Competing with look-alikes

Instead of playing a catch up game, you can drive that attention inward and get better results.

You can copy all you want, but you will always be one step behind ~unknown

Today, most of the products are look-alikes or end up being so. There is usually one (or 2) leading the race and others play a catch up.

For example, a flurry of apps have been trying to break the feature parity with Intercom, a customer messaging tool. You might have seen an annoying bubble that popups on websites and pokes you with welcome messages. Intercom kind of made it to mainstream.

As product creators, it’s quite possible to get lost in the features for the sake of creating that winnning battle card with your competitors. But it’s unlikely going to give you what you are looking for. A differentiator, a unique position in the market.

I have been interested in this topic for a while - What makes a product to be percieved as different and why people are willing to pay a premium for such products.

While finding your own niche, segmenting audience is one way, sometimes the market isn’t big enough to do that.

After research of past few months and looking back at my own journey, I have these collection of pointers, an append-only list, that tries to capture the key aspects of building unique strategies around your product.

  1. You must focus on job that user is trying to perform and help him improve on that. Without this you might end up with product that is just a good looking CRUD app. Clayton Christensen’s JBTD Theory of innovation captures this as well.

    For example, if you are a blogging site then you must focus on making the process of writing better, or take away complex decisions like SEO terms to use, choose a quote or image that goes with your content or deciding on what short summary to post on social media.

    When were building a project based learning for graduate students at xceler. We learnt that deciding on which products to build is a heavy-toll on students as it requires knowledge of the industry problems and technology trends. So we created a 3-way communication tool (as an add-on) to enable a casual dialog between Industry experts, Professors (student guides) and the students. In this process, we also solved another problem of access to industry experts.

    These small decisions are often the most difficult part of the job that users are trying to perform. By helping with these micro hurdles, you can add more value and differentiate. Each user decides differently, so there is plenty of room for everyone to differentiate.

    This also includes making training or help content beyond your product scope. Help people get better at the job they are trying to perform. For example - Ahref has a youtube channel to help you learn SEO and how to grow with it.

  2. To make the job easier, you must also consider what comes before and after the job. Make the transition easier. For example, if you are a screen recording app, you are likely to send the recording to others on one of the many many communication tools and may be the need arises when your co-worker is unable to undersand your last week’s email about a code fix. Integrate your tool with as many as apps you can to make that transition easier.
  3. Looks matter: Your branding and website play an important role in how people relate to you
  4. Think Different : How you consistently think different and bring a unique perspective in everything you do matters. Writing a blog - make it unique, writing a help article - make it unique, sending an onboarding email - make it unique.

Please do share if you have any additional pointers that I can add to my list.

This blog is open-source on Github.