Target Competitors and Drive High Quality Leads

05.26.14 // Mike Nierengarten

Competitor campaigns are consistently some of the most effective campaigns B2B marketers can run. For B2B marketers with established competitors, competitor campaigns tend to perform as well as core keywords. Targeting competitors makes sense. Typically, someone researching a competitor or a current competitor customer is a great lead. Folks researching competitors are often further down the funnel than general audiences, and competitor customers have generally self-qualified (they can afford your competitor’s product).

Some marketers get squeamish about targeting competitors. It seems sleazy and underhanded, and no one wants competitors targeting their own brand. Despite these reservations, competitor targeting is a necessary evil.

Marketers flock to effective strategies, and competitor targeting is a highly effective lead gen strategy. To those marketers who find this tactic offsetting, more power to ya, but the rest of us are heading in full bore. So, let’s embrace the inevitability of targeting competitors. The ten tactics below will provide you the opportunity to message your competitors’ customers & prospects and piggyback off their branding efforts.

1. Paid Search

Paid search is the most straightforward approach to competitor targeting. Target your competitors’ brands, website URL, products, etc. in AdWords and Bing Ads. Be prepared to pay a significant cost per click (CPC). Targeting brand names in search is expensive, but for the most part, the high lead quality more than accounts for the high CPC. At Obility, our clients’ competitor campaigns often drive more opportunities than social advertising or retargeting campaigns. If you have strong competitors, targeting their brand in paid search is a must.

2. Twitter Advertising

Twitter advertising is progressing in its targeting options, but one area where Twitter advertising does well is competitor targeting. Target the Twitter followers of your competitors with sponsored tweets. Drive them to a form fill, and don’t forget URL tracking parameters when tweeting so that you can attribute the MQLs and Opportunities to your competitor campaigns. In order to get the greatest number of impressions for your Sponsored Tweets, we recommend combining all competitors into one campaign. This will allow you to test different offers such as industry analyst reports and definitive guides.

3. LinkedIn Skills & Group Targeting

This is a great way to get your ad in front of people who are currently competitor customers. For example, SugarCRM could target Salesforce users by targeting Salesforce skills on LinkedIn. Similarly, SugarCRM could target Salesforce user groups. When targeting your competitors’ customers, try and identify their pain points with their current solution and outline how your solution addresses this pain. While not applicable for all marketers, for marketers of software, targeting users with competitor skill sets or in competitor user groups can be fairly effective.

4. Yahoo Domain Targeting & Gmail Sponsored Promotions

By targeting competitor domains (e.g. in Yahoo Mail, you have the ability to reach users who subscribe to your competitors’ email lists. Yahoo Domain Targeting allows you to identify particular domains that you would like to target. When a user receives an email from that domain in Yahoo Mail, your ad will appear alongside the email. Similarly, target competitor domains with Gmail Sponsored Promotions to have your ad appear in Gmail when a user receives an email from your competitor.

5. Display Contextual Targeting (both name & email tag line)

Contextual targeting matches ads to relevant sites in the Display Network using your keywords or topics, among other factors, and enables you to target pages containing competitive brand and product terms. Both AdWords and Yahoo Display let you target competitor brand names contextually. By running contextual campaigns, your ads can show anytime your competitor receives press or contributes an article. It is a great way to get in front of users considering using your competitors’ services.

In addition, take advantage of the opportunity to target words in email footers of competitor newsletters. Similar to the Yahoo Domain Targeting and Gmail Sponsored Promotions, targeting a competitor’s email footer contextually will allow your ad to show next to competitor emails.

6. Facebook Advertising

Facebook provides a powerful demographic and interest-based targeting that’s not currently available in search. Target followers of your competitors similarly to campaigns run on Twitter (outlined above).  Obility recommends running Sponsored Posts as this will be your best opportunity to get exposure to competitors’ Facebook followers.

7. Competitor User Conferences & Events

Does your competitor have a conference or event coming up? This is a great opportunity for you to run paid search campaigns. Target the name of your competitors’ conferences and events in search. Users that are interested in your competitor’s events will most likely fall into your target audience as well. Consider creative ways to reach your competitors’ customers. For example, you could offer free tickets or a VIP package to your competitor’s conference.

8. Organic Search

You are going to have a difficult time ranking for your competitors’ main brand terms; however, you have the opportunity to rank for related queries. Target keywords such as “COMPETITOR alternates”, “COMPETITOR vs YOUR BRAND”, and “COMPETITOR pricing”. These are typically low competition keywords, and the queries clearly indicate a user looking for options other than your competitor.

9. Competitor Stock Symbol

Similar to targeting competitor brand names, you can target competitor stock symbols on Google & Yahoo Finance and contextual display targeting. Oracle has used this tactic on their competitor Salesforce. Every time someone searches for your competitors’ stock symbols, they’ll see your ad come up. Again, a great way to get in front of your competitors’ users and remind them how you are different. This is also a good way to get in front of investors and other high level target audiences.

10. Retargeting to Competitor Audience

After utilizing the above nine campaigns, create a new audience segment of visitors from these campaigns and retarget them. There are a number of ways to do this including creating a specific Remarketing segment with Google Analytics using the competitor URL parameter or setting up specific Competitor Campaign landing pages. This is a good opportunity to stay top of mind and nurture your competitors’ prospects and customers. As your competitor’s users visit other sites online, they’ll see your retargeting ad as a gentle reminder that there are other options out there.

For B2B marketers, competitor campaigns are both necessary and effective. At Obility, we identify Competitor Campaigns as core campaigns because they typically drive high quality leads and a low cost per opportunity. Use the above 10 tactics to successfully target competitors’ customers and prospects and increase your sales opportunities.

About Mike Nierengarten

Mike has been in online marketing since 2004 and started Obility in February of 2011. Mike is a numbers geek who feels more comfortable staring at Excel spreadsheets & Google Ads Editor than sitting in lengthy meetings. Mike saw Obility as an opportunity to rethink SEM management and focus solely on the unique needs of B2B clients. Mike enjoys board sports, exploring restaurants, and lively discussions about the economy. He is also a passionate traveler. His long-term goals focus on spurring economic growth and addressing inequality in the Portland community. View all Mike Nierengarten’s posts >