November 9, 2019

What to do when your idea has competition?

Dmitri Kyle Brereton @dkb868

I have a new product idea, but there's already another product that solves the same problem.

I'm reading The Personal MBA right now and it says that competition is a good thing because you don't need to validate the problem anymore. It also says you should become a customer of the competition and learn everything you can from them, then create something more valuable.

Is this a good strategy? What do you do when you find out your new idea has competition?

  1. 4

    My approach has been to know which competition exists and keep a very high level view of what they are up to. For me I don't like to be too influenced by what other people in the same space are doing and I prefer to spend time looking for inspiration elsewhere (which will then hopefully give me ways to stand out in a different way).

    1. 1

      For me I don't like to be too influenced by what other people in the same space are doing

      That makes sense. If I look at the competition too much, I'll probably end up building something that is only slightly different from what they have.

  2. 3

    One thing you can do is search places like reddit, twitter etc for issues people are currently having with the competition. Knowing what people dislike about the competition is a good way to differentiate.

    You also have the added benefit of writing better copy using the real world unscripted utterances of those airing their displeasure with the competition.

    1. 1

      writing better copy using the real world unscripted utterances of those airing their displeasure with the competition

      Good point, looking at the exact words and phrases that other people are using would be helpful in writing more effective copy to target these users.

    1. 1

      Wow thanks for taking the time to talk about it in your video, truly appreciate it. Really liked your point about being in love with the problem and not the solution.

  3. 2

    Customer Obsession

    Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

    This is from Amazon's list of principles.

    Should we apply this?

    Yes, always.

    How to apply it?

    Start with customer and work backwards
    When designing new products, or features, you should always start with your customer needs. Jobs to be done is our framework of choice.

    Ask yourself what your customers are trying to achieve; what is the value chain of the product (i.e. if you are just doing a small part of the total job a customer is trying to do, what are the other steps? How does your app or service fit into that?).

    This will help you with your sales and marketing, and to develop products that customers truly love (the best kind of marketing).

    In terms of customer personas, we use psychographic (i.e. what are our customer motivations, intentions) vs demographic (where do they live, what age are they) information.

    Questions to ask yourself:

    Do I know what my customers are trying to accomplish by using my tool?

    Am I solving that need?

    Do I know what else my customers are trying to accomplish that might limit their interest in my tool? What other problems do they have, and where do I fit in their bigger picture? How do I provide more value?

    Work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust

    Retention is key. If you understand your customers, you can provide them with services that matter to them. Understanding of your customers builds an implicit trust. Think about people you know who understand you best. Aren't those the ones you trust most?

    Pay attention to competitors, obsess over customers
    Customer obsession is the advantage you can have over any competitor.
    To do this, you need to understand your customers better than your competition.

    You need to model your customers in the way that is closest to reality, but still the best abstraction. Take away anything that doesn’t matter and focus on the things that do matter.

    1. 2

      This is gold. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. 2

    I like something that Jeff Bezos usually references. He says that if Amazon were to focus on the competitors of which they have a lot, they would never serve the customer. So the customer then starts wondering whether this competition you are focused too much on is actually the better provider. The result of such focus is that you end up building something that looks exactly like the competition, doesn't innovate or improve the idea in any way, hence, most times since you end up playing the catch-up game.

    So what should you do? Build it since you don't have to do fresh validation, get some customers in, and focus on them. Get feedback, improve your product, and focus on what will make their experience better and your product more useful.

    1. 2

      Amazon is all about that customer obsession, as @sobbuh mentioned above. Seems like it could be a good strategy for coming up with a more unique product even in a competitive market.

  5. 2

    Think there was some good advice on a recent IH podcast (maybe this one Competition means your market has been validated and that's time you don't have to spend making unknowns known. If your goal is to make a humble living in the space then you could focus on a segment in the space (look for customer complaints where the products don't fit their need) and solve for those specific customers.

    1. 1

      Oh interesting, haven't listened to the podcast in a while but I'll check this one out.

  6. 2

    There's a tweet from Jack Altman, CEO of Lattice where he tweeted about competition/competitors. I think it might help

    1. 2

      Very informative thread

      1. 1

        Glad you liked it!

  7. 1

    If your problem already has a solution, I wouldn't bother doing it unless you have a 10x improvement on it.

    If your solution is only incrementally better, then it is unlikely to get the customer's attention and it will probably fail.

    10x better, or don't waste your time.

    1. 1

      I've heard this advice for VC startups, but I don't feel like it applies very much to indie businesses. There are many small products that do similar things, and they all make money since it's not a winner-take-all market like the VC startups tend to be in.

      This is obvious for physical businesses since we can clearly see tons of restaurants that all make money. But for some reason with online businesses people think competition means it's the end of the world.

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