Co-Founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian, posed a similar question on Twitter the other day (albeit with a book plug), that really got me thinking. In marketing, and more specifically product marketing, we constantly monitor our competitors and relentlessly try to stay one step ahead of them. Even though we try to not spend too much time worrying about them or how their latest feature measures against ours. However, isn’t that exactly what potential customers are doing? Sow how should we view our competition, and how much time should we devote observing them?
Analyzing Your Competition
I think determining your competition is a crucial marketing effort that may not seem as simple or clear-cut as it appears. Several companies, notably tech companies, look at other tech companies solving the same pain-point. This analysis may only yield a handful of results, leaving critical competitors unnoticed.
If your company makes it easier to bank online, you should glance at other companies doing the same thing, but pay more attention to the banking industry. Do you think Uber cares more about Lyft/SideCar or the taxi industry as a whole?
At WalkMe we provide an engagement and support software. As you can imagine, there are other companies who can solve similar aspects we do. However, we don’t view these companies as actual competitors in the true sense of the word. We’d rather focus our attention on the outdated industry entirely.
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Monitoring Your Competition
I’m a huge advocate of not spending countless hours staying on top of what your competitors are doing. This doesn’t mean I’m completely unaware though.
I have Google Alerts, both for other companies and entire industries, which I browse and read at the end of each day. The news keeps me updated enough that I can familiarize myself which the recent happenings. Noteworthy product launches and industry analysis will give me enough information to adequately do my job.
What I pay more attention to, though, is the company’s messaging. If a competitor releases a new feature which gained the media’s attention, I look at how the article frames the release. Then, I go to the company website itself and view how they position the feature.
I think the messaging is the most important thing marketers should take notice of. It will often divulge the direction of the company itself and who they will target next.
If customers care about your competitors and alternatives, so should you.
As a product marketer, you need to clearly realize and articulate the key messages that highlight your differentiated value. This will crucial for a customer’s choice. Creating this messaging, however, is a tricky task.
I like to get feedback from happy customers. What features do they like? What could improve the process? Why did you choose us as opposed to an alternative?
These answers will prove vital for effective messaging.
A good product marketer will put themselves in the minds of their customers while creating the messaging. Focus the value and answer the question: why are we better than them? Develop key themes that address your features, and mitigate any questions.
So there you have it. I think it’s important to carefully select competitors, and lightly monitor their news while simultaneously keeping you up to date with the entire industry. These tools will be necessary to create the effective messaging to attract the customers toward your company as opposed to an alternative.