In the excitement of being invited to submit a full SBIR proposal, it can be easy to forget all the legwork that goes into writing the actual proposal. By planning ahead and being prepared, proposal preparation does not have to be intimidating. One very important part of nearly all SBIR project descriptions is the comparison of the product or idea to competitors. Understanding competitors and where they excel vs. what needs work allows companies to demonstrate the merits of their idea or product.
The Project Description
The project description has several sections where it is pertinent to mention competitors. The Market and Addressable Market, Market Opportunity and Drivers, Validation, and of course the Competition section are all relevant places to discuss competitors and illustrate how this project brings something new or better to the table.
Research All Competitors
We are lucky to live in an age where information is literally at our fingertips. Finding competitors should be a relatively pain-free process. Use your favorite search engine to find all the companies out there in the industry. Pay special attention to their reviews, popularity, and overall reputation as these aspects can provide clues to aspects of the new product or idea that surpass competitors.
The Largest Competitor
Much market insight can be gained from finding and assessing your largest competitor. The largest competitor will have more products and exposure than smaller companies. What does the largest competitor do well and where could they use work?
Don’t stop your research for competitors at your country’s borders. What people are doing in the industry in other countries is just as important. In a global market, customers have access to products across the globe. How does your product stack up against the domestic and international competition?
It is also important to know which competitor is closest to you in geographical terms. Where is the nearest competitor located? If you develop a business where you plan to, will you be the first in your industry to serve that location, or are there many competitors in your location? The closest competitor is important because in order to be competitive in an area where there are one or more competitors in close proximity to your business you have to offer customers something they can not find at your competitor’s location. This can be value, price, innovation, or some other perk.
Most Innovative Competitor
Next, you must identify your most innovative competitor. Who among your competitors has the most novel concept for the product? The most innovative competitor is an important thing to discover. Innovation is a highly sought after trait so it is of benefit to a company to have the most innovative version of something. If the most innovative competitor is not your business make sure you can illustrate other merits to your product like a lower price or international delivery options.
Who among your competitors offers the lowest price? Price is a very strong selling point for most customers, often overshadowing both value and innovation. If your product is not the least expensive what does it offer that makes it worth more money than competitor products?