Matt co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s product strategy and development.
One question that venture capital investors always ask anyone pitching a start-up is, “Who are your competitors?” Only a fund raising novice will say anything like, “We don’t have any. There is no other product like this.” Founders quickly learn that, in the eyes of investors, if you don’t have competitors, you don’t have a market. So, if you do have competitors, take a minute to pat yourself on the back. Of course, because you do have competitors you are compelled to understand, outthink and outmaneuver them. To do this, you’ll need a comprehensive approach to competitor reporting and response. Here are some best practices that PR professionals have shared with us.
Define “Competitor” Broadly
For the purpose of competitor reporting, be sure to take a wide view of the companies that make up the competition. Include:
- Companies offering the same product or service
- Companies offering similar products or services
- Companies that you have reason to believe might offer the same or similar products or services in the future
- Companies or products that could remove the need for a product or service you offer
Automate Data Collection and Analysis
After broadening your list of competitors, the idea of competitive reporting may be overwhelming. Indeed, manually tracking the earned, owned and social mentions of a lengthy list of competitors is a fool’s errand. An automated approach to data collection, archival and analysis is necessary for completeness and accuracy. Don’t choose a solution that simply documents and counts mentions. Instead opt for one that can add intelligence like impact scoring and reach so that you can more easily turn data into knowledge.
Preform a SWOT Examination
Once in a while it is a good idea to sit down and preform a SWOT analysis about each competitor. This means charting their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. You should compare the competitor analysis with your own SWOT. Noting the differences and similarities will help you determine how you can leverage their weaknesses and play down their strengths. Thinking about your competitor’s opportunities and threats will help you make good guesses about their likely next moves.
Communicate and Collaborate with Sales
We are surprised by how often PR preforms a competitive analysis and sales preforms a competitive analysis, yet never the two meet. Certainly you are thinking about competing in very different ways, but the information held by PR and Sales can be extremely valuable to both. Ask the sales team what they are hearing about competitors from prospects. Often this is a good way to get an understanding of the competitor’s messaging and, importantly, how they are positioning against you. In turn, share with the sales team your vision of the competitive landscape. It will give them more insight to what they are, or will be, hearing on the ground.
Just like the VCs in Silicon Valley will tell you, having competitors is a good thing. They help define the market and push your brand to innovate and delight customers. If you watch them closely, you’ll be able to develop an effective strategy for outpacing them in the market.