Contributed by John Mansour
Ask any product, marketing or sales person for a competitive comparison and there’s a good chance you’ll get a feature comparison matrix. If you subscribe to the belief that features represent how a product works, consider a more insightful approach: comparisons of customer business situations and the impact or results your products deliver versus the competition.
Evaluating your options
If you’re in the heat of a competitive sales situation, what’s more impressive to a prospect – your knowledge of feature differences in electronic communications solutions, or your understanding of patient situations in a long-term care facility where they threaten the safety of themselves and/or staff members and the protocol for keeping everyone safe?
If you’re hammering out your 12-month product strategy/roadmap, what’s more valuable – a prioritized list of automobile valuation features, or a menu of prioritized business scenarios that help insurance companies retain customers by paying the actual market value for a totaled car?
If you’re creating a web page for a new solution, what’s more likely to prompt a buyer inquiry – a competitive feature comparison of back office solutions, or a half a dozen business scenarios that reflect how small office products companies are transforming their business to deal with a shrinking market.
Competitive analysis (at the product level) boils down to whose solutions solve customer needs with greater impact: a more desirable end result. How they do it (features) is secondary in most cases.
The value of How, What, and Why
In every example above, it’s the simple difference between leading with “how” (product features) versus “what & why” (what the customer is trying to accomplish and why it’s critical to their success). Features will always be a crucial part of the discussion. They should just be the last part.
If you want to be better than your competition, do your competitive analysis through the eyes of the customer. Situational competitive analysis convinces your prospects, customers and colleagues that you understand market and business dynamics (the what & why) better than the competition. Features are the icing on the cake that convinces those same constituents that you understand how to use products and features to grow profitably addressing those customer needs.
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John Mansour is the founder and managing partner at Proficientz, a training and consulting firm that specializes in product portfolio management. John brings 20-years of experience in product management, marketing and sales in manager, director and VP roles. As the managing partner of Proficientz, John has worked with more than 2000 organizations that span high technology, business services, telecom, healthcare, financial services, manufacturing and many others. John served as the chairman for the Technology Association of Georgia’s Product Management Society from 2006 – 2010. Proficientz proudly sponsors ProductCamp conferences worldwide.