Almost every company has the same problem when launching a new product or service: Who is my ideal customer? What do they really need? And why are they going to buy this product?
Product managers and marketing teams spend countless hours brainstorming the best way to convince their future customers on the benefits of using their product and how it will change their lives after buying it. This is marketing in its purest form: making a product irresistible.
There are infinite product marketing resources online about identifying market segments, developing a target niche, and crafting a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for each one. Just one example is the Benefits Ladder introduced by M. Silverstein and N. Fiske in “Trading Up”. Their methodology offers a simple actionable technique to climb from product attributes to emotional benefits, and finding the key concepts where to focus sales and marketing messages.
However, there are also many cases where these product marketing strategies are not that effective, especially when launching innovative products or solutions into new markets. This is the challenge facing thousands of startups and tech corporates with strong R+D and innovation processes, with the former trying to use the lean methodology to drive their innovation.
If you’re in an innovative company, then you’re already creating amazing new products and technologies that can be leveraged in a thousand different ways and, despite the fact that you have an initial idea on what is this for and how to use it, it is the market – aka the users – who finally decide how they’re going to use it. At least at the very beginning.
Finding your first successful niche, a.k.a. early adopters, and learning how they are using your product/service, is your first real milestone and the most critical. Why? Well, for one, they’re paying for it. They saw enough value to open their wallets. Congratulations. While it’s not yet a homerun product market fit, it’s a great start and you can use this data to build upon (or completely rewrite) your USP and start searching for other niches.
But how do you find more niches? I know at least 3 concrete techniques that are guaranteed to work.
Those are Testing, Testing, and then…wait for it…Testing some more.
Try pitching different features and benefits to different segments and measure how they work, until you find the combinations that work best.
Luckily, you’re not alone. Believe it or not, you have competition. There’s always someone selling a similar product or service, or at the very least, someone targeting the same audience with an alternative product to solve the same problem as you are attempting to solve. And they also testing, testing, and testing to find product-market fit. So, if that’s true then:
Why not use all of your competitor’s research AND your own to identify niches accelerate your search for product-market fit?
Here are 3 marketing hacks to leverage your competitor’s data to uncover new target segments.
Research: Identify the Niches
Prepare a list with 3 columns: Feature/Product (What?), Value Proposition (Why?), Segments (Who?)
Identify your competitor’s contact points with the audience: website, apps stores, social profiles, blogs, forums, keywords, ads, etc. Most of the times their websites would be enough, as the other channels will be a reflect of that’s already there, and there’ll be landing pages for any segment or pain they’ve already identified.
Analyze their product content, what features or trends do they leverage? what is their pricing model? Write it down in the first column.
Then, figure out what are their segments: look at the descriptions, the design, the prices. who are they targeting? try to draw their buyer-persona. They may be targeting than one niche, write all them down in the third column.
Finally, try to understand WHY? What concrete pains or needs from this persona are they solving? Look at how are they selling the concrete benefits to every segment, what are the triggers your competitor’s use to sell? Write it down in the second column, and connect every solved pain with it’s features and it’s target segments.
Do this exercise for as many competitors as possible, there’s no maximum, but pick at least 3 other companies. This may take a bit longer than the first step, but at this point you should have, for free, a bunch of insights about who may be your customers tomorrow and, even more important, why.
Now’s the fun part: use all of their hard earned insights to drive new conversions and revenue for you!
Hands On: Validate the Segments
Look a the features you share with your competitors. Are they targeting a concrete niche you didn’t realize before? How are they pitching the benefits? For each one of the needs/pains you detected, ask yourself: can our product solving this in a better way? if not , what would I need to have? Is it about features, or just about how to sell it? And start experimenting. Talk to the customers, prospects or target audience. Try to sell the features you share in the way your competitors do?
Is it working better? Keep it. On the other hand, do you need an extra feature to test it? No problem, just pitch them as you have it, or as you’re about to laucnh it, and see if this makes a real difference. That’s easy to find out: their eyes will open and start shining like they never did before.
Did you find a new niche or a better way to address your current ones? Great! That’s the Goal. Now think about giving a call to your competitors to say them “thank you”!
However, this is not a 1-time exercise. Your competitors will keep moving on, and you should too, looking for new and better niches, better ways to solve their needs and most effective messages to sell them.
Now, it’s time to make this process a habit and automate your competitor tracking.
Automate it: Never miss an update and operate faster
Utilize a webpage monitoring software to track all relevant changes and updates in your competitor’s products, features, pricing etc.. Make sure they also provide a history, so you can see what was there before the change. Checking what’s new will take you only a few minutes, instead of hours digging in their websites.
Track updates in any other channel you identified as critical for your industry: App Stores, Aggregators, Social Media, etc.
Do it in a daily or weekly basis, depending on how active is your competitive landscape, and mark every single update that may be an insight regarding market niches and segmentation. Write your thoughts down then.
Just try this simple hacks, and the next time you have a product board meeting, your research is done and you’r company will be ready to move faster than ever.
Many of our customers in tech , fashion and other innovative industries are using Kompyte only for this. I know some of this tips may look quite new for you but, believe me, leveraging competitors’ research is something that, in one way or another, the most innovative companies around the world have been doing by decades. Now, it’s your turn!