Regardless of what type of business you’re into, knowing who else is into it is an obvious start. From there on, begins the forever climb of knowing the what and how aspects of your competition, which is termed as competitive intelligence. That who-else chart is a tricky one, far more than the music billboard or share market ones — you never know who will break into the top and when. While it’s impossible to avoid surprises 100% of the time, it is possible to get closer to that. And what if you can be the one who becomes that surprise in your competitor’s who-else charts? Hallelujah!!! as Leonard Cohen sang.
The following helps build an assertive chart of competitors and once you have it, revisit and revamp it from time to time, so it helps you. rig your platforms with towards the right direction, for a given set of company and organisation goals
Fun fact: Sensu is the Japanese fan and the competitors will keep unfolding in time
Typical Suspects: Like a neatly lined up bowling pin set, these are easy to figure and many times, may not pose danger. If you are into selling customized products, you know there are zillions around you. Harmonious yet saturated in terms of how everyone is performing and no mayhem. This set is imperative for the market segment to exist in the first place
Niche strikers: There may be tons of them who sell tea & coffee online. But few of them go niche, and they consistently knock it out of the park, with an experience so good, none of your levers can help alter your edge. Not even your price game. Playing in a “contrasting” or “complimenting” game may be a safer bet than following them
Dealmakers: Foes they may be in the competition, but the instant gain is in their sight, sales & profit comes ahead. And if you get your cards right, strategic partnerships are possible with objective goals set. Timing is everything so will be the messaging and the deal you’d part take
Chameleons: A friend of mine is into selling electronics. He makes more money via Instagram shoppers as against, on a top portal where is also a merchant. While it is becoming evident now, a few years ago, little did the top players think of a social network platform aimed at sharing pictures that would best them in business on certain terms. The key is to identify the “potential” levers that the non-obvious players can have and activate at a time that is most beneficial to them.
Orchestrators: De-facto not just in a specific region, but perhaps globally too. They have the power to drive the marketplace in more than one area not restricted to products but also the overall experience end-to-end. If you can’t acquire them, can’t beat them. Pick up the nuances of the experience they deliver, that which their customers hold close to their chest and expect the rest of them to do the same
Zen Masters: You are your own biggest competitor — I bet you didn’t see this coming! Excited to learn what the competition out there is up to, we often spend little to no time on how you can compete with yourself as compared to yesterday. Yes, sales, revenue, click-rate, cart values etc are reviewed from time to time, future targets set but that is so cliche in today’s world where the best Dinner experience on your birthday is arranged by a Credit card company and not a restaurant booking app.
Building this list takes time, isn’t easy, and takes multiple iterations. But a plan made, is half the war won. Doing this jointly with your marketing, sales and engineering folks in addition to the key stakeholders and refreshing them on a quarterly basis must be a key activity you drive as a product manager or a strategist.
All of this helps you either build or buy, the right competitive intelligence platform for your organisation. Not just that, it also provides the right direction and clarity to your data platform teams and data scientists who are fighting the tides of incoming information from endless sources. Planning the right data quality will only help build the right levers for your businesses. More on these, in my subsequent articles. For now, I leave you with a quote (modified for context) from a book that my mentor introduced me to, and boy, have I learned the best lessons from him and this book!
Know your competitors to the best possible extent, and know yourself more than them, and you can fight a hundred battles without a disaster occurring. This will become important as you go about your quest of that CI mountain range!