Advice Blog

This Is How You Research Your Competition

What can we learn from Sam Walton’s methods?

Before I list the techniques to research the competition, it's imperative to point out 2 things: 

(1) The competitive research starts at the top - not to underlings, the marketing department or consultants. The best researcher is often the person who is going to use the information to make decisions. This person can see nuances and traps that escape others. Do you know who did this exceptionally well? Sam Walton. 

(2) Knowing who your true competition is. Apple (early stage) had 3 possible competitors - IBM vs. Compaq vs. Kaypro. The true competition for Apple was IBM, because it fundamentally opposed Apple's vision of computing, and it forced Apple to improve. On the other hand, Compaq is already similar to Apple (no room for improvement) and Kaypro was fading. Those 2 weren’t the right choice of ‘competition’. 

Here are techniques to research & know your competition: 

a. Shop the competition
b. Become a customer of the competition
c. Query the competition’s customers
d. Read voraciously and omnivorously
e. Attend conferences, trade shows, and association meetings
f. Suck up to a research librarian
g. Search competition’s websites