He noted that he had already done some competitive analysis. He’s got other startups competing with him, some father along that he is, and also a whole bunch of traditional businesses ripe for disruption.
That’s fertile ground for harvesting MVP customers.
Do you know what your competition is up to?
You should. In fact, they should be sending you thoughtfully constructed and high-energy emails every time they roll out an updated feature or a glitzy new marketing campaign.
Because you should be their customer.
I’ve been using this strategy almost as long as I’ve been an entrepreneur, and I learned it from entrepreneurs who are more successful and smarter than me.
Most recently, I did this for Teaching Startup — my solution to bring actionable experiential startup advice to both new and experienced entrepreneurs at an affordable price point and in a useful and non-time-suck format.
Big problem. Complex solution. Lots of different takes on the solution out there.
So I signed up for every single one.
I joined those big expert networks like GLG and a bunch of smaller startup expert marketplaces, even some generic expert marketplaces, probably 30 in all. I found their flaws, I identified their frictions, I figured out why people would be their customers (and their experts), and I figured out why people wouldn’t.
I also figured out who they were targeting and how those personas should be similar to, or different from, the ones I was targeting. Sometimes they listed facts and knowledge about their personas right on their website. Sometimes they listed their customers right on their website.
I mean, it’s a customer target playground.
Is it fair? Would I want a competitor to do this to me? Well, yeah, it’s fair, and yeah, they do. I’ve seen competitors latch on to my startups and products at all levels — B2C, B2B, free trials, low price points, high price points, etc.
My thinking is “good luck.” If you can come after my customers with a better value and a lower price point, you’re welcome to try. If you succeed, I’m not doing my job.
One other bit of advice I gave was for the entrepreneur to reach out to his competition, both the startups and the traditional businesses, and engage in a dialog. Maybe start a relationship.
I did this with Teaching Startup as well, probably talked to a dozen companies like mine or even unlike mine, to get a sense of what their hurdles were, who I was up against, and how I could differentiate my product. Those conversations were always cordial, if guarded, and not everyone wanted to be friends, and that taught me something about them too.
Sometimes it’s little advice bits like this that can make all the difference in getting an entrepreneur to the next level. It’s the “Wait, I didn’t know I could/should do that” kind of advice that we all eventually figure out. I’m just trying to get it out there to more entrepreneurs quicker and more effectively.
Joe Procopio is a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. He is the founder of startup advice project TeachingStartup.com and is the Chief Product Officer of mobile vehicle care and maintenance startup Get Spiffy. You can read all his posts at joeprocopio.com
If you want more direct advice and answers, look into Teaching Startup.