We’re still in the process of GETTING READY to launch your product and/or startup. It’s time to find your COMPETITION.
We’ve turned our idea into a PRODUCTIZED offering, with FEATURES, BENEFITS and solutions for a specific group of Target USERS.
We’ve developed an initial ELEVATOR PITCH, to chat up our offering to both stakeholders, and potential customers.
We’re now ready to discover our competition, and identify what makes our offering different, BETTER, than theirs.
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS is the third phase of the PRODUCTIZATION process.
I want to find competitors for my factitious PHP Advocates application. Well, let me be clear. I DON’T want to find competitors already producing my brilliant idea, but I know it’s smart to look for them before investing a lot of time (and time IS money, in business), in developing and marketing an idea that’s already available.
To quickly locate direct and indirect competitors for my app, I use the ITERATIVE SEARCH process. I choose KEYWORDS and phrases to create SEARCH TERMS closely related to my offering. How do I choose the most efficient words to begin my initial search? I find bullet lists of KEYWORDS and phrases directly related to my offering on my PRODUCTIZATION lists.
My FEATURES and BENEFITS lists— 1A and B, and my TARGET MARKETS AND USERS lists— 2A and B, are rich with KEYWORDS and phrases about my upcoming peer-to-peer service, and groups of people who will likely be interested in my PHP Advocates application.
I utilize these PRODUCTIZATION lists by lifting words and phrases to use as SEARCH TERMS to find competitors producing an offering directly or indirectly like mine, meaning, not only very close to my idea, but similar offerings to mine as well.
TO VIDEO: Like ITERATIVE SEARCHING for a vacation for my family, I begin on Google, as it is, by far, still the broadest public search engine on the internet.
My KEY CONCEPT— I’m looking for competitors for my PHP Advocates application, so I start with a key phrase repeated multiple times in my FEATURES and BENEFITS lists: ‘Live Chat with Industry Pros.’
I start without any quotes around my SEARCH TERM, to get the broadest cross-section of possible competition, since I’m not sure who they are, or what they have that’s like my offering.
I scroll down the list of returns and read the titles and brief descriptions, as well as note the URL location of each result. I go through [at least] the first 3 pages of returns, check out a few links that sound similar, but don’t really find any significant competitors for my offering. I start to feel happy I’m on to something of unique value.
I try making my SEARCH TERM more specific with quotes. There are ALWAYS competitors, even indirectly, that are doing, or will be doing what each of us conceive.
Quotes around the entire phrase produces very few results, and none that are usable. Quotes around only “Live Chat” produce more results, but again, they seem to be focused on Live Chat software, not anything like what PHP Advocates offers.
Analyzing my search results reveals using the term “Live chat” gets me Chat software returns. I iterate my next SEARCH TERM leaving out the words “live chat.” Using the SEARCH TERM ‘Online Experts’ yields immediate recommendations, and I try ‘online expert services’ as a close match.
First page of returns, first result on the page I find one of my direct competitors. Presto Experts has many of the same features I want to put in PHP Advocates— round the clock industry experts and academic tutors in a variety of categories offering their professional services online.
I get that sinking feeling that my idea isn’t all that unique.
I continue searching, knowing it’s smart to do so, even though I don’t want to. I’m going to investigate PHP Advocates competition, and bravely face the results of this research.
It is likely I’ll find many other competitors. More often than not, our great idea is already being produced, either in part, or completely by someone else. This does NOT mean it’s time to abandon my idea. It’s time to ITERATE, and turn it into a UNIQUE offering of value. Many startups, likely most, ITERATE their first product multiple times before launch. It is common that the products and services we purchase have little to do with their original ideas.
Part of our job as entrepreneurs is to find solutions to roadblocks we’ll come across again and again in the startup process. COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS is usually the first of these roadblocks.
ITERATIVE SEARCHING helps us become aware of our COMPETITION, which allows us to produce BETTER offerings than theirs. And you must monitor them, and continually search for others with the same or similar offerings to yours, throughout the lifespan of your business. Knowing who, and what your competitors are doing, will help you stay ahead of them in the race for customers, commonly called, ‘market share.’
PRODUCTIZATION List 3A, is a list of companies found in your ongoing research that have exact, or similar features, and therefore benefits, to your offering. These competitors likely have the same target audience as well.
I’ve create a list of these companies for PHP Advocates, along with their URLs, and a bullet list of the characteristics of their offering that are similar to mine. It is important to list as many FEATURES, BENEFITS, SOLUTIONS, and even Target USERS you find, to the quickly identify what your competitors have, and then compare their offering to what you envision for yours. We also use List 3A to discover new FEATURES, BENEFITS, SOLUTIONS our competitors have implemented that we’d yet to consider. I love the idea of categories for Home Services. And under my Personal category, I’ll include Relationships— from dating to advice, and Parenting, too! I’ll add many of my competitor’s FEATURES to my offering before launch.
I prioritize this list with the closest matches to my idea first. Indirect competitors should fall to the bottom of the list. It is critical to the success of your business to keep a running tally— a dynamic list— of your competitors. Carve time out of each week to do a quick Google search. Fridays, with your morning coffee, ITERATIVE SEARCH the internet, and identify any new competition that’s popped up, or discover a known competitor’s product upgrade or new release. By continually searching for my competition, I’ll find out about them quickly, and be able match, or surpass their new offerings with my own whenever necessary, and possible.
As I populate this list, I’m beginning to think it would be brain dead to spend time launching my idea since it’s already being done by others currently building the market share I want. Most every innovator runs up against this issue when they perform COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS. But, remember, it doesn’t mean your idea is dead just because you’ve got competitors. A part of your job as the CEO of your idea is working around roadblocks.
Once we’ve identified who are competitors are, and what they have, we must DIFFERENTIATE our offering from theirs. An effective method of staying ahead of our competition is to continually develop unique and valuable DIFFERENTIATORS for our offerings.
This is a RESPONSE to COMPETITION chart. It visually illuminates our offering’s Unique Value Proposition (UVP), or what makes our product or service different— FEATURES, BENEFITS and SOLUTIONS that make our offering BETTER than our competitors. We’ll drill down on identifying and creating UVPs for your offering in the COPYWRITING series in WORKSHOP 2 of the Lean Startup Marketing course.
In this example for PHP Advocates, my three greatest competitors, with products and services that are closely aligned with mine, are Presto Experts, Live Experts, and Just Answer.
I’ve carefully reviewed their list of FEATURES and BENEFITS, and my list as well, and then combined the most relevant among them—our FEATURES, BENEFITS and SOLUTIONS with the most overlap— and listed them here.
In performing this visualization process, I’m able to identify which features are unique to my offering, known in marketing terms as the ‘sweet spots,’ or the DIFFERENTIATOR to tout in our marketing efforts.
Presto Experts and Live Experts have a calendar app like PHP Advocates. Only Just Answer doesn’t have this feature. So I have a DIFFERENTIATOR with this feature from Just Answer, but I don’t from these companies. I would NOT market the calendar component of my app as it’s greatest or best DIFFERENTIATOR.
None of my competitors say anything about their offering having a Recommendation or Matching system, so I’ve identified a unique DIFFERENTIATOR of PHP Advocates. I’ll use this FEATURE to market my application, but it’s hard to understand the value of a Recommendation system, so I need a better DIFFERENTIATOR for launch, to get the greatest response on my roll-out marketing efforts.
As you can see, while online industry experts and related features are common to all of us, none of my competitors offer LIVE, in-person advocates for in-home care, meetings and appointments like PHP does. And though Live Experts offers on-site education and business coaching, customers have to come to them. PHP Advocates goes to the customer, so I’ve identified another unique solution of value to my potential USERS over my competitor’s approach. In-person, on-site advocates is easily my greatest differentiator.
Beyond identifying unique differentiators of our offering, a RESPONSE to COMPETITION chart is used to help us identify FEATURES and BENEFITS our competition is offering that we’ve yet to conceive. Presto Experts offers customers the ability to record and archive engagements on their site. This is a valuable differentiator, that I, too, can implement in PHP Advocates to compete with them when I launch, or as an additional feature to add in the next product release. Offering the first appointment, or a part of it free is a great sales gimmick. I’ll use that too, at launch, and beyond to entice USERS.
Differentiating your product or service from its competition is essential to creating a memorable BRAND, and ultimately selling your offering. Your idea must present some unique value, or at least the perception of unique value, to be noticed at all among similar offerings of competitors, especially if they’ve already established market share, as several competitors of PHP Advocates have.
PRODUCTIZATION List 3B is an ongoing, dynamic list of the DIFFERENTIATORS, or UVPs of your offering. This list should be added to all the time, every time a new unique FEATURE and/or BENEFIT is uncovered, or created. This list shows some of PHP Advocates greatest DIFFERENTIATORS from my competition. I’ll refer to this list again and again throughout the BRANDING process. I’ll lift words, phrases, and messages from this list to use in my advertising and marketing campaigns because marketing should tout the BEST thing about your offering that has valuable, unique FEATURES and function from anything else out there.
As with all PRODUCTIZATION LISTS, List 3a and b should be ongoing throughout the life-cycle of your offering. Even with no direct competition at launch, competitors will ride on your success. It is imperative someone in your organization continually search and monitor your competition. The third place startups fail is selling their initial release too long. Also known as one hit wonders, they get trampled by competitors continually releasing similar, or better offerings, capturing their market share.
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS is the process used to identify, and, if necessary, to create differentators— unique FEATURES and BENEFITS that separate your offering from your competition, out of the gate at launch, and beyond.
PREVIEW SLIDE (H&V)
HORIZONTAL & VERTICAL MARKETING models help us find additional target MARKETS and individual USERS in various market segments, that will keep us ahead of competitors looking to cash-in on our market share. Modeling potential new markets also helps us develop new products and feature updates that will keep our offering valuable and relevant a year after launch, as well as 3, and 5 years down the line. Video11_HORIZONTAL & VERTICAL MARKETING is next…