Differentiating Yourself from the Competition
I was recently asked this question about Excepticon in an online forum:
Okay, so the idea is valid, but WHAT makes you different than your competition? If money was not an issue, why would I pick you over something like New Relic?
It’s an important question, not only for me specifically, but for anyone launching a product into a market with even one competitor: What differentiates your product from your competitors?
I’ve mentioned before that one of my reasons for building Excepticon is to test the hypothesis that your idea doesn’t have to be unique, that it’s ok (perhaps even advantageous in some regards) to launch into a market with competitors. But to do so and be successful, you need to differentiate your product from the alternatives.
Going up against an incumbent player in a niche without differentiation is a losing proposition. Even if the products are identical feature-for-feature, an established competitor have several big advantages over a newcomer:
- An existing user base
- Brand recognition/reputation
- Proven ability to execute
- Market share
- Established channels
Unless there is something different about your product that makes it preferable in the eyes of at a least a segment of the market, you’ll fail to gain any traction.
Differentiation is key, and it’s important to have a strategy for how you’ll differentiate yourself early on in the process of building your SaaS.
How Is Excepticon Different?
I am differentiating Excepticon in four main areas:
I cater to solo .NET devs and small teams. The forum question I received mentions New Relic - products like New Relic are great, but they’re geared toward the enterprise, or at least that’s what it feels like looking at their landing page and marketing material. They offer a bunch of different solutions, dashboards, reports, and integrations in their platform that I just don’t need or care about as a solo founder/dev. Just give me a simple service that does its one or two things that I need well and at a fair price and I’ll buy it.
There are certain features that I want in a solution that aren’t in the existing services that I’ve evaluated. I won’t get into specific features here - I’ll be developing them over the coming months. But I recognize that I can’t compete on features out of the gate, because in the spirit of building an MVP, I launched as soon as I had the core feature set that I felt was needed to launch and still provide value. As the product develops over the coming months, I’ll be adding features that will help to differentiate Excepticon from other services. It’s not there yet.
The brand or personality of the company plays a part in consumers’ buying decisions. My personality (for better or worse) will be a part of Excepticon - it won’t be a faceless product. I plan to be fairly public about what I’m doing as I build it, market it, and succeed or fail with it. I’ll be part of the product. My message may resonate with some folks who want to support indie software and transparent makers, and it may turn some people off. And that’s ok.
The question I received on the forum had the caveat “if money was not an issue,” but the fact of the matter is that money plays a big part in consumer’s minds when choosing a service, especially if they’re in the niche that I’m targeting. So I won’t ignore it - price is a differentiator, and I will be one of the lower-priced options, accessible to my target market.
Out of the gate I can differentiate myself in the first, third, and fourth areas. It will take a bit of time before I can differentiate on features.
How Are You Different?
These certainly aren’t the only ways that one can differentiate their product from the rest. Perhaps your strategy for your product includes differentiating in areas that I’ve not mentioned, like offering customer service that goes above and beyond or leveraging unique marketing and distribution channels, for example.
Whatever the case may be, identify the ways in which your SaaS will be different than your competition and use that to your advantage.
I should point out that while your competition has several advantages by being an established player in the market, there are benefits to being a small and nimble newcomer, such as:
- Ability to experiment and pivot more easily
- Lower overhead/expenses
- Ability to ship faster
- Ability to do things that don’t scale
Use these to your advantage.
As you try to gain a foothold in your market, remember what makes you and your product different from your competitors and push hard on those levers!
I’m a developer and solo SaaS founder who likes to build things and share what I learn with others. If you’re interested software development, launching things, or random early morning thoughts, consider following me on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter.
Thanks for reading!