Getting noticed by competitors

brandverity,Business,Startups by on February 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm

While there are tons of measures of a startup’s success, one of the more amusing ones is the degree to which your competitors take notice.

We have been fairly quiet in public about BrandVerity and our growth, so I always take a special interest in how new prospects find us (good practice at any stage of a company). We make trials incredibly easy to start, so we often know very little about the party on the other end that creates the account. Occasionally, someone will create an account that just doesn’t seem to fit with what we do.

So far we’ve had at least two accounts that I can directly trace back to a competitor. In one case, the CEO of a peer opened an account using an email address from her husband’s company. She never contacted us directly, but looking at her usage patterns in the site it was pretty clear that she was conducting a feature comparison.

The more recent one was particularly brazen though. An employee of a larger competitor created an account (using a hotmail address), and then sent a note asking to speak. The employee represented themselves as a marketing consultant that managed campaigns for several brands, but over the course of the conversation it became pretty clear that she wasn’t a typical customer. Questions about unrelated aspects of the service, size of company, and customer counts just didn’t fit with a typical customer’s behavior. I declined to answer the more sensitive questions, and after the call I created an excuse to call her back to clarify something. The response at the other end of the call was ‘Hello, ’.

Competitive research is an imperative in business and I certainly expect competitors to try and learn as much as they can about us. I actually think that more direct approaches yield better success (eg just reach out and introduce yourself), but as a startup you should just be aware that anything you say to customers and prospects becomes generally available information.

Oh, and it is great if your competitors accept your Terms of Service!
  • Dave, Great post. Sounds like you handled things well, and have a good sense of humor about the situation.

    I actually don't think there's anything wrong with competitors signing up for your service. Of course, they're agreeing to your TOS, but probably (assuming your TOS is similar to most in the industry) there is little risk to them or their standard business practices to agree to your TOS.

    And, hey, I don't see anything wrong with them asking you sensitive questions, after all, as you pointed out, you don't have to answer them. ;)

    Anyway, good luck with BrandVerity, it sounds like a very interesting product. Seems like a lot of the team from Judy's Book is doing some interesting things in online brand data mining (thinking of Ben and the Meteor team.)

  • Good thoughts and thanks for the note. This was a good reminder to review our TOS to make sure it has the provisions we want. I think there are 4 (5 if you count Founder's Co-Op) that have emerged from the former Judy's Book team – all of whom seem to be doing quite well.

  • well competitor analysis is becoming the core function in any business strategies now a days. They are even hiring people to get information of there competitors like sales, salary etc etc

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