What's Your Place in the Market?
In any industry it is essential that you understand your place in the market. Your place in the market refers both to the value you bring to your customers and how you compare to your competitors. Staying on top of who is doing what in your industry is paramount to building and maintaining your customer base. I find that this is especially true in the technology industry where startups often spring up and become overnight sensations (a la Snapchat).
In order to build the best product for your market, you have to take into account what your competitors are doing. You don’t want to be the only company still making people log in the old fashioned way, when everyone else is using social sign in. Ok, not the best example, but you get the idea.
Any new functionality or business strategy you implement should, or course, be driven by the intersection of your organisational capability and your customers’ needs. Just because your competitors are doing it, doesn’t mean that you should. But you certainly need to at least inform your strategy based on the competitive landscape. You need to know not only where your competitor’s strengths are so you can amp up your production in those areas, but also their weaknesses.
Getting to know your competition
Personally, I think that the best way to evaluate your competitors is to spend some time using their product and comparing it to your own. At import·io we do this by trying to solve one of our users’ data problems both with our tool and one of our competitors tools. The process is quite simple, we split the office into small teams which are spread out across the different disciplines within the company. Then we ask half of the teams to solve a problem using our tool and the other half to solve it using a competitor tool. At the end we all discuss what went well and what we struggled with.
The whole process only takes about an hour and half, and the team genuinely enjoy the challenge of trying to “beat” one another at solving the issue - even if they’re using one of our competitors.
The other week we did this with a relatively new company in our market: kimono labs. It brought up some very interesting points in our discussion and made us take a fresh look at a few aspects of our platform. These sessions are always good to get the conversation going and enable you to review, justify and debate decisions you may have made some time ago. Tech moves so quickly that what seemed like a great solution last year might need a review to keep it current.
Using it Wisely
Inevitably, just as you find things that you are an industry leader on, you will also find things that your competitors are doing better than you - after all you can’t think of everything. No matter what you discover it’s important to keep a balanced view; these are learning opportunities and should be used to help you inform your business strategy going forward. These exercises are designed to keep you from getting complacent in the market. Whether you are the tried and tested veteran or the new up-and-comer, there are always ways to grow and improve your product.