Competitor Research and Tracking for Product Managers Written on . Posted in Hide Your Email.
What Does the Product Manager do?
As a product manager, your job is to conceive, plan, develop, and launch a new product or existing product with new upgrades in the market. This process may look linear at first, but don’t let the appearance of simplicity deceive you. Product management is an extensively repetitive process, which means you must plan and develop variations of the product many times before you can succeed in building a minimum viable product or find the perfect market fit. Your job, therefore, involves overseeing the product from conception to market launch and implementing a strategy for competitor research.
Direct & indirect competitors
Being a product manager means developing resilience against fierce competition in the market. As a PM, you identify the direct competitors from the indirect competitors, if they are selling similar products or services to the same customer segment as you are. Take an example of Airbus vs Boeing, McDonald’s vs Burger King, and Netflix vs Amazon Prime Video. They’re direct competitors of each other and you can identify them from their target customer segment.
You might find it hard to deal with indirect competitors compared to direct competitors because obviously, they do not sell the same thing. Instead, they sell the solution to the same problem. A good example of indirect competitors includes Coca-Cola vs Starbucks and YouTube vs Hulu. Irrespective of whether the business is in direct competition or indirect with your business, you must not compromise on competitor research because it greatly helps you in determining the future product direction for your company.
5 Strategies for competitor research and tracking as a product manager
Your job as a product manager includes competitor research and understanding of the competitor's product, its strategy, and how their product solves a customer pain point. In the Product Manager’s role, vigilance and being up to date with market trends will bring real and positive value to your product. In short, the more you research and learn about your competitor and its products, the better your chances are of playing from a strength point of view. There are many ways that you can adopt to carry out competitor research and tracking in the Product Manager’s role. Below we briefly list and describe some of these methods:
1. Social media, and competitor blog
Social media has become part of our daily life and companies are taking full advantage of the spread and reach of social media. Every company has its blog where its marketing department showcases its newest products and features, the finance department publishes the annual financial reports, and CEOs often appear for live Q&A sessions. You as a product manager can take full advantage of these blogs by aggregating the newest information that your competitors are publishing on their company blogs. You can keep your business informed and up to speed regarding the competitor’s partnerships and finances, and effectively gauge the competitor's business growth and market capture by effectively consuming the information published on company blogs.
2. Using your competitor’s product
As a product manager, you must have first-hand experience of the competitors’ products as this is one of the best ways of competitor research. By having hands-on experience, not only you can find the strengths of your competitor, but also the gaps, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities in the competitor’s product. As a product manager, you can then exploit these weaknesses in competitors’ products and solve the consumer problems that your competitor’s products failed to address. For digital products, this includes a full-scale vulnerability scan to find weaknesses in UI, UX, speed, consistency, customer support, and financial relief to the customer.
3. SWOT Analysis of your competitors
Being a Product Manager, an impartial SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Strength) analysis is your biggest friend. If you organize a SWOT analysis of the competitor’s business, it will prove to be the major source for competitor research. By having a realistic SWOT report of the competition, you can immediately be informed of the opportunities, and gaps that the competitor may be trying to fill. Similarly, you can successfully try to exploit the weakness of competitor products, by offering a better, cheaper, more accessible, and more feasible product in that area.
4. Competitor newsletters digests (!)
Newsletters are a business’s way of communicating with their existing and potential customers interested in the company’s products. As a product manager, you must subscribe to your competitor’s newsletters for market research. As your business must deal with a significant number of direct and indirect competitors, you can take advantage of competitors’ newsletters going out on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The number of newsletters, therefore, may quickly rise and become so overwhelming that thoroughly reading these newsletters every day may quickly exhaust you.
One way to manage newsletters as competitor research is to use Email Monster. Consider an example that you have tens of newsletters arriving from different competitor businesses every day. How do you keep up with the updates? Well, with Email monster you can create a single digest for all of your competitors, or a specific category of business. That way for a set period (for example one week), you will not receive any newsletter email and after the week, you’ll receive a single email with all the newsletters sent to you by those businesses. By following this strategy, you’ll not be distracted by never-ending newsletters every day, and at the end of the week, you can just open that one email and read all the newsletters at once. It’s easy, clean, and free to use Email monster to create a single digest and make your life a bit more streamlined and your inbox clutter-free.
5. Hire and fires
The hires and fires from the HR department of any company are the first concrete signal about the competitor’s business move and direction. When a radical strategy, paradigm shift, or company pivot is to be materialized, HR is involved to acquire human talent for the said move. Being a product manager for your business, it becomes your job to keep an eye for such moves as they can tell the untold story of what the competitor is about to do, even before the competitor announces it in their newsletter or even informs their management about it.
Competitor’s research can be a daunting task, but it is essential, nevertheless. As a product manager, you cannot ignore the digital sources of competitor research such as newsletters, blogs, social media, and company annual reports. Newsletters being more curated, and selective even by the standard of a competitor, provide the most insight and hence can be aggregated to a single most essential email each week via email monster.