One of the maxims of startup life is “Eat your own dog food,” meaning use your products / services yourself, so you know what it’s like for the customer. I’d like to add to that: Before your start eating your own dog food, make sure you’ve eaten a lot of your competitors’. We all start with the idea that we’re going to build something better than what our competitors are offering, but too often we miss out that there are at least some reasons why people continue to gobble down that disgusting gruel, and it might not be just because they’d starve otherwise.
Using your competitors’ products gives you a better awareness of…
- The workflow many users you’d like to convert are already used to.
- The features and concepts your competitors have created that are actually *good*.
- The most acute pain points their users are feeling. (And don’t just assume the ones you feel are the ones everyone feels! Find forums where the products are being discussed and participate!)
- Uses for their product your competitor didn’t intend. These may open your eyes to new product or market opportunities.
Eat your competitors’ dog food. It will make it that much easier to eat their lunch.