How To Find Out Who My Competitors Are

Sometimes I don’t know whom the main competitors are when researching an unfamiliar market. First stop to find out is to use Google.

Imagine that my client is Starbucks. I could then search on Google using ‘vs’ or ‘versus’ in keywords. See how a list of competitors appears. This search is also likely to elicit lots of information that has a competitive intelligence slant.

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With competitive research it’s not just the direct competitors that you need to worry about, it’s the disruptors who enter your marketplace with new technology or services that solve your customer’s problems better. That’s when a comprehensive search of the market using free and paywall resources comes into play. The crucial thing here is to understand what market is in terms of the problem that your buyer wants to be solved, not just the product or service that you are selling.

How to Use Competitive Intelligence Successfully

A recent article in Harvard Business Review found that 45% of competitive intelligence (CI) findings weren't used when management was making decisions about strategy. However, those companies who used the power of CI for their decision-making had four common factors:

  • The CI analyst was assigned a "sign-off" authority over major decisions.

  • Management was open to perspectives that were different from the internal consensus.

  • The analyst's report called for proactive action more than reaction.

  • The analyst was involved in product launches.

The CI analyst having sign-off for major decisions was the most important factor to getting CI used out of the four reasons above. This would indicate that the CI analyst must sit with the decision-makers and be comfortable debating and influencing others about the CI collected. They can't just drop off the slide deck and leave, but must actively champion the value and opportunity that CI brings, and make it a core component of decisions. They've also got to have "skin in the game", by having their name and research seen to be supporting decisions in a very public way that is accountable. That also helps keep the CI honest and reliable. What's not to like about that!

Free Market Research!

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Millie is a new market research tool which gives a lot for free. It brings together market research, news, and reports in one place, with the added bonus of a robust search platform which enables you to filter out the info you don't want. When I tested 'Millie' on a search for avocados and the recent price hike, it directed me to a variety of national and international websites explaining the reasons behind the rising cost of this fruit, as well as analysts reports on large scale growers of avocados, and links to further earlier news reports. The result screen is a bit overwhelming to look at to start with, but once you get to grips with it, the information has been nicely curated, and offers text analytics too. One restriction for me was that it only covers eight sectors at the moment, but they are big ones such as food and beverage, health care, energy etc. Millie is a work-in-progress, so this may change, but even as it stands now, it is a pretty good resource for the desk researcher.

How to do Retrospective Competitive Research

The Wayback Machine is a digital archive of older versions of web pages. Business researchers, and competitive intelligence professionals can use older versions of a website for company research. I have used this website to look for deleted products and branding changes, as well as tracking pricing information. It's also been great to find the names and bio’s of past management. Not every web page is included but it’s a fantastic resource for building up a picture about an organisation, their products or employees.

Market Validation Part 5: Putting it all together

In this final episode of my DIY market validation series, I’d like to talk about how to pull all the information you have collected together.

First, read through it all, and then take notes from what you have found. I find it helps to arrange it into sections. Depending on what you are researching, these sections might include market statistics, consumer preferences, regulatory, competitor strategies and substitutes, technology etc.

Filter out all the irrelevant or dated info, but be mindful about any vibes about the context in which your product or service operates in. Big picture stuff often dictates individual consumer preferences.

Don’t forget to include visuals. The size of a competitor factory might be 20,000sqm, but a photo of the factory instantly conveys the size, shape, flexibility of operations and type of environment that your competitor has.

Now you can see what market validation info you have.

  • What themes or ideas keep repeating themselves? Draw the dots and see what emerges.

  • Is the information that you have up-to-date and future-oriented?

  • Do you trust what you are reading? Be honest, especially if it goes against assumptions that you’ve made. It could be the difference between success or failure.

  • Does the information you have come from a variety of sources? Be aware of bias.

  • What info gaps do you have? How can you fill them?

The above gives you a taste of how to use information to make a sound decision based on trends, facts, and context. Sometimes numbers won't match up or information won't be conclusive, or you just can't find that magic market size number that you desperately need. If you get stuck, just phone (027 4393795) or email Cathy at cathy@heath.co.nz, and we'll give you a hand.

 

Market Validation Part 1: Discovering Customer Preferences

Market Validation Part 1: Discovering Customer Preferences

When you have a new product or service to sell, it can be very easy to assume that it will be welcomed into the market, and make lots of money. However, sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge that our assumptions and perceptions might not reflect reality. Market validation is about determining whether your new product or service will solve a problem better than anyone else. This is how you will make money. It’s as simple as that.

So, how do you find out whether your new product or service will sink or swim?

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Use Competitors to Help your Business

Mary Ellen Bates is someone whose opinion I value in my professional life. She is a librarian by training like me, but also makes her living from providing market research and competitor analysis to businesses like I do too. The personality traits that we share of being curious individuals who are persistent, creative and having the tenacity of a pit bull also ring true.

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