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7 Ways Successful Product Managers Track Their Competitors

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Product managers may understand why competitor research matters. But it is possible to internalize this and still not know what to look for during your own research.

Where do you start? What should you look for? Most importantly, how should you manage all the information you find?

Competitor research can feel overwhelming the first time you do it. Luckily, capturing some core information can help you make a meaningful competitor research plan.

Here are seven traits to look for during your competitor research. Keep an eye out for their:

Vision
As a product manager, you should determine your competitors' end goals for their products -- their visions for where these products are headed and what they aim to achieve in market. Start by spending time on competitors' websites to assess how they present themselves to customers and prospects.

Ask yourself: "Why do these products exist?" "Which problems do they purport to solve?" Most importantly, ask if there are any problems that these products do not seem to solve. Those untapped problems are potential market gaps to fill.

Strengths
Try to understand what drives your competitors to do what they do. Most products are built out of deep, personal passion and necessity. That's why it is smart to spend time researching competitors' backgrounds on LinkedIn, company websites, and other online profiles. Then, ask yourself: "What does my competition excel at? What insight and experience do the founders bring to the table?"

Customer Challenge
What do your competitors' users struggle with? Which aspects of these products are lacking? To answer these questions, invest time in taking competitors' product tours to understand all aspects of their offerings. Then, search for relevant online forums to read customer reviews and insights on these products.

Personas
All great products have relevant personas -- profiles of that product's ideal customer demographics. These personas are fictional, but should reflect real customer groups. While researching competitors, ask who these products are intended for, and revisit customer reviews to look for patterns. This helps you infer which personas your competitors are targeting by seeing similarities between titles, industries, years of experience, etc.

Positioning
How do your competitors market their products? What language do they use to describe their offering in market? Which core problems do these products solve? You should review your product competitors marketing messages on their company websites as well as external websites. This helps you assess where you see your own role within this shared market.

Market
It is essential to define your market landscape when conducting competitor research. A thorough market analysis confirms customer needs, industry changes, and fiscal opportunity. Your must also understand where you fit within the broader market you share with competitors.

Collect this information for each direct and indirect competitor. Then, store it in a central place that is accessible to your team. This helps you analyze all competitors at a high level. Once you see where your competitors excel and fall short, you will find ways for your product to stand out.

Self-check
Check in with yourself to benchmark your progress throughout each stage of the competitor analysis. Ask yourself if this process is helping you gain stronger understanding of your core market -- and how your product or feature will solve a specific problem. Ultimately, you want your competitor analysis to answer this question:

"What's your single biggest advantage that you can offer customers in your target market?"

The first step towards finding out this answer is conducting competitor research. Best of luck as you get started.

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