15 Competitive Intelligence Questions Product Managers Need to Answer: B2B Market Research podcast

Sean Campbell
Authored bySean Campbell
Episode 81: – 15 Competitive Intelligence questions Product Managers need to answer.

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We cover:

  • Key questions product managers need to ask when conducting competitive intelligence research.
  • The role of a product manager as it relates to competitive intelligence.
  • Questions a product manager should ask after the sale.

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Modified Transcript

Welcome to another episode of the B2B Market Research Podcast. In this episode, we’re going to talk about some of the key questions that product managers need to ask when they’re conducting competitive intelligence research.

The first thing we need to understand is what the product manager role is and how it differs from the role that you tend to find in other parts of a B2B technology company.

One of the things that’s different is the role is somewhat interdisciplinary by definition. The role involves things like dealing with vision and leadership issues for the product line. It deals with product lifecycle management. It deals with user experience issues. It deals with developing the roadmap and down into the levels of strategy and research about the landscape. There’s even some discussion about the business model for the product and how it’s going to be set up financially in terms of pricing and SKUs and other things along those lines.

So what are some of the questions a product manager needs to ask when he/she is conducting competitive intelligence research?

The first thing is, you have to look at just the whole process of choosing a vendor. This isn’t really as simple as the thing you see typically done in a win-loss study. This is because you have to look not just at win-loss behavior but you also have to look at organizations that never really interacted with you–and chose a competitor.

Because markets are complex, organizations don’t always investigate every single solution that’s out there. It’s important to understand why you simply weren’t even asked to participate in the deal. So that’s one piece. The other thing is you’ve got to go and look at root causes and understand what caused the organization to search for a new solution. If they’re looking for a solution for big data analytics, why did they even start?

Don’t just assume it’s because of the market forces that are general and driving the market as a whole. Ask:

  • Why that organization or the organizations you’re interviewing really chose to look for a new solution?
  • What resources did they use to pare down that list? This is where product managers can be good partners to their marketing colleagues.
  • What kind of assets drove them to pare down the list to the vendors they actually engaged with?
  • What were the main reasons they chose the organization they did for features, capabilities and the like?
  • What chose them to reject the other organizations?
  • What led them to make those other organizations not part of the process?
  • What was the evaluation process like overall?
  • What roles were involved?
  • What personas were involved?
  • What did the customer perceive the total cost to the solution to be?
  • What type of licensing models in use?

Then you also have to ask about things that happened after the sale. Having some industry expertise can really help, because you’re going to dig into the implementations issues, you’re going to deal into something we call the “ity’s” on a recent blog post, manageability and reliability and security and maintainability.

Things to ask are:

  • Was the implementation smooth or were there challenges?
  • What was the extent of the implementation? Was it large scale or small? How long did the implementation take?
  • What was the support process like if you had to interact with the vendor?
  • What was the relationship like with partners if they were part of the overall implementation plan?
  • What was being replaced? In B2B technology sales it’s rare to find a solution that isn’t replacing something else in whole or in part. So what is the gap in feature capability there? What did the previous solution do and what does the new solution do and what’s the gap there?

Then look at it with the long view. If the solution’s been in place for some time, what are the elements to the solution that caused the purchase to happen? This is really key when you think about product features. You don’t want to build features that generate initial excitement but then aren’t really long term features that are going to be used over time. Eventually the organization is going to start looking at things like TCO and ROI and they’re going to ask themselves if they are paying for one too many features. So you really want to have a real laser-like focus on the features that are going to stand the test of time.

With that, that wraps up just a few of the questions that I think product managers should ask when it comes to doing competitive intelligence research. Thanks for listening and hope to have you along in the next podcast.

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