies and, in one case, UNICORNS. That's not a joke. And soI set back and go, wow, women have to choose between these extremes. And then when you start asking women, you bring that into yourmarket resources insights. And so I started asking women, do you like theshorts on the market? What do you think of the designs? And Istarted hearing I'm sick of black shorts or I'm sick of in your face femininedesigns, and so you go, Oh, it looks like there's a gap inthe 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 willhelp you see the trends and the gaps and where you can step in. I like it. So I love your outlook on it. Are youtaking then, when you hear this feedback, are you taking like the actual languageand and putting that into your messaging? Like would you as this brand evolves? Are you saying, are you sick of overly feminine brands, oror are you angry that you only had black shorts? Like? Are youusing the the voice of the people you're talking to do to inform your yourmessaging? Yes, I would. I would say I'm I'm using it totest messaging. I also highly recommend taking a lot of notes. I amalways typing furiously when I'm on these future customer calls doing research, and Igo 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 justany little nuggets and really jump out at me. My favorite example, anddoing this, I spoke to a woman. She was in her late s andhad ridden almost her whole life, so she'd gone through a lot ofbite clothes and she was essentially complaining to me about how so much of theclothes on the market it felt like it was meant for a man and thatthat the people making the clothes had just taken, taken the clothes that themen wore, turned to paint, made it smaller, but like here yougo, and she looked to me and she said the problem is that womenare 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 beentesting that one, like is this line resonating with women? It is sofar, 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 ina marketing campaign or put it on a website or start a Hashtag or youknow many other different things. So absolutely answer your question. Yeah, it'ssometimes is so power full to to use those lines that come directly from thethe people you're interacting with. And we're lucky now that we have all theselike tools, like there's a conversational intelligence...

...and all these things, that wecan keep an eye on what people are actually saying about our product. Andall right, so the last piece I wanted to talk about, and youcan draw this from this new experience or your role at faith life, butI think as a marketer you're constantly seemingly, at least since I've been in techand this this world, sales and marketing alignment has always been this likeconstant 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, andwe're seeing we're seeing some people address this with like a shared number and andall these things. How have you been able to increase kind of sales andmarketing 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 acouple 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 productand so we're really we as marketers are really having to lean into the salesteam to close business. So we've got a quota of leads that we haveto hit every month, give them to the sales team and then they've gotto 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'ssee, we had too many international leads, too many bad phone numbers, likeall these things come back at you as a marketer. Or we needmore sales enablement. That's been a big one, and so at first whenthat feedback came back, it felt a little bit all over the board andI was like, okay, how do we how is this actionable? Andwe had to go back to the sales team a couple times as we're launchingthis new product and saying, Hey, what would really help us is ifyou guys can start quantifying what you're hearing so that we can go tackle thebiggest issues first. And we had we set up many different codes in hubspot to start tracking like by customers were saying no, for example, sothat the sales reps could start telling us and quantifying thirteen customers said that they'renot 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 wecan quantify those then that empowers marketing to go struggling. Okay, here areissues, let's let's create strategies to solve them. So that really helped aswell as just to pablishing a lot of opportunities to hear each other and reallylike to stop and listen and hear each other, because it can be soeasy 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 orthree times a week right now until we get things up and running a littlebit 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 therethat I want to underscore. I think the idea of like putting thewhy behind everything. It's so not just like, okay, you didn't likethese leads. Why didn't you like the them? And like going through thatand like, even if it was an opportunity that was almost closed, whyis 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 advicein there all right, and without doubt, every single episode I'm always shocked howquickly the thirty minutes goes and this Soun's the same. There's a lotof good good stuff in here. I have one more question before what kindof 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 adirect line to someone maybe just starting their career or wanting to get to aposition that that you've got to what would your advice be to them? Reallylisten to the customer, the customer voice. I won't go as far as tosay it's everything, but it should drive most things, and the morecontact you can have with your market or your target market, the more canreally help shape your strategies and plans as a business. I never ceased tobe amazed at how I think I will have created the best strategy in theworld and then you put it in front of you, know, three potentialcustomers and you immediately see the problems. And the same is now proving truewith product development. So my biggest advice is, yeah, contact with themarket is crucial. Excellent, excellent advice. All right. least be to mylast question, which I always ask the same question when I'm wrapping upepisodes, 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 andit'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 beso what I just said. Listen to your customers, get contact with themarket. Number two is watch your competitors, even if for now you just goout and follow three of them on social media, start watching your competitorstoday. And then the third one is start selling now, even if youdon't have a product, even if you're not sure if you're going to pivoteighteen times, but it's never too soon to start selling. There you go. I love it. I really like...

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

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