Sunday, July 11, 2010

Competitive Analysis

A lot of product managers jump at the chance to take a look at the competition and attempt to glean information to guide the product roadmap. Here are some of my experiences:
  • Intelligence vs. Analysis - Many new product managers will just gather information and present it to the executives. This is competitive intelligence. This is only the beginning. The analysis part of the equation involves deriving meaningful conclusions based on the intelligence.
  • Defining your competitive set - This is often times glossed over. Who do you think your competitors are and what do your customers think? A good idea is to monitor your win/loss analysis for this information. Also, if you want to move into a new market segment, you may want to start including those competitors as well in your analysis. It may give you some insight on when you are ready to compete!
  • Quantitative Analysis  - Both types of competitive analysis have a lot of value. I have used a weighted VRIN analysis giving each feature a score of importance and competitive differentiation. I value the "V" a bit higher than the "RIN".  I then score each competitor on a 0 to 1 scale (think harvey balls) and then derive a score for each competitor. This is helpful in determining where you stand relative to your competition. This is the "You are here" on a map. While this may seem a bit heavy on the Intelligence side of the equation, it is not. The weighting of the VRIN values comes from understanding and analyzing your target market segment. It is a bit more qualitative.
  • Qualitative Analysis - Once you have done the Quantitative work. It's time to look at where competitors position themselves. My favorite tool of choice is a perceptual map. These are especially helpful if you can compare snapshots in time. Do you see a competitor moving in a particular direction relative to historical information? Is there an opening for you?
  • Don't Blindly Follow the Competition - Sometimes the competition is just as clueless as you are. Some competitors like to develop a lot of features without understanding the target market and their core needs. This "blanketing" of features is in the hope that enough of their target market is pleased by enough of the features for the work to deliver an ROI. If you analyze this type of competitor it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the market is heading in a particular direction because this competitor is building a specific feature. Remember, sometimes your competitors don't always have strong research, so don't be too eager to follow them.
There is a lot of information here and I blogged this as a simple introduction...more to come soon I hope!