Day 1 Curriculum

Bonus Project: How to Steal from Competitors

One thing that our clients find incredibly useful is a report of what they can steal from competitors.
Competitors have already done a lot of research into what converts and what doesn’t, so you can save yourself time by taking the best parts of what they’ve done.
We’re going to make a doc that looks like this finished version. Skim it to get an idea of what we’ll be making.

Phase 1: Competitor list

Open a new doc in Dropbox Paper. Make a copy of this template.
Add your three closest competitors where it says “Competitor 1”, “Competitor 2”, and “Competitor 3”.
If you don't know your competitors, Google things that customers would search to find you, or Google #{your company name} competitors , or use a tool like Owler to figure out who they are.
If you’re a brand new company, or a small company, you’ll want to think about the problem you’re solving and how that problem is currently getting solved. Who else is solving it?
If your product is a flying car, you might look at luxury car companies, high-end helicopter services, and private jets. (The problem is getting long distances quickly, whenever you want. And only wealthy people will be able to afford you.)
At this time, ignore the “Top Takeaways” section of the doc.

Phase 2: Competitor breakdown

Go through each competitor and fill out the following sections:

Phase 2a: Identify their key value props

Go to your competitor’s homepage. Read through it.
Think about how your competitor solves the customer’s problem better than you do.
For example: Cabin is a luxury bus service that shuttles people from SF to LA overnight. A competitor of theirs would be Megabus: a bus service that goes between SF and LA with rides that cost as little as a dollar.
Cabin’s key value prop would be comfort — that you can actually sleep on the bus. Megabus’ key value prop would be that it’s extremely affordable.
Find their value props. Write these down.
With these, when you rewrite your landing page, make ads, and even talk on sales calls, you’ll be able to explain why you’re better for a specific type of person based on the needs they're expressing. Instead of being indistinguishable from your competitors.

Phase 2b: Identify the words they use

Marketing Pages
Head to your competitor’s homepage. What words do they use to describe the product? What do they say on their site that makes you emotionally feel jealous of them as a company?
Steal that. Paste it into your doc verbatim.
Do the same thing for pricing pages, customer testimonial pages, etc.
Google your competitor. Look at the ads they run in the Google search results.
Then, Google the keywords that you think people would use when they search for your competitor. See if any ads show up — and in particular, notice if the words in them are different.
Go ahead and click some of their ads. Great. Now they’re wasting money on you.
Optional Bonus: Affiliate deals
If you're B2B, use SEMrush to see all the pages on a competitor's site (the backlinks > indexed pages section). This lets you see if they've set up any partnerships or affiliate deals.
For example, PersistIQ made this page to partner with Copper.

Phase 2c: Signup flow

Walk through every step of their website. Sign up as a new user, but make sure they don’t know you’re a competitor.
If you’re a B2B company, we recommend using ThrowawayMail to make a quick email with a custom domain. If you’re a B2C company, make a new Gmail address.
If you need a phone number for verification, try TempoPhone. Or make a Google Voice number — that’s what we do at Demand Curve.
Go as far as you can through your competitor’s website until you have to pay. Or, do actually pay for the product if there’s a free trial or it’s cheap and if you’re not worried about them noticing that you’re doing competitive research. (You might want to use a friend’s credit card instead of your own.)
Pay special attention to what they do to reduce friction and entice the user.
And again, find anything that makes you feel jealous. Put that in your doc to steal.

Phase 2d: How you win

Take what you’ve learned from Phases 2a-2c and add three to five bullet points on how you can position yourself better than the competitor. For example:
  • You’re tailored better to a [certain audience]
  • You have [key benefits] they don’t
  • Your experience is [smoother] and [better-designed]

Phase 3: Top takeaways

Go through your document and re-review each competitor. Look for the two or three learnings that would have the highest impact on your own site that are the least amount of work to implement.
“High-leverage” is a marketing buzzword that gets thrown around a lot. But that’s what it means: being able to get a lot done without doing much work. It’s buzzwordy, but important.
Add those high-leverage learnings to your “Top Takeaways” section at the top of the doc.

Phase 4: Demand Curve review

If you're a current student, send us your doc for review.
If you still have time, find two more competitors. Don’t limit yourself to your direct competitors; add one or two that sell to a different audience or solve the problem a different way.
For example, if you’re a high-end electric pen company, break down a high-end mechanical pencil company. Understand how you're positioned against the rest of the alternatives in your market.
Other teams beyond your marketing team benefit from this doc. We recommend sending it to:
Your product team
They use your findings to build features that distinguish you better from your competitors.
Your sales team
They use your findings on sales calls to position yourself differently from competitors.
Your leadership team
They can use what you learn to recruit people to join the team and give press interviews. Every leadership team also likes to feel like they’re being sneaky and taking over the world. Getting useful intel on competitors is an important part of that.