Updated: Sep 18, 2020
What are our competitors doing?
Is this question important? To some it’s not. To some it is imperative. Why? Because knowing who your competitors are will help you understand what has worked and what hasn’t and why(1). For startups, reinventing the wheel may not necessarily be wise when resources are limited. So why not study, understand your competitors, their price points, their customers, their strategies and initiatives, their brand voice and tone. It will surely help you hone in on yours and your differentiators(2). While this effort helps you gather insights on your competitors, and helps you prepare, asking this question actually forces you to focus inward. It will lead you to asking, “What about OUR company? What makes US unique?” Having competitors will actually help drive innovation.
Asking this question impacts product innovation and development, product marketing, brand strategy, sales and marketing strategies.
What if we are swimming in a blue ocean and there aren’t any competitors around?
Well, then you are one of the first few movers in your space. You would think that would make it easier, but the blue ocean(3) doesn’t stay blue for long. It can become red very very quickly. Your main goal is speed to market...BUT with HIGH standards! Just because you are the first in the market, it doesn’t give you the green light to spew out substandard products/services. On the contrary, in order for you to OWN the market as the leader, you should ALWAYS be setting higher standards. Ask how you define great products/services? How do you define great customer experience? How do you define great design?
Asking this question impacts product innovation and development, customer experience strategies, product marketing, and brand strategy.
What is happening elsewhere in the world? Does it even matter?
YES. Absolutely! With regulations and geopolitical turmoil, companies are always having to adapt their products to adhere to ever-changing regulations and compliance(4). For some product-focused companies, tariffs and import and export laws have immediate and massive impact on their supply chain, top and bottom line. So tune in to your international economic systems(5), finance and political news, talk to experts on the ground and be prepared.
Asking this question impacts product planning and development, financial planning, sales strategies, and talent strategies.
Who is your audience? And how can you connect with them authentically?
One of the key ingredients in building brand longevity is knowing that customers always come first. No, I’m not saying that brands should compromise their core values; but brands should respond swiftly, adapt to changing trends and market demands, and connect with their audience authentically. Your audience today may not be your audience tomorrow, as global markets shift and expand. You must address, if not at least be aware of, issues(6) surrounding inclusivity, diversity, privacy, cultural sensitivity(7), sexism and ageism. And as your audience becomes more digitally intelligent, and culturally diverse, they can sniff out disingenuous narrative and experience. Their demands from your brand will be exacting, in terms of how your products and services are delivered to them.
Asking this question impacts product development, talent strategies, and marketing strategies.
What is our offline versus online, omnichannel strategy?
Brilliant brands read minds. They engage consumers at critical touch point, anticipate needs, enrich the user experience, and feel personalized and relevant. With technology, consumers are now expecting a complete 360 brand experience both offline and online, to be fully integrated and seamless(8). How brands connect to consumers through their digital intelligence—their messaging, product/services, when, how and via which platform and what digital features—are crucial in building traction, brand loyalty and advocacy.
Asking this question impacts marketing and brand strategies, and operations.
In my book, Turtle Design in a Rabbit Age, I’ve offered a framework of questions that I typically ask my clients when designing technology experience. (See Pg 10)
I want you to add your own questions to this. Take this framework as your foundation; challenge yourself, add your own questions, be curious, explore, and think beyond the obvious. Ask those “stupid” questions if you’d like - but these questions will lead you to producing some real strategic initiatives that will disrupt your business in ways you can’t even imagine.
“5 Reasons Why Competition Is Good For Your Business”, Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/pictures/emjl45fhdh/innovation/#a1abefd3a76d)
Nick Tubis. “How To Study Your Competition To See Business Success”, Forbes, March 1, 2018 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2018/03/01/how-to-study-your-competition-to-see-business-success/#3fcbe893559e)
Steve Dening. “Moving To Blue Ocean Strategy; A Five-Step Process To Make The Shift”, Forbes, September 24, 2019 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2017/09/24/moving-to-blue-ocean-strategy-a-five-step-process-to-make-the-shift/#752dfd647f11)
Rhett Power. “This Is How Globalization Is Affecting Entrepreneurs”, Forbes, July 15, 2018 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/rhettpower/2018/07/15/this-is-how-globalization-is-affecting-entrepreneurs/#7dc0c8ce1b7a)
“5 Components of Current International Economics”, Norwich University Online, October 2, 2017 (https://online.norwich.edu/academic-programs/resources/5-components-of-current-international-economics)
Katie Richards. “5 Major Brand Fails of 2018—and What Every Marketer Can Learn From Them”, AdWeek, December 19, 2018 (https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/5-major-brand-fails-of-2018-and-what-every-marketer-can-learn-from-them/)
Brit Morse. “The 7 Most Embarrassing Branding Mistakes of 2018”, Inc. (https://www.inc.com/brit-morse/2018-biggest-marketing-branding-fails.html)
Yiling Pan. “What’s New with China’s Luxury Spending? Read Tencent x BCG 2019 Report”, Jing Daily (https://jingdaily.com/luxury-tencent-bcg-2019/?)
Mel Lim. “Questions To Ask When Designing Technology Experiences”, Turtle Design In A Rabbit Age, Chapter 5: Wisdom + Passion = Purpose.