“What is the best way to determine the overall strategic direction of your prime competitor in order to leapfrog them?”
This is a straightforward question with a straightforward answer. Well, sort of…
Let’s first talk about where you can get information on your competitors. Rather than rattle them off in a single unreadable paragraph, let me give you a few bullet points to digest:
- Promotional Materials – Many times, your customers will reveal key elements of their strategy through their promotional materials. This can be through their website, ads, or even social media posts. Look to see how your competitors are positioning their companies and their products, and you can bet that you’ll get more than a few clues about their overall strategies.
- Tradeshows – Industry conferences represent a gathering of customers all in one place, but it also represents a gathering of competitors. Visit their booths, go to their presentations, and even talk with their employees (of course, avoiding any conversations about price or any other issues that could trigger anti-trust concerns). The point is, whatever your competitors are legally sharing in a public forum should be fair game for you to use when trying to determine their overall strategies.
- Customers and Distributors – Chances are, your customers and distributors have some level of experience in dealing with your competitors. So, go ahead and talk to them and find out what those experiences are. Of course, you need to be careful as to not inquire about anything that might violate any confidentiality agreements that your customers or distributors might have in place with your competitors. But, here again, anything that’s public knowledge is usually fair game for you to know about.
- Shareholder Information – This one is usually reserved for publicly-traded companies, but companies that are traded on the stock market have an obligation to report information to their shareholders about their strategies. As you might imagine, this is going to be a very sanitized version of what they are probably talking about inside their own companies. But if you go to the Investor Relations section of most any publicly traded company’s website, you are going to find a wealth of information in the form of shareholder presentations, quarterly conference calls, and annual reports – all of which will contain information about their strategies.
- Product Benchmarking – Finally, you can learn a lot about your competitors’ strategies based on the types of products they are releasing. Are they low-cost, innovative, differentiated, me-too, fast-following? The list goes on and on, and it may change over time. But looking at how a company designs, prices, and places its products will give you big clues as to how they are going to market and, ultimately, what their overall go-to-market strategy is likely to be.
So that’s a pretty good list to start with. And if you can’t derive your competitor’s strategy after looking at all of these things, then don’t worry about it – because they probably don’t know what their strategy is at that point either!
Listen to the podcast episode
Dear Strategy: Episode 024