Competitor conquesting: How to target competitors’ customers (Updated 2023)By Patrick Liddy
Do you know who your ideal customer is? In business, truly understanding who your customers are and what they need makes it SO much easier to express why your products or services are the best fit for them. This concept is especially true in digital advertising and is the key realization behind competitor conquesting.
Establish yourself as the trusted local expert in digital advertising. Download "White label: Mastering Google and Facebook advertising for local businesses" right now.
If you don’t have your targeting laser-focused, you’re going to bleed money by advertising to people who just don’t care. It won’t matter how witty your ad copy is, how gorgeous your video is, how awesome your images are, or how perfect your landing page is.
They may click, but they won’t convert.
On the flipside, what if there is a group of people who are already primed to buy from you?
The good news: That group exists. They’re your competitor's customers!
In this post I’ll show you 10 ways to use competitive conquesting to target your competitor’s customers across multiple channels.
Table of Contents
- What is competitive conquesting?
- How does conquesting relate to competitive ads?
- 10 Strategies for competitive conquest advertising on different channels
- Bidding on the competition’s brand With Google Ads
- Targeting competitor’s customers’ interests with Meta Ads
- Targeting LinkedIn custom audiences
- Placing YouTube Ads before your Competitors’ videos
- Appearing on your competitor’s profile with Yelp Ads
- Targeting your competitor’s followers with Twitter Ads
- Using geofencing to target competitors
- Engaging in content marketing on Quora
- Targeting competitors through podcast advertising
- Creating sponsored content with influencers
- 3 Competitive advertising examples
- Protecting your business against competitive advertising
What is competitive conquesting?
Competitive conquesting is a marketing strategy that involves targeting your competitor's audience with the intent of winning over their customers and driving them towards your brand or product. In other words, you’re “conquering” your competitor’s audience. It’s also sometimes referred to as competitor conquesting or, simply, conquesting.
This approach is all about capitalizing on the weaknesses or gaps in a competitor's marketing efforts, products, or services, and using those as opportunities to establish a competitive edge over them. There are many tactics that businesses can employ to execute a successful competitive conquesting campaign, but they all share the same basic principle of winning over a competitor’s audience.
We’ll get into specific strategies and examples later in this article, but here’s an idea of what competitor conquering can look like:
- Bidding on competitor keywords when using PPC solutions
- Targetting a competitor’s audience on social media
- Identifying competitor weaknesses and running campaigns that appeal to dissatisfied customers of the competitor
- Using comparative advertising to highlight differences between a business and its competitors
- Leveraging competitive content marketing
- Tracking competitor activities to identify competitor conquesting opportunities
How does competitor conquesting relate to competitive ads?
Competition is natural in business (and in life).
When I was growing up, there were two local gas stations across the street from each other that would constantly undercut each other and put up signs dissing each other (mostly funny stuff, but they did cross the line at times).
They kept that up for a long time and seemed to do pretty well. They had the lowest prices around, and they worked hard to outdo each other, so the customer won no matter who they chose.
Digital advertising is just another arena for this type of competition. In competitor conquesting, you’re fighting to succeed and grow your business, and you’re well within your rights to target your competitor's customers with ads. Just as those gas stations had the right to call out their competition.
Plus, it makes good financial sense. Competitor conquesting can give you a shortcut to generating impressive ROI for your clients by helping you tap into an audience that has already been developed by the competition. This means less time and money can be wasted on trying to identify which audience to advertise to, and more resources can be dedicated to getting in front of those potential customers with a compelling message.
Using your target competitors’ ad budget
By targeting your competitor's customers, you're actually making use of your competitors' marketing budget to get leads. They've spent money on branding campaigns and social ads, and now that consumers are searching for them, you're stealing their potential business out from under them!
In fact, the fastest way to increase your marketing budget is to use your competitors.
Here’s an example of how this works.
Let’s say the consumer is making their way down the funnel for Business A, on the left. They became interested after hearing a radio ad, then looked up that business online. They came across multiple negative reviews that hadn’t been responded to.
This means they don’t trust Business A, but they’re still interested in the product they heard about on the radio.
What does that consumer do? Well, since they’re already well into their research stage, it’s very likely that they’ll go directly to the next stage but with a competitor!
That means that Business A’s marketing and advertising dollars pushed that consumer directly into the hands of their competition (Business B). Plus they're further down their funnel, which increases the chance of a sale—a sale for their competitor!
Converting your target competitors’ customers
The next best thing about your competitors' customers is that you probably already know a lot about them. They’re basically doppelgangers of your current customers, except they’ve clearly chosen the dark side.
However, they probably don’t know they’re on the dark side, so it’s your job to show them the light.
The good news is that converting them may not be as difficult as you think. Since they share a key characteristic (an interest in a company that's similar to your business) they’re likely to be responsive to the right messaging.
Brand loyalty simply isn’t what it used to be, and while this can be a challenge for your SMB clients, it can also be an opportunity. If today’s consumers switch brands more easily and expect brands to work harder to secure their loyalty, competitor conquesting can be more effective than it might have been in prior times.
Even your competitors' longtime customers’ allegiances could be swayed if you present a better alternative.
Here are some ways you can make your case to your competitor’s customers across 10 of the top ad channels:
10 Strategies for competitive conquesting on different channels
Most of the advertising tips in blogs I’ve come across focus on AdWords or Facebook. These are clearly important channels to explore for your business. However, there are several other major players in the ad game that are often overlooked.
We’ll cover the top 10 here!
1. Bidding on the competition’s brand With Google Ads
Bidding on your competitor's name is a great way to get cheap, high-quality Google Ads clicks.
Brand keywords are typically some of the best-performing keywords you can target. They’re super relevant, and those searching are often very familiar with the company they’re searching for.
Plus, people searching these branded keywords are probably also in the final purchase decision-making stage, and near to closing. They're well past the discovery-of-services phase, so they're probably much higher-value leads.
It’s just a matter of creating a strategy that works.
We’ve had the best luck creating 'showdown' campaigns. These call out competitors in the ad headline then direct them to a showdown page where we compare our product against theirs.
Jamie Taylor, our previous Demand Generation Strategist, advises that you step up and go head to head with your competitors,
“When you create an ad, compare your business against your competitors’ smack dab in the headline. Bidding on a competitor’s name is not a new thing, but 99% of the ads I see have a silly, generic message that has nothing to do with their competitor other than that they’re in the same industry.”
One of our partners has driven some high-quality traffic for their client running a white-label competitor conquest campaign through our digital ads team:
"At Image Squared Marketing, targeting the competition has always been a big part of our digital ad strategy," said Vendasta Partner Casey Tibbs and Owner of Image Squared Marketing. "When working within AdWords, in particular, we like to create ad groups that include competitor targeting, branded targeting (using the business' name), and more product/service-specific targeting.
In one particular case, a small, new IT services company was able to leverage high search volume for a large, well-known competitor. This helped them to get their name out there and begin establishing an online ads strategy. We didn't get the best conversion rate for this campaign, but we started with absolutely nothing and were able to test keywords and ad copy in order to put together a larger, more informed campaign, which is running now!"
The more informed campaign Casey mentioned has only just launched. However, it has already generated over $25,000 in revenue from just a $250 investment thus far!
Not every competitor Google Ads campaign will result in off-the-charts ROI like this one, but we can clearly see the potential of this tactic to drive new business!
2. Targeting competitor’s customers’ interests with Meta Ads
Facebook is an excellent channel to try due to the ad platform’s outstanding targeting abilities.
One of the best ways to target your competitors' customers with Meta Ads (previously Facebook ads) or boosted posts is to create an ad specifically for your competitor's fan base by targeting their audience. This will work best if you do your research on the posts that your competitor's audience likes best, then deliver them something better with your ad.
While Facebook doesn’t specifically allow you to target fans of your competitors’ pages, they do make it easy to target large competitors and people with similar interests. All you need to do is enter the name of your competitor's fan page in the "interests" section.
For example, if you were creating ads for a local hardware store, you could target people in the area who ‘like’ or have interest in pages related to Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, and The Home Depot.
Targeting your competitor through an interest-based audience isn’t an exact formula. While you can’t directly target these businesses’ specific follower lists, you’ll get a pretty close approximation.
As I mentioned, you won’t always be able to use this option to target many smaller businesses. However, you can still develop a hyper-targeted audience by researching customers' interests. Just head to your competitor's' Facebook Pages and research the people who like them. Click on their profiles, grab their most relevant Likes to your business, and add them to a spreadsheet to find their common interests.
With this information, you can create custom audiences that target people with interests that are most likely to align with both your competitor and your company.
3. Targeting LinkedIn custom audiences
Just like with Facebook and Twitter ads (we’ll cover this later), you can create custom audiences to target individuals on LinkedIn who are already interested, have skills in, or belong to groups relevant to your competitors' products/services.
Some targeting options include location, job title, seniority level, gender, and age. This means that a company could make sure to only show ads to a client’s employees with “marketing” in their title, for example.
AJ Wilcox, founder of B2Linked also notes,
“LinkedIn provides unparalleled control over targeting, which makes it possible to do things like targeting clients of your competitors.
Before you can do this, you need to know the companies who are doing business with your competitor. If you're lucky enough to be in a marketing technology field, you might be able to get this list through an online source like BuiltWith.com. If your competitor's technology isn't overtly placed in the website coding of their customers, this may be more difficult of a task.
Once you have the list of company names, you can upload it as a Matched Audiences list into LinkedIn Ads, and create a campaign targeting just the people who are responsible for the purchase decisions.”
Neil Andrew, Marketing Manager of PPC Protect Limited also had success using LinkedIn competitive advertising to grow their brand:
“Initially when we started our LinkedIn ads we focused primarily on targeting individuals such as marketing managers and business owners. However, after a few weeks it was apparent that our strategy was not working and the number of leads proved it. After rethinking our strategy, we decided to focus purely on competitor ads. Since we were newcomers to the industry, we had little exposure and hardly anyone knew our brand.
After a few weeks of running the ads, the results were tremendous. We actually got a lot of interest from users that were already using our competitor's software and were looking for alternatives. Compared to other ad networks such as AdWords, we achieved 83% more leads in the same time frame and for a fraction of the cost.
Overall, I'd say it was an amazing success and I'd recommend this strategy to every business. Not only are competitor ads very powerful, but they're usually cheaper than bidding on the customer demographics that every other business targets.”
Pro tip: Remember to exclude employees from the companies you’re choosing as your competitors to keep their eyes off your ads and avoid wasted ad spend.
AJ Wilcox adds:
“I also like to use the same principle to exclude competitors from seeing my clients' ads. By placing competitor companies as negative audiences, you can ensure that these competitors are flying completely blind as to what your brand is advertising.”
4. Placing YouTube Ads before your competitors’ videos
How powerful would it be to play your video ads right before your competitors’ video?
You can do this exactly using the YouTube Ad Placements category.
As long as your competitors’ video allows monetization, you’re in a prime position to jump in front of your competitor’s customers with a video ad.
Wes Bledsoe, VP of Marketing at Skyline Solar Energy, suggests:
“The reason placements are so beneficial and so effective on YouTube is when you do a search video it is very, very difficult to stay within certain keyword parameters. YouTube videos cover an array of topics, but when you use placement targeting, you’re positioning your ads to play before specific videos. Plus, you’re also benefiting from your competition pushing out their own videos. So, as these people are getting more views, you in addition are getting more views on your ads, and everyone benefits. (Well, your competition doesn’t, but you do.) So, we’ve seen crazy successful, by using this technique.”
So all you really need to do to leverage your competitor’s video content is create a relevant video ad that viewers won’t want to skip! Ideally, if your ad is really good and targeted really well, they might not even watch your competitor’s video!
5. Appearing on your competitor’s profile with Yelp Ads
Mentioning Yelp will typically elicit strong reactions from business owners. Whether it’s hidden reviews (we have a 12-1 hidden vs. shown ratio on our own Yelp profile!), aggressive sales tactics, or their local SEO dominance, it seems like everyone has an opinion on the business review giant.
The feedback on Yelp ads is similar. These are the main problems with Yelp ads:
- The contract they require upon signing up
- the lack of transparency into what keywords people are using to find you on Yelp
- The difficulty attributing ROI to Yelp campaigns
However, appearing on competitors' Yelp profiles does have value, especially if you’re a smaller company in a large market with a lot of high-profile competitors. This is where Yelp competitive advertising can help you build brand awareness in your market.
Here's Mala Yoga, a studio in NYC. You can see four different ads appear on their page. Just removing those competitor ads would help Mala convert the traffic they earn through Yelp.
According to Nick Leffler,
“A free Yelp profile shows competitors ads on the profile. If you advertise on Yelp then you will show up on your competitors Yelp profile (and a lot of other profiles). If you pay to restrict competitor’s ads then your profile will be ad free from your competitors and others.”
However, the negatives will probably outweigh the positives for most businesses considering Yelp ads.
Toby Danylchuk, co-founder of 39 Celsius Web Marketing Consulting gave Yelp ads a try and had this to say:
“...at the end of the day, we calculated a much higher cost/call and lower ROI than Google PPC, and we decided to put Yelp ads on hold and put the budget into other more productive tactics, primarily Google Adwords.
In addition, Yelp provides no transparency into what keywords people are using to find you. This means you don’t know how much of your budget is going towards searches that are less than relevant.
If your primary objective for your business are leads, and you cannot validate that a particular tactic is driving low-cost leads, stop it and put your money where you know you can get a lower cost per lead.
If you’re looking to grow brand recognition in your market, Yelp ads may help. However, be sure to opt out of any multi-month contracts they try to sell you (and they will try!).
6. Targeting your competitor’s followers with Twitter Ads
Twitter is another channel where you can target your competitor's followers effectively. Almost 50% of active Twitter users follow brands/companies and 67% of people are more likely to buy from brands they follow on Twitter (Ragan) so there’s no shortage of people interacting with businesses on Twitter.
James Pollard, a marketing consultant who works with financial services professionals at TheAdvisorCoach.com has used Twitter ads specifically to build his email list:
“For Twitter ads what I do is I target the followers of my competitors on Twitter. This is an excellent strategy because if someone is following a competitor, it means he/she is already demonstrating the desire for results.
The strategy behind this is that if people are already following the advice and content of this individual, they’re already primed to accept whatever I’m offering.
My goals for the ads are usually to get clicks to my website, where people will be presented with an email opt-in. I want to get the followers away from Twitter, because I don’t own Twitter. Twitter is rented land. I own my email list. From there, I can email my list as often as I want with whatever offer I please.
The results are usually pretty good - about 50-70% of people who click on my landing pages end up opting in, but part of the reason is because I’ve split-tested my landing pages to the gills.”
There’s a great lesson here for any competitive advertising campaign or any ad campaign you create, really: Have a specific goal or objective, and a landing page to match. The more you plan your campaign around the interests and needs of your target audience, the more likely they are to convert.
Here’s how to get started:
- Target people based on their bio, accounts they are following, and keywords. Twitter ads provide username-based targeting called tailored audience targeting.
- Use a tool like Twitonomy, Audiense, or Followerwonk to download your competitors' account followers.
- Upload the username list into the tailored audience targeting section and create the ad.
7. Using geofencing to target competitors
Geofencing is a location-based advertising technique that uses GPS, Wi-Fi, or cellular data to create virtual boundaries or "fences" around specific geographic areas. When users enter or leave the designated geofenced area, they can receive targeted ads or promotions through apps or websites. This approach gives businesses a way to run competitive advertising when their audience is in close proximity to their competitors' locations or events.
By using geofencing in competitive conquest advertising, businesses can deliver relevant, timely messages that encourage prospects to consider their brand instead of the competition. Given its location-based nature, this technique is particularly useful for brick-and-mortar businesses looking to drive foot traffic and increase in-store visits.
To implement a successful geofencing campaign, businesses should consider the following steps:
- Define their goal: Determine the primary objectives of the geofencing campaign, which might be increasing foot traffic, boosting sales, or raising brand awareness among a competitor's audience.
- Choose competitor conquesting locations: For this strategy to work, businesses need to choose strategic geofence boundaries around competitor locations, industry events, or other areas where the target audience is likely to be found. The geofences should offer a high potential for capturing competitors' customers.
- Develop the ad creatives: This competitive advertising technique is all about capturing the competitor’s audience in the moment and encouraging them to make an impulse decision to favor your business over the others. Eye-catching and engaging ad creatives that resonate with the target audience and highlight the unique offer are a must.
- Be strategic about targeting parameters: Geofencing competitive ads can be further targeted by using options like demographics, interests, or behaviors to rine the campaign audience and maximize ROI.
- Track key metrics: Like any ad campaign, it’s essential to continuously track the performance of your geofencing campaign using analytics and reporting tools. This way, you can make adjustments to targeting, creatives, or offers based on data-driven insights.
- Test and improve: Experiment with different geofence locations, targeting parameters, and ad creatives to identify the most effective strategies for competitor conquesting. For example, some competitor locations may prove to be more fruitful for this competitive advertising approach than others.
8. Engaging in content marketing on Quora
Quora is a popular question-and-answer platform where users can ask questions, provide answers, and engage in discussions on a variety of subjects. It’s also the perfect platform for competitor conquesting.
Why? The platform attracts millions of monthly visitors, making it an ideal channel for businesses to engage in content marketing with their competitors' audiences. By actively participating on Quora, your SMB clients can establish themselves as industry experts, showcase their knowledge, and provide valuable insights that address customer pain points or questions related to a competitor's products or services.
This approach helps to build credibility and trust among potential customers can be an effective way to drive traffic to a business’s website.
To use this competitive conquesting strategy, start by building a professional Quora profile for your client. It should highlight their business’s expertise, industry know-how, and any relevant accomplishments. The aim of this is to create a trustworthy profile that establishes them as a relevant thought leader.
Then, dig into Quora to identify relevant topics and questions related to their industry. These should be high-engagement posts with lots of views. For example, a business selling bookkeeping software might want to look for questions in which users of a competitive software are having trouble accessing the features they need.
Then, jump in with a useful, personalized, answer that directly addresses the problem in the question. When it comes to competitor conquesting on Quora, it’s a best practice not to be too promotional. Rather than being salesy, focus on exhibiting value and being helpful. If it’s appropriate, include links for blog posts or other resources that can drive traffic to the business’s website.
Doing this regularly can be a great way to target competitors while building up a positive online reputation as a helpful thought leader in the industry.
9. Targeting competitors through podcast advertising
Podcast advertising wasn’t a huge deal even a decade ago, but today it has become an increasingly popular and effective marketing channel for businesses looking to engage with target audiences and capture the attention of their competitor's customers.
Podcasts have experienced significant growth in recent years, with millions of listeners tuning in regularly to consume content on just about any niche topic you can imagine. Advertising on relevant industry-specific podcasts gives businesses a way to reach an engaged and interested audience.
So, how exactly can you go about competitive conquest advertising on podcasts?
Like any advertising spend, it’s important to find the right platform that will maximize the likelihood of getting in front of an audience that is likely to buy. This means choosing a relevant podcast with an audience that likely has a need for your precise offering. You can also get information about listener demographics from most publishers of podcasts that sell ads. Information about download numbers, reviews, and social media engagement can further help you gauge its reach.
You can incorporate competitor conquesting into your search by looking for podcasts that your competitors have appeared on, since their audience is more likely to listen to those.
Once you know which podcasts you want to advertise on, see if it is possible to obtain a host testimonial. This would require the host to use your product or service and be confident enough to provide a personal recommendation to their audience.
You can work with the podcast production team to determine if you want to write your own ad or have them write it for your approval and to determine when during the podcast it will air. To track the performance of your podcast competitor conquesting ads, consider creating a discount code or promotion that is unique to that podcast.
10. Creating sponsored content with influencers
There are influencers in just about every niche these days, so no matter what business your SMB clients are, there are likely influencers talk about their competitors in social media platforms, YouTube, or on their own platforms or newsletters.
It’s easy to understand why: influencer marketing can be a powerful strategy for businesses to engage with their target audience, increase brand awareness, and drive conversions. It’s also a great way to target competitors’ customers through competitor conquesting.
By collaborating with influencers who have a strong following in your niche, you can create sponsored content that showcases your unique offerings and positions your brand as a better choice compared to your competitors. The influencer doesn’t necessarily have to have a history of working with your competitor. If they are a significant voice in the niche, the competitor’s audience is probably already listening to them.
Successfully using this strategy largely comes down to identifying the most relevant influencers. They should share a target audience with your brand, and have a solid presence in the niche. Follow count, engagement rate, and content quality are all important considerations when choosing an influencer to partner with.
A word of caution: make sure the influence is credible before proceeding. It’s far too common for aspiring influencers to fudge their data, so look for indications that they are the real deal, such as past repeat clients.
Then, work on crafting a message that helps you achieve your competitive conquesting goals. For example, let’s say your client is a hair care brand. Instead of having the influencer explicitly call out a competitor—they likely wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this—have them address a common complaint about the competitor, and highlight how your client’s product is better because it addresses the complaint.
3 Competitive advertising examples
What better way to start dreaming up your next competitive ads than by looking at some real-world competitive advertising examples to see how it’s done.
Samsung and Apple
This competitive advertising example from Samsung on the left references their sleek competitor, Apple, without explicitly calling them out. The iPhone design is immediately recognizable, and the association is made even stronger with the phrase “It doesn’t take a genius”, which references the Apple geniuses that can be found in any of their stores.
Like many famous competitive conquest advertising examples, this one includes the competitor fighting back. The right-hand ad is from Google, using the exact same image that Samsung used in its ad and adding their own phrase in place of “It doesn’t take a genius”: “To settle for cheap plastic.”
Both the Samsung and Apple examples provide excellent case studies in clever competitive ad design, whether you’re initiating the competition or responding to a competitor’s claims.
Homechef and Hellofresh
This example showcases the effect of using competitor keywords in competitive advertising. HelloFresh is a widely known home meal deliver service provider, which appears to have a significant marketing budget. Homechef isn’t quite as well-known and doesn’t appear to be as well-resourced, but by bidding on the “Hellofresh” keyword, they appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) when people search for their competitor.
This is a common competitor conquesting technique: to see for yourself, just search for a well-known brand that you like. Chances are, you’ll see competitors in the ads section of the SERP who have bid on that brand name as a keyword.
Wendy’s and McDonald’s
Some brands excel more than others at mastering the unique communication styles of each platform, and when it comes to Twitter, Wendy’s has done a particularly good job. This competitor ad is perfectly suited to Twitter, but might not perform as well on a different platform with a different vernacular.
The tweet text, “TFW yo beef’s still frozen”, accompanied by a Big Mac that is blowing away as turns to dust, reminds the audience of what makes Wendy’s burgers special. Unlike their competitor, they use fresh ingredients that never see a freezer.
Protecting your business against competitive advertising
We’ve seen already that brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be. In fact, 61% of consumers take their business to a competitor when they end a business relationship (Genesys).
Much of this is probably due to the 1-2 punch of increased choices and increased access to information. Customers can easily see what’s out there and won’t stick around if they find a better product with better customer service.
This means you can court your competitor’s customers with competitor conquesting, but you’ll still need to make a convincing case for your company’s products and services or you may lose them to another competitor! If you can’t convince your competitor’s customers that you’re the best option, these strategies won’t work.
This'll just strengthen their allegiance to your competition.
As effective as wrapping yourself in foam and tape might seem, there’s no one bullet-proof solution that’ll fend off your competition.
Your competitors will try to copy you, run ads against you, and use anything negative against you. You can’t really stop them in most cases, but you can focus strategically on tactics that’ll protect you against their efforts:
- Have fantastic products and services that your customers rely heavily upon. The more customers see you as an integral partner in their business, the less likely it’ll be that they’ll care about what the competition is saying.
- Provide outstanding customer service so that when issues come up, customers feel heard, appreciated and they have their issues resolved in a timely fashion.
- Focus on boosting your online reputation, online and in real life. Ask customers for reviews, and respond to all reviews, positive and negative. Monitor what’s being said about your business online.
Good luck with competitor conquesting campaigns! If you have any more competitive advertising strategies, please share them in the comments section below.