Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Product Management: How to deal with competitors

Yesterday I shared my thought on kinds of competitors to watch out for.  I would continue that train of thought, and talk a little about how to deal with competitors.

When anyone mentions someone else as a competitor, find out everything about them.  Who is working on it, what their product does, what their product does not do, and what customers are saying about them.  Most importantly the one thing that you want to find out is their message to customers, that is, their customer pitch.

The reason why the pitch is important is because chances are the competitor may not be solving the problem that you are going after.  Even when people approach the same problem, the ways we solve them are almost always not identical.  And our approach often changes.  Remember that most startups have at least a couple of pivots to find their product market fit.

It's important to see how the competitor is solving the problem.  The competitor in someone else's view may not be a competitor at all.  Often times I see cases where companies are not directly competing, but in need of collaboration and partnership.  What ends of happening often is not understanding the so-called competitor's vision, under-estimating the market size and pure greed/hubris taking over the business decision to compete instead of partnering.

First understand what the other team's product is, and understand how customers are using them to solve their problem.  Ask yourself whether it's the problem that you are solving.  If not, you should decide whether to join hands, educate the market or start the fight.

In an unlikely event that it's a similar idea solving the same problem, you are in for a fight.  Chances are you will encounter the competitor in every deal, and you will have to react.  Fast.  But reacting alone is not enough.

My advice is to revisit your mission statement.  Compare that with the competitor's.

Understand how the competitor's vision is different from yours.  In all cases there will be differences in focus between what you are going after and competitor's.  Take that difference and grow the gap.

It's never the right answer to compete with competitor by copying its product feature by feature.  That's because you'll always be behind them, and in addition there is no guarantee that their features are what customers are looking for.  Instead spot the difference in the mission, and create a roadmap that further separates your product from the competitor's.

Having competitors is one indication that there is a market.
Your job is to tell the most compelling story to the market, and executing it.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! We’ve found that an effective way to deal with competition is to praise their strengths and highlight how our product overcomes their weaknesses. Here’s more about our strategy-