A product manager must be an expert on their product, as well as competitors’ products and industry news. Time is very much a limited resource, so I use a number of tools that allow me to find and consume changes with the competition efficiently. Here are a few of my favorite tools for staying up-to-date on the competition:
Follow industry and competitor blogs via RSS feeds. Use a RSS management tool like Feedly in order to make the feeds easy to consume and sort the different feeds into themes. You can sign up for a feed on any website; just look for the RSS symbol.
Sign up for alerts on any phrase or term and receive an email whenever a new page is indexed by Google. You can set frequency to as-it-happens, up to once a day, or up to once a week. If you are dealing with a large competitor, you may quickly get overwhelmed by as-it-happens updates. You can also push alerts to a RSS feed if you would prefer to keep alerts with the other RSS feeds on competitors.
Glassdoor is a powerful tool for insight into what’s happening at your competitors. Glassdoor is a website for employee-reviews and is usually used by job seekers, upset employees, and HR. For B2B organizations, you can learn a lot from reviews, especially from former sales employees. Often, they’ll complain in reviews about what made the product difficult or easy to sell.
Keep in mind, for private companies or startups, you may run across fake reviews. There are a few commonalities that you may find among fake reviews:
- Multiple positive reviews posted around the same time
Reviews posted right after a harsh/negative review
Use of similar/same language among multiple reviews
Fake reviews are vague/general, include no specifics (“This company is AWESOME!”, yet no explanation as to why the company is awesome.)
Very highly rated reviews (employer rated as 5 stars across the board)
With private companies or startups, fake reviews can indicate that something is not going well. Perhaps there is turnover that executives are sensitive about or the firm is having issues hiring.
Regardless of the underlying cause of fake reviews, take all reviews with a grain of salt and remember that employees tend to write a review when they are leaving; A user is required to write at least one review in order to access information on Glassdoor, information that is valuable when someone is looking for a new job. The value here is to find commonalities among sales complaints and challenges.
Following competitors across social media can offer valuable and timely insight. For more privacy, create a private Twitter list to follow competitors and they’ll have no idea that you’re following them. You’ll find customer conversations with competitors via Twitter @mentions and Facebook posts on their page; this can be a rich source of customer complaints.
Sharing with the team
Once I find out something new and exciting about a competitor or relevant industry news, I share with my team. If you are using a tool like Slack or Hipchat, create a chatroom or topic just for competitive news in order to share as you learn. Otherwise, you can send out a weekly or monthly email with relevant competitor and industry news, which can be very helpful for competitive deals. What does this news actually mean? If you can frame in terms of competitive advantage, even better.
These are some of my favorite tools for competitive analysis, as they are rather efficient. I can find out what’s going on with our competitors with my morning cup of coffee, be it through a private Twitter list or multiple RSS feeds. And don't forget to use these tools on your own company and product to gain even more insight.