Challenges in Analysing Market Structure and Competitive Landscape

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, Customer Development, skmurphy

This is a laundry list (not prioritized) for a set of challenges we currently wrestle with in helping clients monitor their external environment and craft strategies for new market creation and new product introduction into an existing market. I welcome any suggestions for resources or tools.

Competitive Landscape

  • maintaining shared situational awareness at at team level on the external environment
  • understanding who prospective customers view as status quo / alternatives / competitive offerings to your product or service
  • monitoring emerging technology spaces for new entrants that may come into your space
  • monitoring your target market space for new entrants: especially discerning weak signals of a new competitor
  • counter-surveillance – staying off of competitor’s radar as long as possible (stealth is just one strategy here)
  • finding and monitoring forums where prospects are talking about current challenges and shortcomings of existing alternatives
  • identifying early adopters / earlyvangelists who are unsatisfied with an existing partner
  • understanding customer’s perception of the value proposition for competitive alternatives
  • using analysis of competitive hypotheses to discern competitor’s strategy from deceptive and ambiguous moves (by definition stealth or camouflaged moves are not detected, if they are they represent revealed strategy)
  • designing business wargames to explore complex ambiguous competitive situations and foster team alignment on strategy

Market Structure Analysis

  • modeling markets that don’t exist (yet)
  • creating markets where you have the potential to remain viable
  • developing segmentation strategies for existing markets
  • anticipating when a niche market may dissolve a larger category (either to your detriment or advantage)
  • cataloging all of the different descriptions and keywords for the same problem from different perspective in an early market
  • crafting and negotiating partnerships with incumbent players in an existing market
  • defining value chain and minimum viable footprint for a new offering (for more on these concepts see “The Wide Lens” by Ron Adner

Update Nov-26-2013: We continue to use and refine this list. One challenge that startups face (and established firms entering markets that are new to them) is that an existing firm has customer insights that they can more easily access and a value chain that has stake in their success which can provide peripheral vision and insights. Startups lack these assets and as competitors are much harder to spot.

The initial challenges are less about generating insights about new market opportunities and potential competitors and much more about curating the evidence and crafting a narrative that gets a team on board for common action. It’s also possible to fool yourself so looking for disconfirming evidence (e.g. analysis of competing hypotheses) helps to avoid self-deception and/or groupthink.

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