Comparing Products - Rating Your Competition

At this point in the product comparison series, you know who your customers are, which problems are important to them, and which products compete to solve those problems.  It’s time to score the competing products and see how the solutions your product provides (or will provide) will stack up.  This is the latest in a series on comparing products, jump back to the start of the series if you came here first, but hurry up.

Overall Product Comparison Process

This is a relatively long series.  Each article will start with a recap of the overall process.

Getting useful information from comparing products requires you to:

  1. Introduction & Overview (so that the step-numbers align with the article numbers).
  2. Identify your customers.
  3. Articulate the problems they care about solving.
  4. Determine how important solving each problem is, relative to the other problems, for your customers.
  5. Characterize how important it is for you to solve the problems of each group of customers.
  6. Discover which (competitive) products your customers consider to be your competition.
  7. Assess how effectively each competitive product solves each important problem, for each important group of customers. (This article)
  8. Assess how effectively each competitive product solves each important problem, for each important group of customers.

With this information, you can create a point of view about how your product compares to the others.

Summarizing Effectiveness

Earlier in the series, we identified (and refined) the list of important, relevant problems that our target customers have.

This is the “ruler” by which each competitive product is going to be measured.  We also identified several competitors.

The next step is to assess how effectively each competitive product (including your own) solves each important problem.  Then you need to assign a “score” for how effectively each product solves each problem.  To do that, for each problem you have to articulate an opinion about what it means to solve the problem poorly or completely, or anywhere in-between.

Read Anywhere – Previously clarified as “Be able to read content in multiple physical environments / on multiple devices, and not lose my place in the book.”

Environments can be indoors/outdoors, extremely cold to moderate to extremely hot temperatures, with variable lighting from a dark room to direct sunlight.  It might also capture environmental context – sitting, walking, riding on a bus, driving, etc.; quiet to noisy; physically serene, or getting bumped a lot (like in a crowded coffee shop).

Start by defining the endpoints.  I’ve been using a 9-point scale in this type of analysis, to provide enough granularity to make relative comparisons.  For read anywhere, a score of 1 would mean “can be used to read in a single, idealized environment / location.”  A score of 9 would mean “can be used to read in any realistic situation.”  Mapping out the scores in-between 1 and 9 requires you to think about the nature of the problem being solved – and here’s where Kano analysis is useful (again).

This capability is a good example of an extreme more-is-better capability.  Increasing the range of environments where the product can be used (to read) provides a perceivable benefit to customers, but with diminishing returns.  Also, there is some minimum bar, or table stakes, of environments where the user needs to be able to read, or the product is not considered a viable solution.  On the high end, being able to read literally anywhere, would truly distinguish one product – making that capability a delighter and a strong differentiator.

Comparing Products - Rating Your Competition (Part 7)

How do you decide “What is a 3 score?” You inform these relative scores based on user research (ideally), and your subjective opinion (when you don’t have research).  For folks who haven’t been reading Tyner Blain articles for the last few years – a product manager is market driven, which means you need to use market data to do this as a product manager; however, using your own opinion as a product designer is better than having no data at all.