How should the product manager disassemble competitive products?

Well Joe
6 min readMar 10, 2023

Introduction

“Know yourself, know your enemy, and you will never lose a battle”. When we do product design, we often need to “refer” to the designs of other products, so how to disassemble the competing products, “to take the essence of its dregs”? In this article, we will talk about how to disassemble the competing products.

Background survey

This step is often overlooked in the disassembly of competitive products. The growth of a product cannot be separated from its growth environment. The team and company behind it. Therefore, when conducting a background survey, you can understand the “course” of competitive products, so that you can better know why they will grow into today. When conducting background investigation of competitive products, we can usually carry out the following aspects.

  1. Company: To understand the company that develops the product, you can know the company strength behind the product. The information of the product development company is easy to obtain from the official website. After obtaining the company information, we can understand the overall strength of the company through the search engine, enterprise credit query website, and equity structure, and can also evaluate the strength comparison of our company and the other party.
  2. Investment and financing situation: The investment and financing information of general Internet companies can be seen on the official website and some Internet portals. Understanding the investment and financing situation of the product can know the other party’s capital resources, and at the same time, it can also know the other party’s resource competition advantage through the capital side. For example, if a certain strategic investment is obtained, it can not only bring funds, but also resources. At the same time, we can also understand which product features capital prefers.
  3. Team: Many companies will put their core team information on the official website. Through the composition of the team, we will know the strength of their team and the focus of their products. For example, some are technology-oriented, some are operation-oriented, and some are product-oriented.
  4. Business coverage area: It is usually more obvious at the business products. If your products and competing products overlap in areas, you need to be particularly careful, because you can seize customers at any time. At this time, it is more necessary to “know yourself and your enemy”. At the same time, we also need to pay close attention to the dynamics of competitive products and follow up some popular functions.

The growth of a product cannot be separated from its growth environment. The team and company behind it. Therefore, when conducting a background survey, you can understand the “course” of competing products, so that you can better understand why they have grown like today.

Product positioning

Many times doing a competitive product teardown is just to understand the functional aspects of the product, which is actually putting the cart before the horse.

If you do not understand the positioning of the product, then the understanding of the function is likely to stay on the surface. Product positioning reflects the value proposition of the product, the target group of the product and the business model of the product, which are the most worthy of our learning.

How to understand the positioning of the product, usually good products will be on their own official website or in public occasions to promote their product value proposition.

It should be noted that the positioning of the product will be adjusted in the development process. The positioning adjustment of a product exactly reflects the future development direction of the product.

Many times, competitive product disassembly is just to understand the functional level of the product. In fact, this is just putting the cart before the horse. If you do not understand the product positioning, then the understanding of the function is likely to stay on the surface. The positioning of the product reflects the value proposition of the product, the target group of the product and the business model of the product, which are most worthy of our learning.

The second is the target group of the product, which can also bring a lot of inspiration to our product design.

For example, I once saw one of our competing products, the interface layout buttons are big and small, and there are many colors, which can not be called beautiful at all. If you look at it aesthetically, it definitely doesn’t pass the test.

However, their customers think it is easy to use. Why? Because their target group is the grass-roots employees in the traditional industry who have little study and are older. They make the commonly used buttons bigger and more eye-catching, which is convenient for these people to quickly find the corresponding functions. Therefore, the analysis of the target group of product positioning will enable you to understand why their interaction and interface should be designed like that.

Product core process experience

It is my habit to experience the core process of this product before the feature combing of the competing products, so that we can have a clear understanding of the main process, and the next feature combing can better distinguish the business logic relationship with the main process.

At the same time of experiencing the main process, we can record our questions, highlights and shortcomings (which may not be shortcomings, but may have to do so for special reasons). In the later in-depth experience, we will be more targeted.

Features of the product

Sorting out the features of the product is a part of the in-depth experience. When we find that the design of the competitive product is excellent, we can record it first through video recording and screenshots, and then write down our own experience. When we design or optimize similar functions of our products, we have a reference source.

Of course, it should be noted here that not all features of competitive products are applicable to our own products. It is still necessary to combine specific scenarios and customer groups.

Product flaws

It is also important to understand the flaws of competing products so that we have some additional advantages when competing.

However, it should be noted that if there are some defects at the corners, don’t hold on too much.

What we need to grasp is the defect of the core function of competitive products. If this defect can be avoided, it will greatly improve the competitiveness of our products.

Channels of understanding competitive products

Having said that, how to get competitive information? Generally speaking, there are several channels.

  1. Trial account of competitive products: At present, Internet products are becoming more and more open, and most leading enterprises will provide trial accounts. Some can be used by directly registering online, and some can be tried only after offline confirmation. If it is offline confirmation, you need a little skill. You can pretend to be the target customer who is interested in them.
  2. Competitor’s operation manual or video: Some products will provide online operation manual or video, if you do not have a trial account you will have to fall back on this way to understand the features of the competitor.
  3. Product launch (presentation): Through the competitor’s product launch, or their presentation in some exhibitions can also go to understand their product features, functional modules, template groups and other information.
  4. Competitor customers: This one is usually a little harder, but if your product has penetrated the customers of a competitor, then if you have a good relationship with the customer, the customer is willing to share what they have used before. This kind of information is actually very useful, because it comes from real use experience and is very in-depth. For example, we have had customers who were willing to give us direct demonstrations of their previous use of the product and tell us which features they thought worked well and why they thought they did. This kind of information can be very valuable, and through the feedback of real customers can make your product have precise power point.
  5. Industry analysis: There are many platforms that provide industry analysis, and the leading enterprises usually appear in the industry analysis list. Although we can’t understand the details through industry analysis, we can understand the overall trend and some business statistics of competitive products.
  6. Online documents or videos: Through search, you can find some related documents of competitive products (such as product promotional materials, operation manuals), and some operation videos recorded by competitive customers themselves, which is also an effective source of information.

Summary

After the competitive product is disassembled, it is recommended to produce a summary report, either in Excel or PPT format. It is recommended to use PPT format to facilitate sharing and discussion with other team members, and to evaluate the competitive products from multiple aspects to avoid one person’s one-sided view.

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