Competitive Battlecards are a sales enablement tool created by product managers to help the sales team close deals in the company’s core business (known as Horizon One¹ in the Three Horizons Framework). The objective of a Battlecard is to distill a product manager’s insights on customers and competition into a single page to help the sales team move a prospect through the funnel — or provide advice on when to move on to the next lead.
For a thorough review of how to use Battlecards, I encourage you to read our popular article on the topic, Understanding Competitive Battlecards, which includes examples and a template. This article focuses on how to gather and organize the data that will appear in a Battlecard.
The building blocks of a Competitive Battlecard
When I first read about competitive battle cards, I thought, “Oh…this is really cool. I can use this.” However, when I sat down to make one, I was stumped. I did not know where to begin. Now that I have made a few battlecards, I can tell you the information that you find in the battlecard is the result of a competitive analysis, either of a specific competitor or an entire class of competitors.
To get your competitive analysis started, I recommend using our Competitive Advantage Matrix (see below). This fifteen cell matrix is bounded by two axis — relative importance to buyers in the x-direction and a list of the key features and capabilities of your value proposition and a competitor’s value proposition in the y-direction. Since the relative importance of certain capabilities in your value proposition may not be identical among the different types of buyers, we recommend you complete a competitive analysis for each buyer type or market segment, starting with your highest priority targets. By definition, you may not even need to complete a competitive analysis for your least important buyers, so consider leveraging the Pareto Principle when prioritizing which buyers to analyze.
The Competitive Advantage Matrix
You can download the Competitive Advantage Matrix template as an .xlsx file
Begin by filling in each cell in the matrix with information about your value proposition or your competitor’s value proposition. If your product or service is targeting a specific competitor, such as Glovo or UberEats, then the advice in the original Competitive Battlecards article — visit the competitor’s website and speak with your own existing customers — is a good approach for gathering data about your competitor. However, if the objective is to analyze an entire class of competitors, like a delivery co-op created by a group of independent operators as an alternative to Glovo or UberEats, then you will need to leverage your personal knowledge of the market, domain, customers and technology to complete the competitive analysis.
The goal of this analysis is not to restate your entire value proposition in a three by five matrix. The aim is to identify the features and capabilities embedded in your value proposition that are compelling to the buyer you are analyzing. We recommend listing from two to six bullet points of text in each cell of this matrix. If one or two cells have nothing, that’s OK. If three or more cells are blank, then you need to rethink your value proposition from the perspective of the buyer, spend more time researching the competition, and/or run an experiment that will provide the insights you lack.
How do you interpret the results?
Once the matrix is complete, the next step is to develop some insights that will help you create a battlecard. The image below identifies twelve regions to help product managers decode the results along with some helpful advice on what to do.
- Table stakes: features and capabilities present in this region are the features and capabilities your product (or service) must offer in order to play in the market you are competing in. If your value proposition is lacking in this area, you do not even register as a potential solution for a buyer.
- Money maker: the features and capabilities in this zone are the main reason why your product generates value. Consequently, anything found in this region is what customers will pay a premium for. What you identify in this region is your secret weapon to ultimately dominate the market.
- Secret sauce: in a competitive market, it is very likely the competition has also identified the same features and capabilities that are listed here. If that is the case, the way to differentiate your product is to have a better and more innovative solution. Lean into that.
- Deal closer: anything listed in this region will provide your company with the ammunition to win a run-of-the-mill customer. Your sales people will love these capabilities.
- Just one more thing…: the features and capabilities found in this zone are valuable to the buyer but are hard to articulate in your product marketing. Spend more time with customers to understand what it is they truly value about these capabilities.
- Strategic growth: features and capabilities in this region indicate the competition is beating you in areas important to the buyers. In order to achieve parity with the competition, these features need to be a high priority in your product roadmap — now.
- Incremental improvement: this is another miss, but not as severe as in the previous region. In most cases, features and capabilities present in this section will naturally move to parity as you refine the product. Make them visible on your roadmap (or backlog) or you will lose track of them.
- Why oh why?: there is no debating the fact these capabilities were built and shipped, but do you really need to extend and support them?
- Just stop: everything that is present here is all the stuff you got carried away with building and still came up short when compared to the competition. Guess what? These capabilities don’t matter anyway, so just stop worrying about them.
- Change the subject: when buyers desire features and capabilities found here, you are at a clear disadvantage. You might be able to close the gap with further product development, but don’t count on it helping with this deal. In the meantime, steer buyers away from how your product is lacking and center the conversation on the superior service, or relationships, you can offer the buyer.
- Fix this…maybe: there are many reasons for features and capabilities to be present in this section. Some are good for you, e.g., the market is changing and your competitors didn’t realize it; some are bad for you, e.g., you thought it wasn’t important, so you didn’t build it. Evaluate each of these on a case-by-case basis to determine if you need to compete or not.
- Don’t bother: items in this zone represent all the legacy stuff the competition wasted time building, testing and releasing.
Transferring competitive insight into your Battlecards
Please recall at this point how a Battlecard is structured. The next step, then, is to take the information from the Competitive Advantage Matrix and place it in the correct area of the Battlecard. You can use this mapping to speed up the process:
- Strengths: Competitive Advantage Matrix regions 2, 3, 4 and 5
- Weaknesses: regions 6, 7, 10 and maybe 11
- Our re-positioning: region 3
- Quick tips: regions 6 and 7
- How to win: region 4
- When to walk away: region 10
Please note, you will still need to synthesize the information from the Competitive Advantage Matrix to better suit the needs of the Battlecard. Several other fields in the Battlecard (such as pricing and product details) will require additional research, which I’m sure you can handle. But with that, you will have gathered and organized all the data you need to complete your Battlecard.
If your organization could use a bit of additional help developing Battlecards for your product, please let us know. Our consultants have decades of experience in product management — and helping our sales teams win!
The Product Playbook: More to Come…
This is Part 5 in our series on Product Playbooks.
- Our first article was Product Playbooks: Why You Need One.
- The second was How to Build a Product Roadmap.
- Number three was How to Build a Customer Journey Map.
- Number four was Supercharge Your Product Roadmap with an Opportunity Backlog.
We will continue to share more step-by-step instructions on how to use some common frameworks to inspire you to create your own winning Product Playbook, so be sure to follow us on Linkedin, Twitter and/or Facebook to get notice of when new blogs are posted, and when you can come back and learn more!
1 – Horizon One is defined as maintaining and defending the core business and corresponds to the tactics the product manager selects to support the products they offer today. For product managers operating in Horizon One, the goal is to maximize the profit margins (and sales) of their existing products and services.