Intercom VS Drift: How two close competitors use positioning to differentiate themselves in a crowded market
“Positioning is the message you take to market, how you describe what you do, and what you front-load and communicate FIRST so people can understand the value of your product. Even the best SaaS product can fail to scale if you don’t nail your positioning”
— Dan Martell
This case study is not about which software is better and which one you should use for your business. It’s not a feature comparison article either.
Instead, we’ll be looking at how both of these companies have changed their product messaging and positioning over the years and the place they have have occupied in the minds of their target customers.
Positioning is also about becoming the number one go to choice for your target customer and increasing the perceived value in their eyes without making a single change in your product.
In this case study you’ll learn how both of these top companies have successfully differentiated themselves over the years and how you can use the same principles to position your SaaS and thrive in an overcrowded market.
01 — Call Out Your Biggest Competitor By Name
If your customers are always comparing your software with another company that does the same thing and you keep hearing this in conversations with leads or you find your existing customers switching to competitors — you need to address the biggest elephant in the room.
In the past, Intercom & Drift have run PPC campaigns against each other’s company title keyword (which could be a great move to misdirect customers and consider the other option first)
But today both of these companies have out grown this tactic and they understand running PPC ads isn’t enough to get customers to choose one over another.
Therefore they decided to address this issue differently.
Now when a prospect googles intercom vs drift, the following is what they’ll see:
A. Intercom addressed this issue by creating a landing page and showing how they are different and better than drift.
If you are thinking of differentiating your SaaS from a well-know competitor you can take this approach, create a landing page and go for a feature, benefit comparison (example below)
Or you can do what Drift did.
In this section of the page, Drift very clearly calls out who their target market is and clarifies who intercom is built for therefore avoiding talking to the same target prospects that intercom is targeting.
More so, Drift instead of just going into direct battle of features decided to make it about their best-fit customers that is marketers & salespeople.
And only then does it talk about feature differentiation and use cases.
How to do it for your SaaS
- Identify the competitor your customers compare you with
- Create a distinct page on your website for the search term (your product) VS (competitor product)
- Run PPC ads for competitors company keyword to direct people who are searching for your competitors company name and bring them to your company’s website.
- Identify who your best fit customers are. Meaning the prospects that understand the value of your product are the easiest to sell to, stay with us the longest (don’t churn) & recommend our product to others.
For Drift they are marketers & salespeople.
For Intercom their initial best fit prospects were designers & developers.
4. Deliberately start the page by stating your WHY (like drift did here). What is your cause? What do you believe in? And who do you stand for?
“A strong stand is how you attract super fans. They point to you and defend you. And they spread the word further, wider and more passionately than any
advertising could… [but ] for everyone who loves you, there will be
others who hate you. If no one’s upset by what you’re saying you’re
probably not pushing hard enough. (And you’re probably boring, too.)”
— Jason Fried, Basecamp
Example: Asana stands for teams
Example: ConvertKit stands for creators
The reason highlighting your company vision works is because — any competitor can replicate your features, but what they cannot replicate are your company’s values, mission and purpose and what you stand for since all of those things are unique to individuals and companies.
5. And lastly, address all the good reasons on the page as to how you are different in terms of features, benefits & why customers choose you.
02 — Who’s the villain?
If your solution didn’t exist, how would customers solve their problem?
That’s the villain you are up against.
That’s the status quo you are up against.
“Having an enemy gives you a great story to tell customers. Taking a stand always stands out. People get stoked by conflict. They take sides. Passions are ignited. And that’s a good way to get people to take notice.” — REWORK
Intercom VS Traditional Customer Communication Methods
For Intercom the villain was the old way of communicating with customers.
Sending back and forth emails with customers answering their questions, causing delays & leaving a bad impression on them about your company.
To fight that villain Intercom created a single customer communication platform where you can answer customer questions fast using live chat, send them messages to upsell or retain customers & also solve their problems with an integrated help desk & knowledge base.
Drift VS Traditional Marketing Forms
For drift it was about waging a fight against traditional marketing and sales platforms that rely on forms and follow ups which lead to inbound leads slipping away and most of the targeted traffic on your website wasted.
To fight this villain Drift created AI powered Driftbot so that you can start chatting with your website visitors in real-time, qualify leads faster and connect with your customers more efficiently.
Identifying the villain in your industry
What would our customers do if we didn’t exist?
The answer could be that they would use another product that looks like a direct competitor with you. But often that’s not the case.
For many new products, the answer is “use a pen and paper” or “hire an intern to do it.”
Some of the startups I work with have ideas so innovative that customers don’t even understand that they have a problem — if the product didn’t exist, they would simply “do nothing”
— Excerpt from Obviously Awesome by April Dunford
How HEY picks a fight with an industry villain
You started getting stuff you didn’t want from people you didn’t know. You lost control over who could reach you. An avalanche of automated emails cluttered everything up.
And Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and Apple just let it happen.
Now email feels like a chore, rather than a joy. Something you fall behind on. Something you clear out, not cherish. Rather than delight in it, you deal with it.
As you can clearly see, HEY wages a war against Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo & Apple by saying that they just let it happen.
That’s their villain.
Now it’s your turn.
Identify that villain or the status quo you are up against and wage a war.
03 — Reframing an Existing Market Category
Customer engagement softwares have existed for a long time and the ways of engaging a customer has innovated over the years.
But the problem is most of companies look the same to all prospects.
They all try to position themselves as the best live chat software in the market.
But that kind of messaging doesn’t rarely leads to differentiation.
Prospects don’t understand what’s unique about either of them, so they make a buying decision based on price & choose the cheapest option.
Your goal should be to change the way your prospects evaluate & perceive your solution in this market category and highlight all the benefits of your product under this context.
Here’s how both of these competitors reframed the existed market category of customer engagement tools.
Intercom’s Conversational Relationship Platform
To stop competing in the same space and to stop just being perceived as another customer engagement tool, and with all the great use cases & feature Intercom has, they decided to reframe themselves as an all in one conversational relationship platform.
In-fact their unique value proposition has changed from “modern products for sales, marketing and support to connect with customers and grow faster” (2019)
To “Give customers a conversational experience they’ll remember — and come back for. It all starts with the #1 Business Messenger. (2020)
For Drift, it was going from just being a conversational marketing platform (2019) to a Revenue Acceleration Platform (2020)
They reframed the existing market category of conversational market tools & uniquely positioned themselves as the R.A.P platform.
And because of that, there’s possibly no competition at this time for Drift.
But wait…there’s also a drawback to reframing or creating a new category.
You have to explain what the new category is and why it needs to exist.
You must first educate your prospects on what the category is, then convince them why they should care and then also convince them that you are the market leader in this new category.
And to do that Drift has created a new page addressing revenue acceleration.
04 — Flexing your unique attributes & use-cases
Before I talk about how both of these companies flex their features & unique attributes, let me just quickly sum up the difference between feature & a benefit because it’s going to help us as we go through the examples:
Benefit: What task/job will the user be do after using this?
Feature: What part of my product lets user do that?
Outcome: Tangible & specific results that user gets.
How Intercom flexes features & creates differentiation
Intercom has three main use-cases: conversational marketing, customer engagement and customer support.
Take a look at how they first mention the use-case (conversational marketing), then turn that feature into a benefit (convert more website visitors) and back that up with a quote from an actual customer (the outcome or proof).
And to show how they are different they have even created discrete pages for each use case and mentioned this:
Intercom doesn’t make hypey claims they prove them by showing testimonials which are followed after their feature.
And that’s how they use all three things: the feature, the benefit customer gets & the outcome (+ proof) and leave an impact on the customer.
How Drift flexes use cases & converts visitors
Drift has mentioned three of their unique use-cases on their home page.
The amazing part is, if you click on learn more button on any three of those, their Drift Bot will come alive and ask you question specific to each use case and starts qualifying right away.
How to do it for your SaaS
If you wish to flex features & unique attributes for your product, then you must know:
- Which features your customers love most
- Which features made the new users switch to your product?
To identify these, you can read online reviews about your company, create a survey using HotJar and run it on your feature page of the website or talk to customers directly and ask them about the great results or outcomes they get from using your solution.
Once you understand what topmost 3–4 features customers & visitors value the most, you can highlight them on your homepage.
🦄 Want to learn the step by step process of building your SaaS website into a uniquely positioned customer acquisition machine? Read this