Alternatives to your product.  Have you ranked them lately?

What are the current alternatives to using you?

As we dedicate ourselves to our products and services being the best in the world for our customers, we can lose sight of the fact that there might, just might, be alternative options that lure our consumers away from us.  For examples, when you google, “most comfortable golf shoes for walking” 21million options come up in 0.57 seconds, literally. Old products are always looking for new ways to innovate and steal our consumers.  New companies and technology are born hourly!

google search for golf shoes

Keeping tabs on all these alternatives is great.   But how do we prioritize which competitor to go after or defend against?   It can be cost prohibitive to fight every single one.  Plus the one’s we are watching may not be the ones that the customer is interacting with.   Competitive reviews should happen often and include two key steps; a list of the customer’s top ten alternatives PLUS a ranking from easiest to hardest for customers to choose over you.

Customer Centric List of Alternatives

At a recent workshop I held with a group of startups, each founder and team listed 10 alternatives their customers could be using instead of adopting their new product or service.  Their lists were based on interviews with current and potential new customers.  Most of the lists included similar products and services on the market AND “old school” options for their customers.  Some even included just ignoring the option all together.

One example in the additive manufacturing space of “just ignore this option”  is in large industrial manufacturing companies looking for ways to include 3d printing.   One company discovered New Product Innovation Managers lack well-organized digital files for legacy products.  This makes it quite burdensome for some manufacturing teams to fully leverage the potential of bringing 3d printing into their innovation process.  So, a major alternative to using this new additive manufacturing software was just don’t start.   But with the insight that a lack of well-organized digital file library is blocking product adoption, the start-up could decide if this was a customer service innovation they wanted to bring to market to help with sales growth.  Creating a customer centric list of alternatives is critical to removing barriers that are actually there.

Ranking Easiest to Hardest to choose over you

Once you have your list of 10 most common alternative uses (or lack of use), it is time to rank them.  Rank order the 10 from easiest to hardest for the customer to choose and use.   This ranking makes sure we stay centered from the Customer’s point of view, not our own.  Of course we feel it is super easy to choose us while we are sitting in our office or holding the product in our hands.  We already have it and have an intimate knowledge of its greatness. However, being “customer naive” is critical in this exercise.

After you have ranked the alternatives from your customer’s point of view, you will want to rank them from your internal perspective.   How difficult it is for you to disrupt this list of alternatives.   Difficulty based on time and money.   In smaller companies and start-ups the resource most challenged is time.  The team is small and you only have 24 hours in one day.  Choosing the top 1 to 3 barriers is plenty.  And once you have removed the first one, then you are free to move down the list.  But don’t try to solve for everything all at once.  Methodical elimination is more cost effective and easier to measure the impact.


Want help auditing alternatives and ranking them, give me a shout.  I’m always excited to get involved igniting your growth potential!  Just email me at

Published by rfretty

Cheers to happiness, growth and ladybugs!

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