5 Paths to Real-time Competitive Insights

As an entrepreneur, product manager, or CEO, you have to be vigilant of what is going on in the marketplace. Are you taking a holistic view of both competitors and even more importantly, trends? Ask yourself: are you really offering something that has a truly distinct Value Proposition? If not, someone else will.

The following are practical suggestions for keeping up with CompetitorsAlternatives, and Disruptors in the Marketplace:

  1. Talk to your customers and prospects. Tell them that you really want to understand them and the marketplace better. Ask them: what other companies and products have you been looking at? Make this a conversation, not a survey process (although a survey is valid and good – it’s just different than talking to them).
  2. Talk to your sales force. As hard as it may be to get real answers, you have to ask them about lost deals. Have you lost deals with specific competitors? Who else are prospects mentioning they are considering? Track this information but keep it simple. If you’re a one-person sales force, still do this as a “getting real” exercise.
  3. The Internet. This one’s obvious – but it still requires that you take the time to do it! With the breadth and depth of web resources available, you can find out a lot about your competition at the click of a mouse. Enter keywords of your value proposition into google and you will most likely locate your competitors. Create a Google (or other RSS-based) news feed with the keywords included in your Value Proposition and check it daily. This low cost and easy dashboard are useful in keeping up with the marketplace. The more tightly defined your value proposition is, the more quickly you can start doing research and locate your competitors quickly.
  4. Commission or purchase market research. While the news may sometimes be “after the fact”, industry research houses (such as Gartner and Forrester in IT) discuss new products and technologies with vendors before they enter the marketplace. Professional research provides insight into the direction of companies within your industry. Analysts develop opinions about where a market is going. While no one is right all the time (most research firms overstated the dot-com revolution, for instance) – they provide another valuable voice to the discussion your firm needs to have regarding competitors, alternatives, and especially, disruptors.
  5. Build relationships with key people within your specific trade press. These professionals closely follow your market and they can be critical for not only providing press coverage of your company and product but also for sharing conversations about what’s going on in the marketplace and what’s coming down the pipeline.
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