3 Methods to Get Started with Competitive Research

When I started my new job, I wanted to do some baseline competitive research in order to get a lay of the land. Competitive research a massive task, and it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

Here are 3 quick methods to get get a jump start on your competitive research.


1 - Feature Matrix

In order to get a basic overview of what features competitors are offering, create a basic feature matrix. It’s super easy, I promise.

  • Decide on 5 competitors to research. Any more than 5, and you probably won’t be able to digest the information. You can definitely add more at a later date, but to start, choose the 5 most pertinent competitors.

  • Make a Key list of all the features in a spreadsheet. I like to group the features; it makes the matrix easier to scan and understand.

  • Decide on a rating system. This matrix can be as simple as ‘yes, x competitor has this feature (see example 1 below). I like to use ‘shade grading’ to add an extra dynamic and visualize how well the competitor implemented the feature. ie. lots of taco places have house-made salsa, but how good is it?

  • Pro Tip: Add in your product (if you have one) in the first column as a benchmark.

Simple “yes/no” feature matrix for tacos.

Simple “yes/no” feature matrix for tacos.

50 Shades of Grey - darker means better, and we can not only see which competitors have which features, but  how well  they are implemented.

50 Shades of Grey - darker means better, and we can not only see which competitors have which features, but how well they are implemented.

2 - Differentiator Chart

When leadership and other teams ask for competitive research, they often want boiled-down chunks that can be digested in under a minute. A differentiator chart is a very simple way to convey this important competitive info.

Pro tip: If you have a decent designer on your team, they can make it look much prettier than the one below.

This simple chart is meant for quick reference. You can easily add on additional columns, notes, and reorganize it as needed.

Basic differentiator chart for tacos.

Basic differentiator chart for tacos.

3 - Creative 2x2s

I love 2x2s because it’s such an easy method for conveying a LOT of information. Although the classic 2x2 is importance vs effort (used often for feature prioritization), you can utilize the 2x2 structure to create all sorts of fun diagrams relevant to your product or industry.

The ideal product is in the top right quadrant.

Here are some ideas:

  • Quality vs. Price

  • Brand recognition vs. market share

  • Speed vs. Quality

Here’s one I created for my taco use case:

taco 2x2.jpg

These three methods are meant to act as a starting point. Once you get going, you’ll have lots of ideas for how to enhance this research with other matrices and diagrams that are relevant to your product and industry.