Have you ever looked at an opportunity and thought, “There are so many possible competitors for this opportunity – where do I need to focus my energy to pick identify the real threats?”
We come across this conundrum often when determining competitors for a Black Hat review.
While it is possible to thoroughly examine all of the competitors in a crowded field, it is not practical. This is a question of balancing efficiency and effectiveness vs. a notional Return on Investment (ROI).
When against an array of viable competitors, these are the guidelines we always consider:
- Remember to leverage market intelligence priorities when forming and evaluating questions – Who are we serving? What are they buying? Which competitors are currently supporting the customer? Understanding the market environment (core and emerging competitors) is important.
- Use the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) to aid objectivity in competitor selection –Debating which competitor to focus on in a competitive analysis or Black Hat review can be an endless argument. We use ACH to make a quick evaluation of competitors based on a uniform series of questions answered by verifiable evidence. This helps to minimize “top of mind” impressions which usually rely too heavily on old information or RUMINT (rumor-based intelligence). ACH allows us to quickly use “yes/no” questions to rank and evaluate companies against an opportunity.
- Identify and understand investments made by competitors – Many people find it easy to focus on incumbent contracts and immediately obvious past performance. However, we do not exist in a static market and many companies have strengths beyond just past performance. Take note as competitors make investments such as strategic hires, launch of new products and facilities, trade show appearances and communications… these are signals of interest and capability, especially for non-core competitors.
- Focus on high threat and unique competitors – Anticipating ALL competitors AND analyzing every single one of them is not always a practical use of time and money. When we have a crowded competitive environment with both core and emerging competitors, consider the objective of different types of threats to counter as opposed to anticipating what every single competitor will do.
- The companies chosen should each represent a different type of threat than one another – Ultimately, we want to narrow the field down to 3-4 competitors to ensure that we give each of these companies the thorough examination they deserve during the black hat session.
- The end goal is to ensure that our 3-4 chosen competitors represent the range of threats across the field. If we chose correctly, our counters against these competitors are the same counters that we could use to win against everyone else in the competitive field.
There is no single correct and perfect means of understanding every possible outcome, but through using actions such as outlined in this blog, we can avoid purely RUMINT-driven competitor analyses and Black hat reviews. Use a pattern of facts rather than guesswork.
As always, stay focused and do your homework!
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