Guiding Principles When Comparing Your Innovation Against the Competition

 In Innovation, Musings

Post 5 in a 10 Part Series

The sure sign of a commercialization neophyte, whether in a start-up CEO role or as a academic inventor seeking new wealth, is to position one’s innovation as unique and without competitors. Everything has competition. In fact, you want competition to help validate a market in the minds of target users/consumers and to help build awareness. A rising ocean in rapidly growing markets benefits everyone.  Find the competitors and you will find insight into how your innovation fits in the market. Here are 4 things to help guide you in the effort:

  1. Often the least obvious competitor is the “substitution” competitor. This is the decision by the buyer NOT to buy your product or anything equivalent to it. Rather they opt to make do with nothing or construct their own alternative solution. Competition may come from this choice of doing nothing. It may come from subterfuge of some sort initiated by the consumer in ways you never thought of. Know all the alternatives available to the buyer before you start planning on having no competition.
  2. Organize competitors by attributes, by markets, correlated business metrics, by leverage targets, by core competencies to gain a complete understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Do not fall into the trap of focusing on ONE or TWO attributes. Buyers have a much broader perspective on value when deciding to purchase.
  3. Map your competitor’s ecosystem of partners and routes to market. You might have invented the greatest product ever but the other aspects of doing business can prove more valuable in the eyes of the buyer. One of those is buying clusters of products. I might perceive a particular grill as having more value but buy another because of the attachments that are compatible with the design.
  4. Anticipate your competitor’s future plans with respect to capabilities and feature development. Competitors evolve over time and comparing your innovation to existing capabilities ensures you will always fall behind. Know the supply chain that contributes to your product. Competitors often have the same access to that supply. Compete on speed to market if you don’t have supply chain differences.

Commercialization Blog Series – 

Lots of academic research has been done on commercialization strategies and entrepreneurship. Peter Drucker seems to have started it all and was one of my heroes during my MBA life phase. Experience is a different teacher however. The act of working with 100’s of companies at various stages of commercial development has taught me a few practical things about getting traction in the marketplace. This blog series is a quick snap shot at some of those lessons learned and questions asked to help guide individuals and companies through the maze of decision making alternatives. Certainly it does not contain ALL the issues but, from my experience, taking these suggestions to heart will lead you to a greater probability of success than otherwise; certainly more likely than following academia into the abyss.





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