👋 Hi, I’m James. Thanks for checking out Building Momentum: a newsletter to help startup founders and marketers accelerate SaaS growth through product marketing.

Let’s say your business is really good at tracking who you compete against.

Each deal tracks an ‘incumbent solution’ field, a ‘competing against’ field, and when you lose to one of them, that’s captured in your win/loss accordingly. From this data, you have a pretty good idea of who your biggest competitors are.

Your battlecards are updated with the necessary information that help sales reps to guide competitive conversations (and win):

  • Strengths

  • Weaknesses

  • Opportunities

  • Threats

  • Offensive attack

  • Defensive attack

  • Anecdotes

  • Win stories

Altogether, you have a pretty good idea of how to beat your top three competitors.

Except… are they actually your biggest competition?

Look to the top of the funnel

The top of the funnel stage – attraction, awareness, or whatever funnel design you subscribe to – is often ignored as a source of competitive insight and focus.

It’s much easier to prevent losses later in the funnel than it is to widen the pool of potential wins, isn’t it? Not always.

There’s a pool of prospects and potential customers that engage with you at the top of the funnel. That pool is n big.

There’s also an ocean of prospects and potential customers that don’t engage with you. That ocean is potentially n¹⁰ big.

Your actual competitors…

That ocean of potential customers are all solving their problems with an existing alternative solution, or sourcing new ones.

Here are some examples of different alternative solutions that you may want to consider as key competitors.

Niche solutions

You might be a horizontal email marketing platform. But I bet there’s also a vertical email platform for DTC commerce brands between $5-10m revenue for teams focused on building community that integrates directly into their little-known ecommerce platform technology.

How are you going to get in front of them and convince them you’re the better partner?

Existing vendors

Not the same as any of the above – these might be existing software providers that currently solve problems for another department, team, or business unit. But with the land-and-expand tactic as one of the most prevalent ways to grow SaaS revenue, you can bet that existing vendors are trying to get in front of your buyer stakeholders.

And what’s more, they’re already approved, trusted, and have internal champions already in your business. How are you going to discover those opportunities exist, let alone beat procurement?


Potential prospects might just be outsourcing everything to an agency. Agencies exist for everything, from total ownership of email marketing and project management, to recruiting, product engineering, and sales.

How are you going to convince a prospect to ditch and agency and bring the process something in-house?

Freelancers and contractors

Some businesses will bring in niche freelancers and contractors for executional expertise they don’t have in-house; for example, diversity recruiting, deployment processes, or ecommerce merchandising. It’s easier, less risk, and a faster time-to-ramp.

Can you compete against a playbook – or help those with the playbook work smarter instead?


The 2020s will see huge growth in the ‘fractional CxO’ model.

When organizations have the executional resources but lack the strategic expertise, they look to consultants. These might be traditional large full-service organizations, or experts that have gone it alone to offer ‘fractional’ executive time.

How will you compete against consultants already in-situ, as well as those where consultants may be offering to run the show? And even further: can you convince consultants to bring you in to their clients?

People power

‘Hiring more people’ is always an option, and sometimes just expected for companies facing specific challenges around volume and throughput. When expertise is not required, only raw manhours and energy, some organizations won’t be used to solving solutions in any other way.

How do you a) get in front of those people, b) convince them there’s a different way, c) build trust and change their mindset?

In-house tech solutions

I bet every SaaS business has at least one example where a developer in a prospect’s business has said “We could build that in a week”. Obviously, they fail – but there are so many businesses out there with their own home-grown solutions that manage everything from small repetitive tasks to huge, critical parts of their business operations.

Can you overcome those objections and provide a solution that works for them and their needs?

Set yourself up to beat TOFU competitors

In terms of process, it’s exactly the same. Understand your customer, understand your competitive landscape, define your positioning, and execute with focus.

Positioning becomes even more important against TOFU competitors. How do you stand for something? How do you bring unconventional wisdom to the narrative? How do you promote your unique value?

When you can do this effectively, you’ll build a bigger top-of-funnel pool, win more clients, and build momentum.

One Reply to “Your biggest competitor is not who you think it is”

  1. […] in positioning become more interesting when you think about the alternative solutions customers use to meet their […]

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