Competitive Battle Cards

A key part of your product playbook is the competitive battle card or “kill” sheet. Sales people love these but, beware, battle cards can also come back to haunt you!

Product leaders and marketing managers learn a great deal about the competition as part of their daily interactions with customers and with sales people. The Competitive Battle Card is a digest of all you’ve learned... so your sales people are armed with the latest intel. The real challenge for those composing a battle card is not the formatting or the template but finding the right information to put into it. To compose a card, you’ll first need to have a folder filled with competitive information. Here’s what goes in a battle card. It’s a summary of all you’ve learned about the competitor’s product. Or put another way, it’s all the critical information you can fit on a single page.

Most of this is self-explanatory. Company and product name. Pricing comparison. Strengths and weaknesses. Pretty standard stuff. Re-positioning. The key to an effective battle card is re-positioning. Admit it: your competitor’s product has strengths! It might even be an appropriate choice for some customers. The trick is to reposition your competitor away from your ideal persona. In effect, you admit that their product is good... but only for specific uses. For example, let’s say you make health information systems. If you were targeting large hospitals, you would reposition your competitors as appropriate for small implementations such as urgent medical care and small doctor groups. On the other hand, if your product is designed for consumers, then position the competitor as best for enterprises. You can see how your competitive re-positioning strategy is closely linked to your own product and market strategy. Weaknesses. Many product managers and sales people like to focus on competitive weaknesses but be careful: your competitors will fix their weaknesses someday. What they won’t do is change their product strengths or their operational approach. That’s why re-positioning your competitor is a much better approach that focusing on their product weaknesses. Quick tips. Use this to explain how to quickly qualify or dis-qualify a potential customer. You can also use it for any critical information that doesn’t fit elsewhere. How to win and when to walk away. Profile two kinds of customers: those who are ideal customers and those who are not ideal. Your own customer research (such as win/loss analysis) should reveal the conditions that are optimal for your product. If you don’t know your ideal buyer profile, you won’t be able to effectively re-position your competitor. Your sales team should focus on the ideal and walk away from the non-ideal customer profile. Avoid trying to do all competitors at once. You think it’ll save time but it won’t. The information you need to share is altered, sometimes subtly, with each competitor. For example, you can’t easily compare Apple iPad, Kindle Fire and other readers in a single document. You’ll want to profile each against your offering. Finding competitive information How do you create a battle card? Read all the product information you can get your hands on. Obviously, you’ll want to check out your competitor’s web site. You can certainly build a list of the key capabilities (as the competitor’s marketing team understands them) and you’ll often find pricing information. Remember: a web site shows the best of the product but doesn’t usually show the deep details that your sales people want. Review your competitor’s media page to see what announcements they’ve made recently. You can often see where a product fits in the competitor’s strategic direction from what they say (or don’t say) in their announcements. If they announce recent “wins,” make a note of the companies; they’re a target for a competitive interview. Has an industry analyst, like Gartner or Forrester, written anything about them? Get your hands on that research note. Search the world of social media too. You know the drill. What are people saying about your competitor? Twitter has become the venue for product complaints and you can learn a lot from customer complaints. LinkedIn offers many business-oriented groups focused on your product discipline; you’ll find information from people who are using the competitor&