Have you ever become a copycat by mistake?
Let’s say you have a great idea and you want to start a company from it. Great! There’s a series of steps you’ll have to go through, but the focus of this article will be on doing competitor research. Although you don’t want to be so focused on competitors that you neglect to do what’s best for your business, you still need to know what they’ve done right, what they’ve done wrong, and how the market is responding to them. It all helps you better position your company in the market as well as make sure you aren’t just another copycat.
Many startups mistakenly become copycats from skipping this step. I’ve met several who have the same EXACT value proposition as their competitor simply because they didn’t know that it was their competitor’s already. Now that may not seem like a big deal now, but once you try to acquire customers (or even investors), they’ll want to know why they should buy from you versus your competitor or another alternative that fulfills their need and you need to be prepared to tell them.
Find Your Competitor’s Data
Particularly if you’re in tech, here’s some sites where you should start your competitor research: angel.co, quora.com, f6s.com, reddit.com and techcrunch.com. Then you’ll also want to follow up with looking up the LinkedIN profile of the founders and employees. Find out what makes them uniquely qualified to found and run their company and what prior experiences and networks they have. You can even go much deeper into their stats (this involves SEO research)…but I won’t scare you or overwhelm with that part now. Combining those two activities mentioned already will tell you A LOT about a company and tell you where you stand in comparison. Next, proceed with finding any articles about your competitors online. This probably doesn’t need to be mentioned but…..check out all of their social media accounts, blogs, and read any PR that’s out there about them.
This simple exercise will help you figure out how to position yourself to be attractive to investors (if you want that) and how to position your company to be unique in the market (you won’t mistakenly copy someone else’s value proposition). At the end of the day, you will get experience in making decisions from data and not your feelings. Emotions change daily right? Especially as a startup founder.
If you’ve done your competitor (and alternative) research, now you can get creative with what you plan to create/sell/build. We understand that some founders want to create something different and innovative—not everyone. Some people want to copy an existing business model/product and just aim for the same or similar results that they see someone else getting. While this rarely happens, as I’ve discussed in this blog post, people still try. While it’s good to know what the competitors are up to, you can’t focus on them. Do your initial research and put them on your Google Alert (just kidding…not kidding).
Your Homework Assignment
If you’re a startup founder, here’s what I want you to do next:
Be able to answer this question with confidence: “My customers will buy from us and not the other company because ___________________” (fill in the blank).
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