As a senior operating partner at a SaaS-focused private equity firm and head of INSTEP, a SaaS product advisory firm, I often review SaaS product competitive analysis. I am in the middle of such a review. As I look at the table of contents of the review deck, I realize that it is missing some important dimensions of the competitive landscape. A cleaned-up, summary version of the competitive analysis slide deck contents follows:
Key product features
This is a reasonable starting point but leaves out some critical dimensions of competitive intelligence. Here are a few of the additional competitive dimensions I would like to better understand as I plan a product strategy:
- Category: What category does the competitor think they are in? How does the competitor position themselves in the category in terms of being different and better? Do they offer any evidence to support their different and better claims?
- Personas/Jobs to Be Done (JTBD)/Desired outcomes: What role-based personas within each target market does the competitor focus on? For each persona, what jobs are to be done, what associated pain points, and what desired outcomes is the competitor focused on?
- Buyer journey: For each persona, what buyer journeys are supported by the competitor in terms of product content, community content, product value realization moments, and human-assisted motions? What are the buyer and company time to first value and cost to first value metrics? How meaningful are the product realization moments?
- Customer value realization: Does the competitor offer a self-service approach to customer value realization and affirmation?
- Whole product: What is the SaaS whole product offered by your competitor?
- Ecosystem integrations: What ecosystem integrations exist between the competitor’s product and other adjacent applications in the ecosystem of your category? How well-integrated are the apps and how well do they support jobs to be done and desired customer outcomes?
- Crowd-sourced competitive intelligence: What is the prevailing sentiment and assessment of the competing product and company per the crowd-sourced review sites (G2, Trust Radius, Capterra)?
In each of the above areas, what are your answers to these questions for your product? What do the differences between your answers to these questions and those of your competitors tell you about your current and potential future product strategy? These questions offer food for thought on important dimensions to consider when doing competitive analysis. Notice my emphasis on personas, JTBD, desired outcomes, buyer journey, value realization, etc. over features. Competing based on features is a losing battle for most companies as it places the emphasis on the company and not the customer.