Writing a Competitive Analysis
This document covers writing competitive analysis for
consumption by sales people. Competitive analysis for
product planning use will require the same research, but
would be delivered in a different form.
Your sales staff is the target audience. If you have
a direct sales force, they are generally willing to read
through more information. However, if you sell through
channels, your competitive analysis must be very short
and to the point. Sales people generally don't have much
time to pour over competitive information, but if you
use sales engineers to help sell your product, they will
need technical details on weaknesses of the competition.
They need to quickly understand the weaknesses of a given
competitor and how to position your products strengths
against that competitor. Be sure to outline your target
audience before starting so that you can review your materials
with them in mind.
Where to get the Information
The most obvious place to get the information on competitors
is from their web site. You can always find datasheet
type information on the web site. Pay attention to what
isn't listed in the datasheet. If it isn't listed as a
feature, it may not be available from the vendor. Some
vendors have manuals on their websites with release notes
that are rich with strengths and weaknesses of the product.
However, there is no better way to do competitive analysis
than to buy the competitors' product and try it out yourself.
Depending upon the price of the hardware/software product,
this may not be very easy to do.
In addition to features of the product, you may want
to include some information about the health of the competitor's
company. Press releases will tell you if they are venture
funded and when they raised the last round. Job listings
will tell you if they are hiring and growing as an organization.
Using a consultant to pose as a prospect will also get
you more information. A good con-artist can always make
it through and get much information on strengths and weaknesses.
There is no standard format that works for every company.
A matrix is best for hardware products and sales channels.
More complex products require an understanding of competitive
strategies. Sales engineers want technical details and
sales people want high-level, broad-brush positioning.
The list below is comprehensive. You will need to include
as much, or as little, of this information dependent upon
your target audience. The only mandatory items are the
- Confidential mark. You do not want this document
in your competitors hands. Some companies print the
information with serial numbers and on red paper to
avoid duplication. Even if you do not go that far, a
confidential mark at the bottom is not enough. Add a
confidential banner in the background of the text. You
may also want to avoid distributing the document in
- Summary positioning. This is the bottom line
for the sales person. You should have one paragraph
for every competitor that sums up how your product's
strengths should be positioned against the competition's
weaknesses. This paragraph should be at the top of any
competitive document since it may be the only thing
a sales person has time to read before going on a call.
- Matrix. A matrix is very helpful for hardware
products as well as for software products that are similar
to the competition. A matrix lets you call out, in summary
form, the major competitive advantages of your product
next to one or more competitors. You should generally
include specifications and pricing. The matrix does
not work well when you have dissimilar competition.
You need the strategies section below for dissimilar
- Strategies. When you are competition against
categories of products you will find that there are
broad strategies appropriate for multiple competitors.
Outline the strategies using bullets to drive home the
- Summary of Strengths and Weaknesses. You may
want to include bullet points explaining the strengths
and weaknesses of the competition. Some people don't
feel comfortable documenting a competitors' strengths
and you certainly don't want a customer getting a hold
of such a document. But this documentation will help
sales people and systems engineers avoid being blind
sighted by a competitor and allow them to be more prepared.
If you include strengths, you may want to include a
possible counter argument for the strength to give the
sales person something to work from or, at least, make
them look like they know what they are talking about.
- Other information. There may be more company
information that you want to include such as the size
and funding history of the company.
An internal website is one method of delivery that companies
use for this information. The risk is that a sales person
may cut and paste directly from the site into an e-mail.
The decision about how this very sensitive information
is distributed should be made by the executives in your
- Identify the top 3-6 competitors. Even if you have
a bunch of competitive information, it is important
to have the information on the top competitors in a
handy, useful, up-to-date form.
- Start the research on the competitors in parallel.
It may take you more time to get information on some
competitors than others, so it is easy to start the
process for the top competitors at the same time.
- Complete your research and build your analysis one
competitor at a time.
- Review your materials with your target audience in
mind. Have someone from your target audience review
the materials before they are distributed.
- If you can, roll out the information as it is completed,
one competitor at a time. It is much better for sales
to get the information earlier rather than waiting until
you present everything together. It also gives them
some insight into what you are working on and they can
help you prioritize the competitors as well as suggest
additional information that they would like to see included
in the analysis.
- Put together a reasonable schedule for updating the
information. Schedule quarterly updates, for example,
and work on one competitor at a time so that the information
is complete and current.
By Infrasystems - Barbara Tallent