How Can Product Marketers Excel at Competitive Intelligence

Product marketing and competitive intelligence are closely intertwined disciplines.

In this episode, Crispin Read and Adam Houghton, Vice President of Customer Success at Klue, discuss the intersections of customer success and product marketing. He also shares his advice on how to build your competitive intelligence team and how to get started on competitive intelligence effectively.

Listen to the full interview above or read on for the highlights from the conversation.

The CS team is in the front lines, they’re dealing with the realities of what’s happening. They’re the ones literally talking to customers all day.

And so I do think that CS will be the best source of truth for PMMs around what’s actually going on and what is the voice of the customer.

This is Product Marketing Episode 19: Adam Houghton – How Can Product Marketers Excel at Competitive Intelligence

Episode Highlights

What are the differences between customer success and customer support?

“So I would say the, probably the classic answer you’re gonna get on the ‘How is customer success different from support’ is the reactive versus proactive response.

So generally, I see support as more about break, fix, and then also quick transactional interactions with customers. So the emergence of online chat is a great example of that customers expect speed, they want to be able to self serve. And I think these are areas for support to continue to invest in. Whereas the customer success management function is more about relationship development, and ongoing product adoption and things like that.

And then on the sales side, the way that I think about it is sales is really about selling a promise. And customer success is about delivering on that promise. So the customer continues to buy. And so there is a sales component of customer success, for sure. Because the customer is, especially in the SaaS model is basically renting your software, and you want them to continue to buy to invest to provide advocacy, which leads to second order revenue, and references and all that kind of fun stuff. And all of those are key to to any SaaS business for sure.”

Any helpful tips on best practices for collaboration between customer success and product marketing?

“My advice on that would be to talk to your customer success team, probably more than you do today, and at least as much as you talk to sales. The CS team is on the front lines, they’re dealing with the realities of what’s happening in the sales process. The realities of product product releases and feedback, overall positioning messaging, they’re the ones literally talking to customers all day. And so I do think that CS will be the best source of truth for PMMs around what’s actually going on and what is the voice of the customer.”

What is competitive intelligence, and the fundamental purpose of it?

“At the core, it’s this whole end to end process of collecting and analyzing and trying to synthesize intel about your market, your product, your competitors. And in a nutshell, that’s, that’s what CI is, and then trying to understand what information is actually relevant and helpful to my internal customers. “

Can you tell us more about competitive intelligence in product marketing?

“For us, and because most of our customers are SaaS companies, or at least technology companies, the CI responsibility usually does sit somewhere in product marketing. So it might be part of the product marketers’ job or it might be a dedicated CI person, but they do tend to live in the in the product marketing team. In those bigger companies, we generally see a CI analyst or CI expert, they might be more tied to deal support. So they’re helping reps with one off deals, as opposed to product marketers who have much a much broader scope. And their enablement is probably a little more generalized.”

When to hire a full-time competitive intelligence person in product marketing?

“Well, I think the answer from Klue’s perspective is, is going to be everyone needs a full time enablement resource because every business has competitors. But I think the reality in tech is, there’s so much demand that we’re seeing as well from earlier stage companies. You know, they have product marketing as a function, probably earlier, I would say, and realize they need to prioritize competitive enablement, because there’s so many competitors, and the landscape gets busy really quick. So we think that companies need to be rethinking how they approach when to hire their first PMM, and when to have that person focus on compete content, because the, the scope of that role is so broad, and then it becomes a prioritization game.

But generally, we see companies at 50 employees having product marketing resource, and other times it takes to like 150 or 200 people. But if they wait that long, it’s usually because it’s a pain as opposed to trying to get ahead of it and be proactive.”

How to get started with competitive intelligence?

“My advice with, with a lot of things like this is to follow the data. And so what we’ll generally try to talk to our customers about to is thinking about who are the biggest threats to the to the pipeline. So how many deals are competitive? Some of this is probably going to have to be qualitative, because the CRM hygiene isn’t going to be perfect, let’s face it, but you know how many deals are competitive. Who are we coming up against? What is our win rate against them? And then you can start to prioritize.

And I think the important part of this is really partnering with your sales enablement peers and the sales leaders as well. And getting agreement on which competitors you’re going to prioritize enablement on. That creates the buy in because, as a PMM, you’re going to be able to create a really strong relationship with sales. So you can get that feedback loop. How is my how is this content working? What are you hearing that I should update on a battle card, if that’s the asset?

So I think once you have those baseline assets for folks, it’s then that your challenge. Next is how do you keep that up to date, and relevant, so people know where they can go to get trusted information on those deals, and then hopefully, you’re able to then demonstrate the influence that content has on revenue. So, you know, this, again, might be qualitative to start with, but after deals closed, talking to reps, “hey, what content did you use to actually help you on this deal?” It’s like, “oh, we use this battle card.” “Okay, cool. That’s great.” And then you can start to hopefully justify additional budget build out that function. And that’s one way to get started without being fully reactive, like, “we’ve missed three quarters in a row, we’re losing to competitors, we got to do something” that puts the PMs in a pretty tough spot where a lot of pressure is going to be on them. So if you can get ahead of it, that’s where it’s gonna be best.”

    About Guest

    As the VP of Customer Success at Klue, Adam leads the Customer Success Organization driving revenue growth by delivering exceptional value to the customers. With over 20 years of experience in building and scaling customer success teams in VC, PE and Bootstrapped environments, he has a proven track record of driving gross and net retention, adoption, and operational excellence.

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