Doing a competitive analysis on your MVP and business idea yields many benefits. It helps identify gaps in the market, shows where the attention and money is focused, and may expose features that are extremely technically complex. It’s a good thing to do before starting building your MVP to ensure you’re hyperfocused on your unique value proposition.
Peter Thiel’s book Zero To One is a great read, and has a lot of nuggets of inspiration. The main thesis is to find a business that is completely blue ocean, green field, brand new that’s never been done before. You want to make a large leap forward in how technology increases the effectiveness of a solution to a problem, but to say that a company is completely brand new is a bit overreaching. Every problem of humanity has a current solution or way to deal with it, however non optimal. So when doing your competitive analysis of your proposed business, get creative. Be precise in the problem statement and think divergently about solutions that exist. If you were launching match.com in 1995, there were no online dating profiles, it’s important to analyze the solutions to refine your product. Personal ads, VHS video dating databases, shared interest groups, bars, friend introductions, or arranged marriages could be on your list of competitors. By thinking laterally and getting a comprehensive if diverse list, you can try to pull the best features from each to adapt to your new tech solution. Should you have friend endorsements similar to friend recommendations in person? Maybe a video introduction (only being seen these days with more storage space), as seen in the VHS intros. Inform your MVP with the wild ways people solve the problem today.
Be singularly focused, be meticulous not to copy. When analyzing similar products, don’t duplicate functionality. Especially at the beginning, even if you think the competitor has a terrible marketing strategy, strive to have something wholly unique. Solve a small problem for a small group of people. Solve it completely and delight that group. It’s better to have a tiny group of die hard supporters than pleasing a ton of people, but not enough to generate loyalty. This is where the term MLP comes from, the Minimal Lovable Product. By finding something small and unique, you can pinpoint a targeted group and make them need your product. This is a strong position to start a company from. Expanding from here is more straightforward and prone to success than having a 50% retention rate. Do your research and cut out any features that have some form already in the world. This will keep the product hyper focused.
When doing your competitive analysis, you have to get creative. This can help generate ideas by exploring industries or solutions not commonly thought to be direct competitors. But don’t copy anything, create a product that’s brand new to find loyal supporters of your minimum lovable product. If you’re at the stage of brainstorming product ideas and competitive research, reach out for technical guidance and fractional CTO help.