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 Find Out About New Product Development (NPD)

I’m always on the hunt for cool new apps, websites or tools that will help me work smarter. Have a look at Product Hunt. It’s a daily list of the best new products or new releases. The breath of what is being developed is just amazing and great to see what features developers are adding to their products. This could give you ideas about where to take your product or service, plus offers some great competitor research insights.

How Venture Capitalists Make Decisions on what to Invest in

By the very nature of what they do, venture capitalists have a need for detailed research on companies and markets. My new favourite daily newsletter is by CB Insights ( which provides up-to-date analysis on where the money is going. We are living in an era of disruption with massive change occurring in sectors such as health, finance, retail and manufacturing to name a few. CB Insights have their finger firmly on the pulse, with on-point analysis, so that you can keep up. Some info is behind a paywall, but the daily newsletter is free and written in a very entertaining way. Subscribe now!

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Market Research For Exporters

The New Zealand Story ( was created with extensive input from over 200 leaders from the primary sector, manufacturing, Māori, export industry, education and wider government services to promote New Zealand. Lots of good on-the-ground research here. One report about exporting to Japan reminds Kiwi's to highlight how we excel by being creative and ingenious in primary markets rather than telling them how good we are at supplying agricultural products.

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Company Research Tools

While I prefer the fee-based analyst databases for their search capability, Smarter Analyst ( is a great free substitute. The analyst commentaries focus on listed U.S. companies, so the value of this resource is limited somewhat. The plus is that you can see what is happening in this market and how it could translate to where you are. These analysts often have the contacts and intimate knowledge of a market, which means you get the context to fast-forward your understanding of what's going on.

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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!

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 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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Best Practice Competitor Research

People often get caught up in tracking every movement their competitors make  - they benchmark, look how a competitor differentiates themselves by product or service offering, and how they position themselves. All good-to-know stuff.

However, competitor or competitive research involves looking outside the boundaries of those identified competitors who do exactly what you do. You need to understand what substitutes there are for your product or service. These can include new technologies which are more convenient and cheaper or changing consumer preferences such as fashion trends or new social dynamics.

Competitors play a small part in the success of your product or service. In the end, its what your customers want that will have a much more lasting effect on the long-term success of your business.