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Stop worrying about your "Ghost" competitor
Find out your alternate competitor. Light weight competitor analysis template included
Some early-stage startups, as part of their product marketing function, try to do competitor analysis using a big-bang approach. They try to compare their offering with everybody else in the market providing a similar solution. This is a wasted effort in terms of upfront work and will most likely send the wrong signals to the product team.
Who is a “Ghost” Competitor?
Once you have some sort of an early ICP (Ideal customer profile) hypothesis, you want to have conversations with these prospects. After you have a dozen of these conversations, “Ghost” Competitors are the ones who never come up in these targeted conversations. However, please note that they are your direct competitors but at the early stage for you, they are just “noise”.
If the “Ghost” competitors still have your attention, ask the questions -
“Are they doing something innovative?”,
“Do they have a product or market advantage that you might consider building or implementing yourself?”. If not, move on.
What should you be analyzing?
Direct competitors who come up in conversations.
If no direct competitors come up in your conversations, you need to ask and find out how they solve the problem currently at hand. This is when you get your “alternate competitors”.
Some of these answers might be:
Oh, we solve that problem by asking Mary to format this data with the help of her summer interns
We have written these macros in excel
Our custom software works but it sucks.
Folks, you have an alternate competitor - a duct tape solution
Remember that even if this feels like a “temporary solution” or a “hack” this is real and is competing against your solution
The only thing you can do for Status Quo is to be empathetic and determine which Jenga block you can replace with the least negative effect and greatest positive result.
There will be change, but defining it in terms of how the change will benefit will be helpful. The best product marketers will give a limited number of options that fit the buyer's preferences.
Should I spend my energy chasing down prospect X with a “duct tape solution” or prospect Y who is a “status quo” ?
Answer: Duct tape solution
Why: Prospect X will have more motivation to change
Thanks for reading so far. I have also included a free competitor analysis template for you to document your strategic analysis.
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