There are many dimensions to a competitive analysis - market and leadership evaluations, sales and marketing assessments, and, of course, in-depth reviews of competitors’ products. A competitive product analysis is an evaluation and comparison of your competitors’ products and how your own products stack up. A thorough competitive product analysis involves looking at many dimensions, including functionality, reliability, and use cases. Whether you’re starting from scratch or updating an existing analysis, this can be a large undertaking, so here are a few tips to focus your efforts and get maximum impact from your work.
1. Start with the Flagship Product
If your competitors have numerous products, start your analysis by focusing on their flagship product - their core solution and likely the first one they ever launched. The goal is to focus on whichever product has the highest sales and has had the most time to build out robust functionality for critical customer use cases.
2. Benchmark Your Own Products
While a competitive product analysis is, by its definition, focused on a competitor’s product, benchmarking your own solutions is a key part of this process. In fact, analyzing your own product’s strengths and weaknesses can help you identify criteria to dig into during your competitive analysis. Any factor you identify as a strength or a weakness should be a criterion for when you evaluate a competitor’s product.
3. Go Deep on the Website
A competitor’s website is chock full of product details you can incorporate into your analysis. Product pages are a good place to start as an overview to understand basic functionality areas as well as messaging and use cases. Then dig deeper into documentation, help sites, and other niche website pages in order to answer questions that aren’t readily available on a company’s product page.
4. Watch Videos
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. Product videos are a goldmine of information on your competitors’ products. Check YouTube, Vimeo, or even the company’s own website to find videos of their products. This can show you a lot more than a few words or images because it will reveal the user experience, functionality that isn’t otherwise worth calling out, and potential issues.
5. Get the Real Story from Customers
A company will, of course, tout how fantastic their product is, but their customers can tell you the reality. If you can get in touch and interview your competitor’s customers, that’s fantastic, but even if you don’t get in touch with them, you can get real feedback through a number of online channels. For example, review sites and forums can reveal real customer feedback. Look for questions about functionality, forum threads on workarounds, and even pros and cons listed by customers in reviews.
6. Include Marketing, Not Just Product
You may want to dive right into every product detail - every feature and functionality - but don’t forget to evaluate the product’s marketing strategy as well. In particular, include the messaging of the product’s benefits as well as the primary use cases the product aims to solve. The same functionality can be used to serve different customers and use cases, and understanding how a competitor is presenting the solution to market can affect the depth of functionality and effectiveness in serving your own customers’ use cases.
7. Track Changes to Identify Product Direction
In addition to understanding the ins and outs of your competitor’s product today, you need to think ahead to where the product will be next quarter, next year, and beyond. By identifying changes to their products and investments in their product organization, you can piece together the company’s strategy in regards to that product. Analyze recent product launches, hires in the product organization, and even small bug fixes or improvements in release notes.
Analyzing your competitors’ products is a significant undertaking, so before you dive in, set the stage with the goals you’re trying to achieve - is it to put together effective battlecards for your sales team? If so, you may want to focus on features that come up the most in the sales process. Is it to provide input for the product management team on new features to build? Then focus on the market opportunities and product gaps.
And once you complete your initial analysis, remember that this is not a one-and-done process. As your competitors’ products change, your analysis needs to be updated, so be sure to put a process in place to keep your analysis up-to-date and relevant to each of your stakeholders. A competitive product analysis is a critical tool if you can execute it well and keep it relevant and actionable over time.