Kacper Staniul, Growth Marketer and Maker of Scrapbook
This strategy will let you tap into a valuable, high-intent audience of users that are either actively looking to tackle the problem your product solves or are already using a competing product that's not a perfect fit for their needs.
Some of the tactics described below will let you piggyback on the brand your competitors have built. Others will help you leverage the aspects of competing products that their customers are not satisfied with.
We'll first go through how to reach competitors' customers:
• Contact Unhappy Competitors' Customers • Monitor Negative Brand Mentions • Bid on Competitors Phrases • Rank on Your Competitors' Keywords • Alternative To' Pages • Use BuiltWith to Find Leads • Get Intent Data from G2 Premium • Bid on Competitors' YouTube Videos
...and then how to convert them efficiently:
• Full-Service Migration • Comparison Table vs Competitors • Direct Competitor Comparisons
Lastly, we'll discuss how to approach this strategy in market categories where annual contracts are common.
OK cool, but is this scalable?
While targeting competitors' customers is not a strategy that you'll be able to scale indefinitely, it surely is a great way to set up a constant stream of high-quality leads.
And one more thing. We'll not be doing anything unethical here ;)
By the way, tactics described in this article are a part of a database of over 280 growth tactic ideas for every step of the funnel. You can get access to the full database here.
Contact Unhappy Competitors' Customers
Review sites like G2, Capterra, and Trustpilot can be useful not only for competitor research purposes but also in your acquisition strategy.
How do you find people that are worth reaching out to?
First, filter down to negative and average reviews only and sort them by recency. The sooner you contact them after they leave a review, the higher the chance they still haven't decided on an alternative product.
These are the reviewers that may potentially be your target audience. Make sure to read the review thoroughly to understand if your product will deliver where your competitor failed. They'll be happy to hear about a better solution to their need that wasn't satisfied with the competing product.
Now, how do you get their contact info?
Some reviewers have their full name, position, and company shown (this happens only sometimes on TrustRadius). That's the easiest case. Just find them on LinkedIn or get their email with Hunter or any other email finder.
Though most reviews don't have this information available.
Here's what you can do. If they have a profile picture next to their review, use Google reverse image search to find their LinkedIn profiles.
If they don't have a profile picture, use the available contact info to find them on LinkedIn (using the advanced search feature).
If this still doesn't work, request contact with the reviewer via G2.
If you make this approach work well for you, go a step further and monitor the review sites for new, negative reviews using a tool like Visualping. It will save you a lot of time on manual work and enable you to reach out to these users quicker.
Monitor Negative Brand Mentions
Expanding on the previous tactic, go broader than just the review sites, and monitor the web for your competitor's brand mentions with negative sentiment.
Twitter and Reddit are usually the main places where you'll find discussions about other products. Making use of tools like Armada, F5Bot, or Warble will let you stay on top of all these mentions. Whenever someone speaks about your competitor's shortcomings, join the conversation, and explain how your product does a better job in that particular situation (if that's the case, of course). Just don't be salesy as it will only make you look bad.
Bid on Competitors' Keywords
Reaching users who are experiencing issues with a competing product is an excellent way for you to get in front of an audience that is willing to consider other solutions. One way to do it is by bidding on your competitors' brand keywords, e.g. [competitor's name] + help/support/contact, etc. Drive this traffic to a landing page comparing your competitor's product against yours and explaining why it's worth making a switch (more on this in a bit).
Another group of keywords worth bidding on is phrases such as [competitor's name] + pricing/alternatives/competitors/reviews. They all suggest high intent, so if you have a good argument for users to try your product instead of competitors', you can expect some high-converting traffic.
Group of keywords you should likely avoid are general brand keywords, i.e. [competitor's name]. As they're often searched for by users who only just heard about a given company and want to learn what it is, they'll have no intent to buy yet.
Often overlooked, Bing Ads can also be a channel worth testing. Even though the search volume is much smaller, CPCs are much lower than on Google Ads. Plus, you can copy your Google Ads campaigns with just a couple of clicks (which btw is a great move by Bing to lower the entry barrier for new users to try their product).
Rank on Competitors' Keywords
If you have a strong enough domain, you can create content targeting your competitors' brand keywords and capture some very high intent traffic.
Example content types you can produce:
You vs your competitor
Comparison of your competitors
Pros and cons of your competitor
Users searching such phrases will usually be at the decision-making stage and convert well. This makes up for the relatively low volume of such phrases.
'Alternative To' Pages
'Alternative to [competitor's name]' is a great bottom of funnel content type to capture high-intent traffic. When users search for such phrases, it is a perfect moment for you to grab their attention and showcase how your product is superior to competitors.
How to make the most of this content type:
Focus on competitors' biggest weaknesses (read through their reviews to find the most commonly mentioned complaints)
Use your positive customer reviews mentioning how users like an aspect of your product where your competitor is lacking
Create a comparison table highlighting where your product is better
Don't disrespect your competitor - otherwise, you'll lose visitors' trust.
Use customized live chat messages to engage visitors and start more conversations.
The cool thing about this tactic is that once you create one comparison page, you can reuse the page template and easily scale it and produce content comparing your product to other competitors.
Use BuiltWith to Find Leads
If your competitor's product requires a snippet of code to be inserted into their customers' websites, BuiltWith will help you find their customers (and your target audience).
Let's say your product is an alternative to Hotjar. Search BuiltWith for Hotjar, and you'll be able to download a list of their current and past customers (including estimated tech spend and traffic volume, which are extra data points on lead quality).
Shopify app developers could search BuiltWith for Shopify and get a list of all e-commerce stores set up on Shopify (or get them here with fewer data points).
Now that you have their customers, find the right person's LinkedIn profile or email and reach out to them.
Get Intent Data from G2 Premium
Premium version of G2 lets you see not only the companies that viewed your product listing but also the companies that viewed your category page and your competitors' listings.
This is some super valuable data that helps you assess a given company's intent. What's left for you to do is to reach out to them with a personalized message based on what they've been viewing on G2.
High-quality intent data comes at a price, though. Premium G2 subscription has a hefty price tag of at least a couple of grand a year. So unless your LTV is high enough, you won't be able to make this a sustainable channel for you.
Bid on Competitors' YouTube Videos
Grab the attention of users watching YouTube videos about your competitors using in-stream ads.
Google lets you hyper-target your ads to specific videos, which makes it a perfect opportunity to capture some of your competitors' potential or existing users.
With in-stream ads, you can show your ad before, during, or after your competitor's video.
There are two types of in-stream ads you can choose from:
Skippable ads - after 5 seconds, the viewer can skip the ad, so it's crucial that you make the beginning engaging enough that users will continue to watch it past the 5 seconds point. The cool thing about this ad type is that you only pay when a viewer watches at least 30 seconds of your video (or the full duration of the video if it's shorter than 30 seconds) or interacts with your video, whichever comes first.
Non-skippable ads - users don't have an option to skip the ad, but you pay for all impressions it gets.
To capture even more real estate with your ads, you can reach users at an earlier step - when they're searching for a video. Using video discovery ads, your banners will show up on YouTube search results pages. Clicking the ad will drive users to your video.
OK, so you've reached your competitor's audience and brought them to your website. How can you effectively convert them?
Make it easy for users to switch to your product from a competitors' tool by offering an easy migration process. This will allow for quick onboarding and ensure users will be able to use your product immediately and reach the activation point sooner.
Notion lets you import your notes from other tools with one click.
Substack lets you import your publication by URL.
ConvertKit probably knows that users with lists of 5000+ subscribers are more valuable to them, so they offer a 'concierge migration' service only to those companies.
Comparison Table vs Competitors
People rarely buy software without doing some research first. How can you make their choice easier (in your favor, of course)?
Create a table comparing your product to the most popular products in your niche. This allows you to pinpoint where your product is superior and make the choice easier for visitors.
Tip: put one or two aspects (of little importance) where your competitors are better - the comparison will seem less subjective and more trustworthy.
Direct Competitor Comparisons
If you're selling the same product as your competitor and offering a better price, show it explicitly on your product pages e.g. '38% cheaper than Nordstrom'.
If the product is exactly the same, why would people not buy from you if they're already viewing your page?
When Annual Contracts Are the Standard
There's one important thing to keep in mind - in some market categories, annual contracts are common. That's where it will be more difficult (but not impossible) to capture your competitors' customers. They won't just cancel their subscription that they paid for upfront and switch to you (unless you offer them an offer they can't turn down).
So what options are left in such a situation:
Buy out their contracts. A rather aggressive approach which requires a long runway to make it work for you. Offer to pay e.g. 50% of their contract if they subscribe to an annual plan with you.
Estimate when their contract ends and reach out before it renews (often up to 3 months in advance)
Getting in front of users considering your competitors' products and capturing their existing customers is a great way of acquiring high-quality leads. While you won't be able to scale this strategy a lot, the quality will make up for the volume.
PS: If you want more tactic ideas like these, I created a database of over 280 growth tactics for every funnel step. It will save you tons of time and help fill your experiment backlog.