Tag Archives: product manager

The ultimate list of sources for competitive analysis on your #startup rivals

After doing a competitive analysis of your market landscape the next level of detail most people want to perform is a key competitor analysis.

When I was a product manager, I tended to focus only on the product features, user experience, design and technology during my competitive analysis of a company.

That’s usually what most CEO’s do – after all product is the #1 thing that most customers see, touch and feel that matters to the most.

Turns out that’s an incomplete view of competition. I had a chance to see a complete view when we did a comprehensive audit of the top 2 competitors before we sold our company.

It is pretty obvious now, but you can get so much information from external sources such as social networks, email newsletters and blogs that to get a comprehensive 360 degree view of the competition, you can clearly understand where they came from, and where they are headed.

Comprehensive Competitor Analysis
Comprehensive Competitor Analysis

I put a partial list of sources that you might want to consider to get competitive information from in the chart above.

Here are the top questions you might want to consider getting answers to understand your competitors strategy overall.

  • What events are they attending? Speaking? Presenting?
  • What are they announcing? Investors? Management? Customers?
  • What are their open job positions? Who have their hired?
  • What is the segment of customers they are going after?
  • Who have their hired? What’s their background likely to tell you about their plan?
  • How do they price? What are the tiers?
  • What have they learned about their customer needs?
  • What are they sharing about their company?
  • Where are they looking to start new offices?
  • Where are they looking for talent / customers?
  • Who reports to who? How many people in the company? Background?
  • Promotional Plans? Who is following them?
  • Who likes their page? Who are their customers?
  • What questions come up? What are customers complaining about?
  • What messages are they pushing?
  • What keywords do they rank for? What are they bidding for?

While these are tactical questions, the key parts of your competitors strategy you are trying to understand are:

1. Who are their customers – what segment of the market are they going after?

2. How are they targeting customers?

3. What is the problem for their customers they are solving?

4. How are they solving the problem? What features in the product support that?

5. How do they plan to scale and grow?

Typically after this detailed analysis you will get a clear idea of what your competitor is doing beyond their product to help differentiate from others.

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Tip on being a good manager – Saying the same thing differently #startup #entrepreneur

One of the things I have figured out that I am not good at is being a great manager. I am largely bad at managing people. People that work for me like “hanging out with me” as a friend or a colleague, or even working on projects with me. Most people like working with me, but working for me as a direct report is a pain. I go between the two extremes of being a micro-manager to completely hands-off.

This is an extension of my personality. I am a known control freak, I prefer to be direct and am less of a consensus builder. I really value high intellect and have little patience (that’s is the biggest drawback in India as a manager) for people that dont articulate well or speak up. I do listen, (I am told) but I rarely acknowledge that I have listened.

This works in specific situations (running a sales team) or being a product manager (when the engineers report to another person), but works very little elsewhere.

I realize that most entrepreneurs with a technical and product background face a fairly similar situation. Not have too much experience in being a “manager” hurts your in retaining good people. Here is a rule of thumb if you will that I was taught early in my career at Cisco and then at HP, that have shaped my management “style” Ed. It is a joke I call it management style, when there’s no real style at all.

You have to adapt your communication style to the different people in your team. This was the biggest problem for me. I dont like the effort it takes to change my communication style. I am very direct, brutally honest and dont mince words. That does not work for most people. You cant change as a person much (I think) so you have to work hard at communicating the same thing differently to different people in your team. Let me give you an example.

In 2009, after 4 months of working on our product and getting feedback from customers that the product was not quite there, we knew we had to pivot. Communicating that pivot to the team was a bigger challenge.

One of the folks in my team is very numbers driven and a “give me the facts, so I can form my own opinions” . For her, I had to give the basic facts of our user engagement and customer feedback before I could convince her to pivot.

The tech lead was a young developer (with about 3+ years of experience) and had worked on the product from the start. He was a lot more emotional about the product being “his baby”. Giving him the facts only made him defensive. So the approach I had to take with him was to get him on a trip to meet 13 customers in 5 days to listen to the feedback for himself. More expensive, but worth it.

There was yet another person on our team who tended to be the group’s excitement barometer. When she was in a good mood, everyone’s spirits lifted and when she was cross, most people wont answer even the most basic of questions. It was pretty surprising given that she had no one reporting to her, but she was the team mascot. With her we had to make her feel “involved” with the process and the decision.

For her I had to take a dramatically different approach. I knew if we communicated the pivot incorrectly, there would be a week of unproductive nonsense at the office. Done right, I knew we could get a superhuman effort from the team.

To involve her, we put her in charge gathering feedback from all our customers. She had to put together the survey, let customers know, collate the responses and then come up with her recommendations to communicate to the team. Worked like a charm. She suggested that we “pivot” but did not use that word.

As an entrepreneur, one of the big challenges you will face is hiring people. The next big challenge is to keep them motivated and focused.

Communicating differently to each of your direct reports is one way to do that effectively.