Frederik Van Lierde

How to Do a Competitive Analysis for Startups?

Knowing what your competitors are up to is crucial. But how do you get this secret sauce of success? This simple guide will walk you through a competitive analysis, a clever strategy to peek over the fence and see how your rivals are winning (or losing) their customers. How to Do a Competitive Analysis for Startups?

Table of Contents

Understanding Competitive Analysis

Engaging in competitive analysis is like having a map in a treasure hunt; it points you towards where the gold is and where the pitfalls lie. It's crucial because it not only highlights your competitors' strengths and weaknesses but also reveals market trends and customer preferences.

By understanding these elements, you can innovate and position your startup in a way that meets customer needs more effectively than others. It helps you avoid the mistakes your rivals make, capitalize on opportunities they've overlooked, and differentiate your offerings. In essence, competitive analysis helps ensure that you're not just following the pack, but setting the pace.

Let's say you run a startup that sells eco-friendly water bottles. A good start for a competitive analysis would be to purchase bottles from your top competitors and examine them closely. How are they designed? What materials are they using? What's the price point?

Then, dive into their marketing strategies. Analyze their social media presence, ad campaigns, and any partnerships they've forged. Look for patterns in customer feedback to understand what consumers are praising or complaining about. This hands-on approach will give you tangible insights and could inspire innovations for your product's design, marketing strategy, or customer service approach. Competitive analysis is like a game of spy. You look at what other businesses like yours are doing. It helps you find out what's working for them and what's not. This way, you can make better plans for your own business.

Know Who Your Competitors Are

Identifying your competitors is the first step in navigating the business battlefield. It's important because these are the businesses that your customers are comparing you to, whether you realize it or not. By knowing who they are, you can monitor their moves and anticipate market shifts.

This knowledge helps you to craft strategies that not only match but surpass what others are offering. It's not just about keeping up; it's about being one step ahead. Knowing your competitors also helps you understand your unique value proposition—what makes your startup the better choice for customers.

Imagine you own a small cafe. Start by walking around your neighborhood to see other cafes and restaurants. Notice their menu offerings, their prices, and how crowded they are at different times of the day. Online, you could use search engines to find similar businesses in your area.

Look at review sites like Yelp to see what customers are saying about them. Pay attention to the details in customer reviews—they can tell you a lot about what people value or what they feel is lacking. This real-world reconnaissance will give you a clear picture of who you're up against and where there might be gaps in the market that your cafe could fill. Start by listing other businesses that offer the same things as you. These can be big companies or small ones. You can find them by searching online, asking customers, or seeing who you often compete with for sales.

Gather Info About Your Competitors

Collecting information about your competitors is like assembling pieces of a puzzle. It's important because each piece of information can reveal part of the bigger picture of your industry landscape. By thoroughly understanding your competitors' strategies, you can see gaps in their approach, predict their next moves, and find ways to serve customers better.

This knowledge can lead to improved product features, more effective marketing tactics, and better pricing strategies that give your startup an edge. Knowledge of your competitors' actions also arms you with the ability to react swiftly to changes in the market, keeping your business agile and proactive.

When you run an online bookstore, start by visiting the websites of other bookstores. Notice the layout, the ease of navigation, and the genres they highlight. Sign up for their newsletters and follow their social media accounts to see how they engage with their audience.

Take note of the frequency and content of their posts, as well as any promotional activities they run. Keep an eye on their customer reviews on various platforms to understand consumer sentiment. Are their customers praising their speedy delivery, or are there recurring complaints about book conditions? This information can help you identify areas for improvement in your own business and opportunities to outshine your competitors. Act like a detective. Find out everything you can about these businesses. Look at their websites, social media, and what customers say about them. Check out what they sell, how much they charge, and any special deals they offer.

See What Your Competitors Do Well and What They Don’t

Identifying what your competitors excel at and where they fall short is similar to knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team in a sports match. It's crucial because it informs you about the industry benchmarks and customer expectations.

By acknowledging the areas where competitors are performing well, you can strive to reach and exceed these standards. Conversely, by recognizing their shortcomings, you can capitalize on these areas in your business to provide a superior customer experience. This dual-focused approach ensures that you are not just competing but are also offering something that is noticeably better or different in the eyes of your customers.

Imagine you manage a tech gadget shop. You could start by conducting a secret shopper analysis on your competitors. Purchase a product and note the experience, from browsing the website to the unboxing. How long did the delivery take? Was the packaging secure and branded? How did their customer service respond to inquiries or issues? Additionally, read through their customer feedback on review sites and in product reviews.

Are there recurring themes of praise for product features or dissatisfaction with service? By systematically documenting these observations, you can start to build a clear picture of what aspects to emulate and which to improve upon in your business. Make a list of things these businesses are good at, like fast delivery or cool packaging. Then, list what they could do better, like customer service. This tells you what customers like and what they don't.

Learn From Competitors

Learning from your competitors is not about imitation; it’s about innovation and strategic differentiation. It’s important because it allows you to refine your business approach using real-world insights rather than assumptions. By understanding what others in your market are doing, you can identify industry best practices and integrate them into your operations.

More importantly, you can spot the unaddressed needs of customers and the inefficiencies in your competitors' strategies. This can lead to the development of unique value propositions, enhance customer satisfaction, and carve out a niche for your startup in a crowded marketplace.

Imagine you run an online clothing store. After comparing your offerings with your competitors, you realize they all have a standard 30-day return policy, but customers often complain about the process being cumbersome. Learning from this, you could implement a more straightforward, no-questions-asked return policy with a simplified process, potentially extending it to 45 days to stand out.

Additionally, if you notice that none of your competitors offer a personal styling service, you could start one to add more value to your products. By addressing these specific areas, you make your business more attractive and customer-friendly, using competitors’ gaps as stepping stones for your own growth. With your lists, think about how you can do things better in your business. Maybe you can offer something they don't or make your products better.

Watch Your Competitors Over Time

Monitoring your competitors over time is essential because the market is not static; it is always in motion. Competitors evolve, customer preferences shift, and new trends emerge. Staying informed about these changes is crucial for maintaining the relevance and competitiveness of your startup.

This ongoing surveillance acts as an early warning system, alerting you to shifts in the competitive landscape that could influence your market position. It ensures that your business remains adaptive and ready to pivot or innovate as necessary, thereby securing a long-term advantage.

Imagine you run a mobile app development company, keep track of the updates your competitors release for their apps. What new features are they introducing? How are these features being received by users in app store reviews? Also, monitor any changes in their marketing strategies or brand messaging.

Are they targeting new customer segments or entering new markets? Use tools like Google Alerts to get notifications about your competitors or employ social listening tools to track mentions and sentiment about them on social media.

By systematically keeping tabs on these developments, you can identify trends and opportunities to innovate in your app offerings, ensuring that your company remains a leading player in the market. Keep an eye on these businesses. Are they changing things up? Are they doing new things that customers love? This will help you stay ahead and come up with new ideas.


Doing a competitive analysis is not just a one-time thing. It's an ongoing process that helps you stay sharp and keep your business growing. Remember, knowledge is power, and knowing what your rivals are up to gives you an edge.

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